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Lieutenant Donald Cameron. Royal Naval Reserve

Donald Cameron was born in Carluke in South Lanarkshire in Scotland on 18th March 1916. On leaving school he joined the Merchant Service at the age of seventeen and later joined the Royal Naval Reserve in August 1939. He was appointed to the Submarine Base HMS Elfin (6th Submarine Flotilla) at Blyth 'for Submarine HMS Sturgeon as the Navigator' on 15th Nov 1940. In December 1941 he was selected for 'Special Service' 'for Submarine XE3 as First Lieutenant'.

XE3 was the prototype X Craft under construction at Varley Marine at Southampton. There was no X Craft X1 or X2 as these designations were used for the Experimental large submarine built in the 1920s and X2 had been the designation of an Italian U-Boat captured in the Mediterranean.

On 5th March 1942 Donald Cameron was appointed to HMS Dolphin (5th Submarine Flotilla) at Gosport 'for Submarines' & to XE3 'for trials'. XE3 was launched into the River Hamble on 15th March 1942 and trials were conducted at Portsmouth and Portland before the X Craft was transferred to Scotland for further trails and training.

Donald Cameron was appointed to HMS Varbel (12th Submarine Flotilla) at Port Bannatyne on 11th September 1942 and at the end of 1942 he was selected for 'Submarine X6 in Command'. On 18th September 1943 X6 – in the care of a 'Passage Crew' left Loch Cairnbawn in company with five more X Craft for Operation Source and the attack on the German Battleship Tirptiz.

X6 was towed to the operational area by HMS Truculent (Lieutenant Commander Robbie L Alexander, RN). The 'Operational Crew' took over from the 'Passage Crew' for the approach to the target and the attack which was successful (although the Tirptiz was only severely damaged but not sunk). However X6 was sunk but all of the 'Operational Crew' survived, were rescued by the Germans and become Prisoners of War. Donald Cameron was awarded the Victoria Cross, his Officers - Sub Lieutenants Lorimer and Kendall the DSO and Engine Room Artificer Goddard the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal.

'On 22 September 1943 at Kåafjord on the Altafjord, North Norway, Lieutenant Cameron, commanding Midget Submarine X6, and another Lieutenant (Basil Charles Godfrey Place) commanding Midget Submarine X7, carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirptiz. The small submarines had to travel at least 1,000 miles from base, negotiate a minefield, dodge nets, gun defences and enemy listening posts. Having eluded all these hazards they finally placed the charges underneath the ship where they went off an hour later, doing so much damage that the Tirptiz was out of action for months.'

Tirpitz in Norway
Tirpitz in Norway

The full citation was published in a supplement to the London Gazette of 18 February 1944 and read:

Whitehall 22nd February, 1944.

The KING has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the VICTORIA CROSS for valour to:

Lieutenant Basil Charles Godfrey Place, DSC, Royal Navy
Lieutenant Donald Cameron, RNR.

Lieutenants Place and Cameron were the Commanding Officers of two of His Majesty's Midget Submarines X7 and X6 which on 22nd September 1943 carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirptiz, moored in the protected anchorage of Kaafiord, North Norway.

To reach the anchorage necessitated the penetration of an enemy minefield and a passage of fifty miles up the fiord, known to be vigilantly patrolled by the enemy and to be guarded by nets, gun defences and listening posts, this after a passage of at least a thousand miles from base.

Having successfully eluded all these hazards and entered the fleet anchorage, Lieutenants Place and Cameron, with a complete disregard for danger, worked their small craft past the close antisubmarine and torpedo nets surrounding the Tirptiz, and from a position inside these nets, carried out a cool and determined attack.

Whilst they were still inside the nets a fierce enemy counter attack by guns and depth charges developed which made their withdrawal impossible. Lieutenants Place and Cameron therefore scuttled their craft to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy. Before doing so they took every measure to ensure the safety of their crews, the majority of whom, together with themselves, were subsequently taken prisoner.

In the course of the operation these very small craft pressed home their attack to the full, in doing so accepting all the dangers inherent in such vessels and facing every possible hazard which ingenuity could devise for the protection in harbour of vitally important Capital Ships.

The courage, endurance and utter contempt for danger in the immediate face of the enemy shown by Lieutenants Place and Cameron during this determined and successful attack were supreme.

Post War Donald Cameron was appointed to Submarine HMS Stoic 'as the Navigator' on 29th Oct 1945, HMS Spiteful 'as First Lieutenant' on 20th Mar 1946 and, after completing the Commanding Officer Qualifying Course in 1947, he was appointed to Submarine HMS Tiptoe 'in Command' on 10th Mar 1947. He was later appointed to Submarine HMS Trump 'in Command'.

Donald Cameron was promoted to Commander in 1955 and appointed to HMS Dolphin - the submarine base at Fort Blockhouse. Cameron was married to WRNS Officer Eve Kilpatrick in 1940 and they had four children.

Cameron's health deteriorated in the later years of his life and he was eventually admitted to Royal Naval Hospital, Haslar, Gosport, Hants where he died on 10th April 1961. After his funeral at Porchester his ashes were scattered at sea from submarine HMS Thule on 13th April 1961.

Donald Cameron's Victoria Cross and other medals are privately held.


1 comment

Donald Cameron was my maternal grandfathers first cousin and a beautiful photo of him sat on the sideboard all of my childhood. Very proud of cousin Donnie.
   Angela Rich Thu, 7 Mar 2019

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