Memorial Plaque

Norman Phillips Campbell


Norman Phillips Campbell

Norman Phillips Campbell; Scientist, Missionary, Soldier.


Unique named WW1 casualty.
Captain Norman Phillips Campbell, 189th Company, Special Brigade Royal Engineers.
Killed in Action, Pelves Lane, Arras 3rd May 1917
Commemorated Arras Memorial

  CAMPBELL, Capt. Norman Phillips. born April 25, 1886; son of James Buchanan Campbell, of Montreal. Educated Dulwich Coll. (Sch.); Balliol 1904-8 (H.B.H.); Brackenbury Nat. Sci. Sch.; 1st Nat. Sci. 1907; B.A. 1908. Church Missionary Society 1908, Science Master at Trinity Coll., Kandy, Ceylon; enlisted Jan. 1915 in London Scottish; 2nd Lt., 7th Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry; volunteered for special chemical warfare company R.E. April 1915; wounded in first gas attack at Battle of Loos; Capt.; in charge of gas attack unit 3rd Army, June 1916. m. 1913, Lettice, d. of Joseph Armitage, M.D.: two sons. Killed at Pelves Lane, nr. Arras, while examining the effect of a projector attack, May 3, 1917.  (From the Balliol College Register 1833-1933)

N.P. Campell. Scientist, Missionary, Soldier.
   Campbell's wife Lettice wrote a book about Norman which details his entire life. It also reproduces correspondence from other officers and men regarding Norman.

Commanding officer, Lt Col. Sidney Waterfield Bunker:
     " I am writing to express to you, on behalf of myself and my brother Officers, our heartfelt and sincere sympathy on the death of your husband, Capt. N. P. Campbell, who was killed in action on the 3rd May.
    In him we have lost a capable and energetic Officer, whose tireless devotion to duty and self-effacing enthusiasm in his work won admiration from all with whom he came in contact. He had conducted with the ability and success that characterised all the operations under his control, a most successful attack on the enemy during the night, 1st and 2nd May, in which, we have since learned, very heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. Later, after the ground had partially passed into our possession, he was, in company with his junior officers, inspecting the target for evidence of his projectiles. While doing this a bullet from a German machine gun hit him in the neck, causing instantaneous death. The Officer with him, Lieut. Lockhart, remained with his body for three hours under hostile fire, after which he was forced to abandon it. A counter-attack by the enemy has rendered the spot where he lies inaccessible, but you may rest assured that as soon as the ground is again in our hands, which seems likely in the near future, he will be brought back and cared for.
   During this year's arduous operations he has been uniformly successful, and it is only two or three weeks since I had occasion to recommend him for a decoration, as a reward for his conspicuous ability. His work was characterised by the manner in which he never spared himself, and his personal example was, therefore, the greatest factor in his success.
    Convinced as one is of the utter repugnance every fibre of his nature must have had for the horror and misery of war, and feeling as one does that there can have been no aspect of this dreadful work that was not utterly distasteful to him, yet we realise that he carried out all his duties with all the concentration of thought and force of action of which he was capable, because he saw that by that means, and that only, could the end be reached.
    Apart from his sterling qualities, his cheery good nature and obvious sincerity gained for him a well-deserved popularity among his men, his brother Officers, and all those with whom he worked.
  His death occasions us not only the loss of a valuable Officer, but to me, personally, it means the breaking of a great friendship.

'Mr Lockhart' wrote:
     As you will know, we made a very big attack on the 3rd instant, and the Captain had been forward to our advanced positions in the forenoon. When he returned in the afternoon he reported all clear and decided to take four of us forward with him on reconnaisance. We set out about four o'clock, and on reaching our advanced posts we broke up our party, and went forward in twos at intervals of about 400 yards. The Captain and myself went first.
  Unfortunately, unknown to us, the enemy had counter-attacked and pushed forward early in the afternoon, and was in possession of most of the ground over which we wished to work. The consequence was that within ten minutes or so of our advancing, we came under intense machine gun and rifle fire. Our leader was not the slightest bit perturbed, and assured me that everything was all right. He was devoted to duty always, and so cool, collected and fearless that it was almost impossible to feel nervous in his presence. He was always so complete a master of any situation that I was thoroughly contented to follow him, and I must confess I did not realise the danger we were in until he was shot down by my side.
  A burst of machine gun bullets passed right over my head, one of which entered the Captain's shoulder ; it must have penetrated to something vital, for he died instantaneously. How I escaped myself I do not know. Fortunately, the other officers, realising the danger into which we had run, remained behind in safety and came along at dusk to find out what had happened. As the machine guns swept the area incessantly, I was forced to lie prone with the Captain for three hours until darkness fell, and then laid his body in a shell hole, where it is quite sheltered.
  I cannot tell you how we miss our dear O.C. The news of his death came as a great shock to the whole company, and the men have been writing of him in their letters home, expressing their deep admiration and respect for him. Captain Campbell was universally recognised as one of the most capable commanders in the Special Brigade, and as one of the bravest and noblest soldiers in the Army.
  I am convinced that his place in this company will never be filled, and I know that my colleagues share the same opinion. He is a great loss not only to our Company and our Brigade, but to the nation ; his abilities were so great and his energy almost superhuman. He was a living example to all of what a true Christian should be, and his refined and noble character left its mark on everybody with whom he came in contact. Captain Campbell was very deeply respected by all.
  Personally, I had become deeply attached to him, and in him I have lost one of my best friends out here. In my gloomy moods he never failed to cheer and inspire me. He had such a marvellous influence for good in every direction. Where he won the hearts of men most of all was in his willingness at all times to do the lion's share of work and to be present in person in all moments of danger, to inspire all with courage and calm. He never flinched from responsibility, and in all operations he carried the difficulties on his own broad shoulders. Without him on many occasions we should have been lost, and now that he has gone we miss him very much."
His Orderly Room Clerk:
     " An extract from Battalion orders No. 217, dated 21st September, 1916, is worded thus : ' Captain N. P. Campbell to command " O " Company with effect from 21-9-16,' and thus I made the acquaintance of a man of the most extraordinary character in all my experience, so kind, so uncannily thoughtful, so heedful of the wants of others. How keen he was to sign an order for some quinine when I had influenza, how anxious that I should take walks, when not feeling very fit. One felt there was no limit to powers of endurance working for him to whom self was of such little importance.
   His kindness of heart manifested itself in a hundred little ways. The daily task was always lightened by chats on almost everything—life in Australia, where I had been for some time, or the merits of sundry makes of tobacco, or topics equally divergent. Army issue tobacco he did not take kindly to, except a mixture of Bear & Sons, which appeared at infrequent intervals. It was sheer pleasure to obtain the brand for him, if only to be rewarded by that wonderful smile of his.
  A soldier in everything he did, a remark so freely used, but a description literally true of him. He would brook no familiarity or interference and exacted complete discipline from his military inferiors always, yet no one was more generous in his praise of work well done. He instilled respect into people whom he met by his own self-discipline. He always bore the brunt of the burden, he never shirked, demanding nothing of anyone which he himself was not prepared to undertake.
  Through the winter, seated on a sugar box and wrapt in his greatcoat, he would work long after he had allowed me to turn in, and then up betimes whatever the weather, always ready for another day's work, as though he had just returned from a holiday. He gripped and held my humble admiration from the commencement."


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