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Charles Ivor Rae Campbell

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Charles Ivor Rae Campbell (1878-1921), believed to be the greatest authority of lighter-than-air craft (outside of Germany). Superintendent of the Royal Airship Works

1878 Born the son of John Alexander Dewar Campbell

1904 April 28th. Married at Clapham Park to Edith Mariel Trenerry and his wife Rebecca Craigie Gunn

1911 Living at 3 North Road, Clapham Park SW: Louisa Jane Trenerry (age 67 born Wall, Cornwall), Widow. With her three children; Charles Farley Trenerry (age 38 born Brixton), Clerk of Committees; Edgar Harold Trenerry (age 33 born Clapham), Clerk to Banker's Army Agents; Helen Trenerry (age 29 born Clapham); Teacher of Mathematics. Also her son-in-law Charles Ivor Rae Campbell (age 32 born Balham), Naval Constructor - Admiralty.[1]

1921 August 23rd. Died in the R38 crash at Hull.


1921 Obituary [2]

MR. CHARLES I. R. CAMBELL, O.B.E., who lost his life in the disaster to R 38 was by general consent the greatest authority outside Germany on everything appertaining to lighter-than-air craft.

He was born in 1878, and joined the Royal Naval Engineering College, Keyham, as an engineering student in 1894. He was one of three men of his entry who were selected to take the higher professional course in marine engineering at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich. He studied there for three years under such well-known men as Professors W. Burnside, S. Dunkerley and Vivian B. Lowes, and obtained the Admiralty's Professional Certificate in Marine Engineering.

He had, however, decided that his bent lay in the direction of naval construction rather than marine engineering, and accordingly changed over to the sister profession and spent a fourth year at Greenwich, in which he took the senior course in naval architecture and passed the required standard. He thus achieved the very unusual distinction of possessing the Professional Certificates required by the Admiralty in both these branches of the technical services. On passing out of Greenwich in 1903, he was appointed Assistant Constructor in the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors.

After a short time at the dockyards he was appointed to the staff of the Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty, and for a period was engaged chiefly on the design of submarines. In 1909 he was appointed Admiralty overseer of submarines being built at Barrow, removing to Newcastle in 1913 as Admiralty overseer for H.M.S. Malaya and the submarines being built by Armstrong, Whitworth and Co.

Shortly after the outbreak of war he was sent to the United States and Canada as one of the Admiralty’s representatives in connection with the supervision of “H” class submarines and motor launches being built for this country. On his return from the United States he was appointed in October 1915 to take charge of the airship design and construction department, which it had been decided to place under the Director of Naval Construction. It is in connection with this work that he will always be best remembered.

There were at that time six airships in course of construction or on order. In connection with the last two of the series he was able to suggest and embody some improvements which resulted in those vessels marking a considerable advance over the earlier examples of the class, notwithstanding the fact that he had by no means a free hand, orders for material having been placed, and many parts made. He also superintended the design of R 31 and R 32, two wood-framed vessels, built by Short Bros.

Designs for larger rigid airships of the "R 33" class were in progress at the Admiralty when the German Zeppelins were brought down in Essex and elsewhere while raiding this country. Improvements were at once made in the designs of the "R 33" class as a result of the valuable information obtained from a through detailed examination of the wrecked enemy warships. While Mr. Campbell was quick to take full advantage of the German experience, R 33 and R 34 were by no means copies of L 33, as is sometimes stated to be the case, and it must always be a tribute to Mr. Campbell’s sagacity as a designer that when a more modern German Zeppelin was subsequently brought down, she was found to embody several Important modifications which he had correctly conjectured would lead to considerable improvements on the L 33 design, and which had already been included in the Admiralty design.

The re-organisation of the Admiralty in 1917 involved the transfer of responsibility for airship construction from the Director of Naval Construction to the Deputy Controller of Armament Production, but Mr. Campbell and his assistants were retained in immediate charge of the technical and design work. Responsibility was transferred to the Ait· Ministry in 19 19, and the change involved in 1920 the definite severance of Mr. Campbell’s connection with the Admiralty but he remained an honorary member of the Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. When Messrs. Short's works at Bedford were taken over by the Air Ministry he was appointed superintendent of the Royal Airship Works.


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