Gordon Campbell was one of the bravest and most uncomplaining of men it has ever been my privilege to know. In an action on the Elbe, three days before the war in Europe came to an end " an action where he was awarded a bar to the Military Cross that he had won in Normandy the year before " a German bullet ruptured his sciatic nerve and initiated a host of other medical problems. By sheer guts, Campbell carved out a remarkably constructive career.
As a parliamentary opponent and friend in the Commons for 12 years, and in Parliament for 43 years, I never heard him say anything that was cheap, nasty, or that he did not mean. My last memory of him is being given a lift in his disabled vehicle late on an autumn night after one of his regular attendances at the Foundation for Science and Technology meetings at the Royal Society in Carlton Gardens. This severely crippled man's interest in the outside world and the future lasted until he was 83 years of age.
Gordon Campbell was born the son of Major-General James Campbell, who had won the first of his two DSOs in France in 1916 and was later to command a brigade of the 15th Scottish Division between December 1939 and May 1941. His mother was the artist and writer Violet Calthrop Campbell, a descendant of the engineering Brunels. He had one brother reported missing, believed killed.
After a successful academic career at Wellington, and serious preparation for a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, he changed his mind and joined the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery at the age of 18. At the astonishingly young age of 20 he reached the rank of major. As a field battery commander he was involved in the desperate battles in Normandy around the Falaise Gap where the skills which he had developed at the School of Artillery in Larkhill as an instructor proved enormously valuable. The Elbe crossing was to prove a nightmare for him and he told me that, ever since his wound, he believed himself to be living on borrowed time. Campbell's attitude was that so many around him from Normandy to the Rhine crossing had been killed that there was no point in ever complaining about life.
After the Second World War it became clear that there was no future for him in his chosen military career. Albeit he had not been to university the Foreign Office selection boards of the time bent over backwards to accept those who had incurred wartime disabilities in the course of service to their country. On account of his war record, as he put it the 'selectors' sympathy', and his own considerable intelligence and school academic achievement, he entered the Foreign Office. He was assigned in 1949, just before the Korean War, to the UK permanent mission at the United Nations, an experience that was well to equip him as an opposition spokesman on defence and foreign affairs. Perhaps the crucial appointment came in 1952, when he was plucked out of the Foreign Office by Sir Norman Brook, Winston Churchill's authoritative Secretary to the Cabinet, to be his private secretary. This gave Campbell an insight into the workings of the centre of government. He would often refer to Norman Brook as both a mentor and an example.
Campbell was a stickler for proper procedure and proper regard for the Civil Service and their duty of warning ministers of unpalatable truths. I used to hear the criticism that, even as a senior minister, he was too much under the thumb of civil servants. However, formidable former senior civil servants at the Scottish Office assure me that Campbell never allowed himself to be bullied by them. He was hugely regarded for his personal qualities in St Andrew's House.
After his three-year period in the Cabinet Office came to its natural end he returned to the Foreign Office and the British embassy in Vienna in 1956. It was the time of the Hungarian Uprising and the emergence of the International Atomic Energy Authority. …