Colonel Frederick Campbell, First Commandant of the Dulwich Volunteer Battalion

Colonel Campbell was the ideal person to be the first Commandant. He came from a family steeped in military service, the ninth generation with one exception in a line of army officers; VCs were awarded to one of his sons and a grandson.

He was born in Edinburgh in 1843, the fourth son of Sir John Campbell of Airds and Ardnamurchan, formerly Lieutenant-Governor of St. Vincent. He joined the Royal Artillery in 1861 and was in the New Zealand War of 1864-66, but resigned his commission in 1869 to engage in the family business of wine merchants. He never lost his interest in military affairs and was an enthusiastic Volunteer becoming eventually Honorary Colonel of the 1st Argyll and Bute Royal Garrison Artillery, a unit which was absorbed into the Territorial Army in 1908. His long period of service and senior position brought him the awards of Volunteer Decoration, and in 1902 that of Companion of the Bath.

Colonel Campbell lived in Dulwich near Crystal Palace for 44 years either at ‘Hillside’, Fountain Drive (then Fountain Road) or later at ‘Airds’ 2 Crescent Wood Road until his death in 1926. The writer of his obituary notice in The Times (15 September 1926) noted that “It is hardly too much to say that no one in that district has for the last 20 years sought to promote any new patriotic or public-spirited movement without turning first to Colonel Campbell for support”. In politics, he was a Conservative serving as a member of the London County Council from 1895 to 1901 for the Norwood Division of Lambeth, President of the Gypsy hill Conservative Association and of the Norwood branches of the Tariff Reform League and League of Nations Union. He was also Chairman of the governors of St. Dunstan’s College, Catford and JP for Penge from 1912.

In his early years Campbell was a well-known cricketer, especially outstanding as a bowler. He played first class cricket at county level for the Marylebone Cricket Club between 1867 and 1869 and also occasionally for Hampshire and Essex; he was close friend of the great W. G. Grace. His funeral was held in St. Stephen’s Church on 16 September 1926 and he was buried at Shirley Church in Addiscombe.

Even more remarkable was Frederick Campbell’s large family. He married Emilie Maclaine, the daughter of Donald Maclaine, 20th Chief of Lochbuie on the Isle of Mull in 1869 and they had 16 children. Eight of his sons went to Dulwich College. The exploits of one of the younger sons, Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Gordon Campbell, which earned him the VC in 1917, are recounted by Jan Piggott in his recent book on the College. He commanded a ‘Q’ or decoy ship which was badly damaged but still managed to sink the attacking German submarine, and save many of his crew. The binnacle of the ship is in the Lower Hall of the College. The son who donated the flagstaff to the Dulwich Volunteers was Sir Edward Taswell Campbell, 1st Baronet of Airds Bay, who retired from business as a tobacco planter in Sumatra, served as French, Russian and British Consul in Java and was elected MP for Camberwell North-West 1924-29 and Bromley 1930-45.

His grandson, Lorne Maclaine Campbell features in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

as the recipient of the VC during the Second World War for heroic action in Tunisia when painfully wounded. After the war he returned to the family wine trade, having ‘the finest palate for wine in Britain’ according to The Independent and becoming Master of the Vintners Company.

Bernard Nurse

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