Flight Lieutenant SWL Campbell  MBE



RAF Station

Hal Far, Malta

Dear Mr Campbell

May I, as a friend and as your son's commanding officer on behalf of the squadron and all those here who know him express our deep sympathy in your recent misfortune.

Although exact details may not be given, from an examination of all the available information and from news given out by the Italian broadcasting stations it is very probable that the aircraft your son was piloting was forced to land in enemy territory and that he is now a prisoner of war. With you, we hope his sojourn will be of short duration.

Until your wishes are known I have handed his clothes and other things to the Accountant officer, HMS St Angelo, to whom all communications as to their disposal should be addressed.

If my own services can be of the slightest assistance I shall be very pleased to place them at your disposal.

In the meantime, with feelings of greatest sympathy and optimism I remain

Yours sincerely

Howard EH Pain

Lieutenant, Royal Navy

["September 1941 was also an excellent month for 830 Squadron...The tall bearded Lieutenant HEH 'Pancho' Pain took command until a more senior officer from the UK was posted in. Meanwhile Pancho made an excellent job of it." 'Supreme Gallantry' by Tony Spooner]


Letter to Donald Campbell (Dad's father)

Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, Somerset

5th May 1942

Dear Mr Campbell,

I received your letter yesterday, when I returned from leave. So please excuse the delay in my answering it...

At the time I was senior observer in the squadron so I would usually have been flying with the party. But we had just been joined by a new Commanding Officer who was also an observer so he navigated the squadron out that night and I was left to look after things on the ground...

But you have no need to worry about the effect of prison life on Stuart's temperament.

He certainly has excellent companions, for there were four other pilots, one, who was the senior pilot [Osborn], an excellent fellow. The three of us were more or less inseparable during our few short months in Malta. A veritable live wire, who I will guarantee to keep everybody's spirits in fine pitch.

And in the excellent climate of Northern Italy, he will certainly be able to store up his energy for the end of the war and be able, with confidence, to look forward to his return.

As for Bibby, he needs a book himself. He was one of the senior pilots out there and a great friend of Stuart's. He'd been with me for over two years. A man of twenty-eight, he treated us like a father and kept us on the straight and narrow...

And Stuart's kit. I'm making vast inquiries about the whole matter - and as soon as I hear anything - I'll let you know.

His camera unfortunately is missing. I thought he might have lent it to someone out in Malta - as he had done several times. But Bibby and I made extensive enquiries and could not locate it. So now it would appear it's definitely disappeared...

Please ask if there is anything else you'd like to know, or are worried about.

Yours sincerely

G Davies

(commonly known as Taffy)


Montalbo POW Camp

27 June 1997

Dear Betty,

I was very pleased to receive your telephone call on Wednesday 18 June just after John Griffith and I had managed to have a belated reunion (since 1943!) at a pub-lunch in Portsmouth. I was sorry to hear Stewart had died suddenly two years ago. All three of us found ourselves in December 1941 at Montalbo that was an old castle style building on top of a small hill overlooking the river Po about 15 miles away to the north. On a clear day when the conditions were right, usually in the evening, one could catch a glimpse of the Alps nearly 75 miles distant. My Fleet Air Arm friends arrived at the camp in early December so they managed to grab the smaller rooms, whilst another 70 of us, mostly army, actually turned up on Christmas Day!...

Once the camp had around 140 POWs it was full and obviously over the weeks and months one learned how other people had been taken prisoner. It was thus I have always remembered the story of Woozle Osborn, John and Stewart. I kept a diary at the time which by some miracle has survived to this day. In it I recorded the names of my closest friends. Against Stewart - I have recorded his address as 21 Elderton Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex with phone number as Southend 44101! In those days we were used to the service style of surnames rather than Christian names...

At some stage later in 1942 nearly all the Naval Officers were removed to another camp at Padula, so naturally we lost touch at that time.

The castle at Montalbo was at least 300 years old with very thick walls and no chance whatsoever of digging tunnels in the rock foundations. If you ever watched the TV programme of Colditz castle in Germany, Montalbo was rather similar. It was a six-sided building - three stories high, with a small exercise area almost the size of a tennis court within. With the main courtyard gates shut this was our only exercise area. There was just room to rig up a net to play volleyball. Stewart organised our team of 6 and we played as often as we could get a team on the pitch.

The Red Cross provided us with a selection of indoor games which included Ludo...

We had one very special experience at Easter Sunday 1942...a visit from a Papal Nuncio - a Cardinal complete with great red hat. He spoke good English and was very welcome so far as we were concerned since we actually got an egg each (chicken) plus better food for both meals that day. We all paraded in the courtyard to greet him... At the same time we were each given a telegram form for Vatican Radio (10 words), so we could send messages to next-of-kin... The Papal Nuncio also left us some musical instruments for a band. When we had given the Cardinal our thanks and three cheers he departed...

I have rambled on but I wanted to give you an insight into the period I spent at Montalbo with John and Stewart. An important part in the art of surviving sanely as a POW was to have good cheerful friends and that is how I have always remembered them.

...I hope that some of the things that I have written about our days in Montalbo may bring back happy memories of Stewart for you

Best wishes

Michael Lacey

[Michael was a 21 year-old Gunner Lieutenant captured at the battle for the relief of Tobruk. He stayed in the army retiring as a Major in 1960.]


Letter from Malta

Dear Sir,

Having read in today's paper that you were a prisoner of war in Germany and that you have escaped.

When we read this news, we were very much pleased, your Bomb Party at Hal-far, your Maltese staff, that you arrived home safe.

If you remember we have worked under your supervision as our Armament Officer, which we are very proud to say that we have work under a gentleman.

Since you didn't return to our base, we were always thinking of you and we always pray God for you to keep safe.

I have got nothing else to tell you except I suppose you know now that we have finish from the Squadron and we are all back to our depot (Naval Armament Supply Department) and that we are all quite safe. Nothing else to tell you except that I close this letter with my best love and wishing you good luck to you and all our late officers.

I remain yours

Truly servant

Carmelo Pace




Report 1 

30 September 1941

This is to certify that Stewart William Lennox Campbell has served as Sub-Lieutenant (A) RNVR (P) in 830 Squadron under my command from the 6th day of July 1941 to the 29 September 1941 during which he has conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. A good type of young officer, who tries extremely hard. When he has more confidence in himself, he should do very well.

FD Howie

Lt Cdr

Commanding 830 Squadron

Report 23

5 August 1945

This is to certify that Stewart William Lennox Campbell MBE has served as Ft Lieut (A) RNVR in HMS Daedalus under my command from the 28 day of August 1944 to 5 day of August 1945 during which he has conducted himself to my entire satisfaction. He is an excellent officer with considerable initiative and a natural power of command. His experiences as a prisoner of war have evidently given him a power of taking responsibility not normally found in an officer of his age.


HMS Daedalus


Naval pilot who played crucial part in the Battle of Cape Matapan: Swordfish pilot who braved searchlights and tracer barrage to sink Axis ships in the Mediterranean.

He went to Dartmouth in 1927, and got his pilot's wings at Leuchars in 1937 and served in the carriers Furious and Ark Royal. Twice decorated for his service in the Mediterranean in 1941, he subsequently ended his wartime career in a PoW camp.

Osborn joined 829 naval air squadron when it was first formed in June 1940, joined the aircraft carrier Formidable in November for passage to the Mediterranean, arriving in March 1941.For his part at Matapan, Osborn was awarded the DSC and subsequently served ashore to Hal Far, Malta, to join 830 naval air squadron in strikes against Axis ships supplying Rommel's Afrika Korps in Libya. From June to November 1941, Osborn flew on 17 operations, during which 830 squadron was credited with sinking or damaging more than 50,000 tons of shipping. On 11 Nov 1941, as senior pilot of 830 he was on target to attack an Axis convoy reported south of Sicily. But had flown hopelessly off course, ditching out of fuel on the north coast of Sicily. Osborn's DSO for his Malta operations was gazetted in January 1942. But by then he was a PoW in Mont Albo, Padusa and Bologna in Italy.

After the Italian armistice, he was taken to Germany, to a camp near Luneburg, where he was on the escape committee. Osborn was released in 1945 after which for two years he was CO of 771 squadron, a Fleet Requirements Unit flying Seafires from Lee-on-Solent.

Daily Telegraph, 22 May 1997

The Times, 12 May 1997


Cdr. Robert Edgar Bibby, founder President of Lancaster Branch, who has died aged 77, was a Fleet Air Arm pilot during the Second World War, and probably the only officer to win a DSO while still a temporary lieutenant. He gained the award for his six months arduous and dangerous service with 830 Naval Air Squadron, based at Hal Far in Malta, from June to December 1941.

Aided by Special Intelligence and expert reconnaissance by the RAF, 830's Swordfish aircraft flew bombing and torpedo strikes against Axis shipping almost every night, seriously disrupting the flow of supplies and reinforcements to Rommel's Afrika Korps in Libya. One night in October 1941 he flew two five-hour sorties, in which 830 sank three out of four ships in an enemy convoy off the island of Lampedusa; and he was eventually able to claim the highest total of tonnage sunk by any member of the squadron.

He learned to fly before joining the RNVR in 1938. His first wartime squadron was 781, at Lee-on-Solent, better known as the Millionaire Squadron - its members included Ralph Richardson, Laurence Olivier and Angus Irwin, owner of the Illustrated London News. All the pilots had flown before the war and some of them, including Bibby, had owned their own aircraft.

Edgar subsequently joined 829 Naval Air Squadron which, in November 1940, embarked in the carrier Formidable to sail through the Suez Canal and join the Mediterranean Fleet. On March 28, 1941, Bibby took part in two of the torpedo strikes flown by 829's Albacores against the Italian Fleet in a running engagement off Cape Matapan...

[Part of Bibby's obituary - unfortunately the cutting I have does not include the source.]


Stewart had quite a war. After leaving school he attended the Royal Naval College at Greenwich and became a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm and promoted to lieutenant. He joined 830 Squadron in Malta in June 1941 having arrived there via Cape Town and thence to North Africa where he linked up with Captain Garnett. He flew many perilous sorties until he was shot down over the Mediterranean Sea and taken prisoner by the Italians in late 1941. He was then only 20.

After being recaptured following an escape bid he was transferred to a naval officers' POW camp in Germany from where he escaped in December 1943 with a RNVR lieutenant, Denis Kelleher. They made their way through Germany to the port of Bremen, secretly boarded a Swedish trading vessel and, after presenting themselves to the ship's captain (who was concerned by the implications of their presence), continued their journey following a vote in favour by the crew. On arrival in Sweden they were saved from internment by an influential Swedish count who had been at school with Lieutenant Campbell and who arranged for a British plane to fly them by night to Scotland. They then boarded in civilian clothes a train to London during which they were handed three white feathers! After debriefing at The Admiralty of important information, Lieutenant Campbell was awarded the MBE.

Following further training as a test pilot at Gosport he concluded the war at the Fleet Air Arm base at Ford. Thereafter he became a tea planter in Assam for nearly 30 years and retired to England in 1974. He was married to Betty and they had three children.

[This is a short addendum written by Gerald Garnett to a letter of his father's now with the National Army Museum in London and the Museum of Defence Intelligence. Captain Leslie Garnett was with the Intelligence Corps in Alexandria, when he met Dad (his nephew) in 1941. Later he joined the code-breakers in Bletchley Park, who guided 830 Squadron to their targets, amongst much else.

[Dad returned to Sweden in September 1956, and in Stockholm he looked for the captain of the ship that brought him and Denis from Germany. Unfortunately after a long search he found out he had died. Dad then spent a few days with the friend who had helped him escape.]


Links:      Next