(Note from Donald Campbell’s daughter, Gina Campbell QSO, to David Aldred, thanking him for his work on restoring Bluebird K7)
The simplest way of undertaking a venture like this is for the driver to also be the designer and builder of the craft, just like the fastest man on water, Ken Warby was with Spirit of Australia. However even Ken just like all the other water speed record holders needed help from their team to actually run and develop the boat in order for him to achieve his World Records.
The driver has all the glory and excitement whereas their team work long hours over many years often at their own cost for typically no reward other than their friendship and contribution in making the project happen.
With the advent of the internet and with it social media, how the team behind those in the spotlight make ventures like these happen can now more readily be seen and appreciated.
Donald Campbell was tragically killed on Coniston Water driving his jet hydroplane Bluebird K7 around 50 years ago.
Bluebird K7 running on Coniston Water (Courtesy of Paul Allonby)
Coniston Water today – British home of so many water speed records
At the time of the accident the Police had no dedicated divers of their own and the Royal Navy divers were brought in to locate the wreckage and attempt to recover Campbell’s remains.
Navy divers searching for Campbell & the Bluebird K7 (courtesy of Paul Allonby)
Several days later in order to assist with the ongoing search the Police appealed for volunteer competent civilian divers and a small group of such who worked as fitters at ICI Thornton Cleveleys rallied to the call. With them went friends and family of David Aldred who as a young boy sat on the shoreline watching and learning about the Campbells and their Bluebirds.
Two of those fitters, Keith Cowie and Alan Lewis would later work with David Aldred on the K777 rebuilding Orpheus turbojet engines.
In 1980 David undertook a dissertation on Bluebird K7 from which I received papers and guidance from the principal designer of Bluebird K7, Ken Norris.
A few years later David was married and having designed and built our own cottage with workshops had children and was enjoying my passion of motorbikes and anything mechanical.
The main hull of Bluebird K7 was recovered from Coniston Water in 2001 by a team of divers led by Bill Smith from Newcastle and taken back to Bill’s workshop. Bill asked for volunteers to work on the craft and to help recover more pieces of wreckage from Coniston Water. Along with several others David Aldred volunteered to help which he did at weekends, evenings and days off for the next three years during which the craft was torn down for inspection and making good of the steel frame at the heart of the hull.
Bill asked David to draw up a design for a rollover stand for working on K7 and the following is what David drew up for him:
On some of those occasions David brought along his good friend, engineer and joiner Steve Hanson and here you can see Steve drilling rivets out of Bluebird K7 as part of the dismantling works. Steve would later assist in working on many aspects of K777.
Steve Hanson drilling rivets out of Bluebird K7 during her restoration
Shortly after working on Bluebird K7 David was contacted by Ken Wheeler, Chartered Engineer who was general manager for the Norris Brothers (Research & Development) Ltd and who undertook design work on some of the aspects of Bluebird K7 during her final configuration. Ken has given several lectures upon Bluebird K7. In 2013 Ken Wheeler was asked by Ken & Dave Warby to produce calculations on forces involved for craft challenging the Outright Water Speed Record which were presented to the Safety Committee of the UIM. We have been extremely fortunate to have been be mentored by such a technical expert over the years on the maths behind jet hydroplanes.
In late 2007 two of David Aldred’s children who had been following the restoration of Bluebird K7, presented flowers to Gina Campbell QSO at a ceremony to mark the main chassis of the craft being put back together by PDS Engineering in Nelson Lancashire. Gina and David have been good friends for many years now and David was mentioned in Gina’s book ‘Daughter of Bluebird’. Being a Ladies Outright World Water Speed Record breaker in her own right, Gina has proved to the world she is every bit her father’s daughter.
Jennifer & Robert Aldred presenting flowers to Gina Campbell QSO