Q-Ships VC sold for record price – but stays in UK
The Victoria Cross won by Commander Gordon Campbell when his “Q-ship” Farnborough destroyed an enemy submarine in 1917 has been sold for a world record price at auction, but will stay in the UK.
The VC is part of a group of 11 medals won by Campbell, who rose to the rank of vice-admiral and went on to serve in the Second World War, and was sold at Sotheby’s for £840,000 – but they were bought by his great-great-nephew, Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza, who will leave them on public display in Britain.
Q-ships were decoy vessels with concealed guns, and Campbell (1886-1953) won his VC at the age of 31 during a secret mission in the North Sea in February 1917 when, with his ship disguised as a merchant vessel, he lured the U-boat into a trap but feigning the severity of a torpedo hit, complete with crew taking to lifeboats, that brought the submarine to the surface to be destroyed. HMS Farnborough had to be towed away to safety after the action.
Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza said: “These medals have enormous historic value for the UK, as well as personal value to me and my family. Behind every medal is a human story, and an example to generations to come. Gordon Campbell was an old-fashioned hero who was recognised for conspicuous gallantry, consummate coolness, and skill in his command of ‘Q’ Mystery Ships, decoys for German U boats.
“I am offering the medals for display in a UK museum, where I hope as many people as possible will have the opportunity to learn about Gordon and his incredible story.”
Campbell’s nephew, Brigadier Lorne MacLaine Campbell, also won a VC, during the North Africa Campaign in the Second World War.