Let The Reader Be The Judge

Posted in Book Blog

Since we published the first edition of Donald Campbell, Bluebird and the Final Record Attempt back in October 2011, we have had pretty much nothing but positive reviews and feedback. Both Keith and I are so pleased that the book has brought a lot of pleasure to people who have wanted to find out more about the Donald Campbell legend.We never claimed that 'The Final Record Attempt' was the definitive account of Campbell's last campaign, but we worked very hard to ensure the content was as well thought through and accurate as it could be.

I was also very fortunate to speak to Ken Norris, Leo Villa and Andrew Brown while they were still alive. Gina Campbell gave me access to her father’s records, which proved invaluable in piecing together the time line of events in the last 7 months of Donald Campbell's life. The extensive collection of contemporary newspapers and documents from my collection proved very useful in telling the story from the point of view of what was reported at the time, and not what has been built up around the story subsequently.

Keith, in the writing of his chapter was able to consult extensively with Prof Stollery and in particular Tony James. They both agreed that Keith's chapter, when finished was a very fine analysis of the accident that befell Campbell and K7.

We were very fortunate to have eyewitness and expert testimony from six individuals, five of whom were intimately involved with the last attempt.

We have included their credentials to highlight the amount of collaboration and peer review the analysis was subjected to before being published.

Norris Bros Managing Director.Project Manager at Norris Brothers R&D Ltd.Manager for Bluebird K7’s modifications and refit August – November 1966.
Lecturer in Aerodynamics in the Department of Aeronautics at Imperial College. He proved to be an outstanding teacher and an exceptional researcher. His forte was experimentation, which he saw as a means of exploring the physical world. He worked with Donald Campbell’s design team on both the Bluebird CN7 and K7. In 1966, he was consulted by Norris to advise on Bluebird’s new Orpheus installation aerodynamic & hydrodynamic trim. He later became Professor of Aeronautics at Cranfield University. His intellectual legacy and his influence in both the aerospace profession and in the field of high-speed aerodynamics are going to continue for many years.
He is a world authority on the physics of unlimited hydroplane racers and the special conditions applying to the design of hydroplanes operating in ground effect. His specialist wind-tunnel facility at GTRI can test scale hydroplane models using both moving-ground and blown-air boundary-layer suppression techniques to simulate the conditions experienced by high-speed craft as they travel close to the surface.
  Rotax engine start system for BS Orpheus installation.
Assistant Mechanic present at Coniston throughout the final record attempt, winter 1966/67
Team assistant and course boat pilot. Unmatched expertise on lake conditions. Bluebird team member in autumn/ winter of 1966/67.

In May 2012, I received an email from Donald Stevens, who had worked for the Norris Bothers in the 1950's but had left their employment in the early 1960's, years before Campbell's ultimate success with the Australian LSR and WSR in 1964, and Campbell's last tempt in 1966/67. The email was sent to myself but also included an unknown number of other undisclosed recipients using the bcc function. Attached was a 3-sided document with comments, Mr Steven's calls 'factual errors'.

We have to disagree with that description, as many of the items are his opinions rather than scientifically supported arguments. As such they even include a typo (we misspelled the word radius) and while we are grateful for having pointed out a typo so that it can be corrected, this certainly does not constitutes a factual error.

Understandably, Keith and I were rather disappointed by the method with which Mr Stevens had chosen to go about making his comments 'heard' as it did not allow for an open and honest debate which is the corner stone of knowledge and a key element of peer review and science.

The clandestine and underhand approach chosen by Mr Stevens suggest a hidden agenda rather than an interest in hard scientific evidence and historic truths. I communicated what I thought of Mr Stevens and his methods to him in a telephone call and email shortly afterwards, and decided to leave it at that.

Unfortunately Mr Stevens felt it necessary to continue his campaign of voicing his opinions without the opportunity of a debate.

Therefore, we have decided to make public this document and provide our replies to his comments. Let the reader be the judge