An or­der of monks, the vice ad­mi­ral’s girl and an un­holy row over his VC

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Neil Sears and Nev Ayling

VICE Ad­mi­ral Gor­don Camp­bell’s un­flap­pable brav­ery won him a Vic­to­ria Cross in 1917.

And, in an act of ex­tra­or­di­nary mod­esty, he turned down the of­fer of a se­cond VC later in the First World War.

Yet, a cen­tury on, even the stoic sailor would have been as­ton­ished by the un­holy bat­tle his only grand­child is wag­ing to prove his chest­ful of medals is right­fully hers.

Caro­line Roscorla, 68, has taken the Angli­can Fel­low­ship of St John the Evan­ge­list to court af­ter it sold Vice Ad­mi­ral Camp­bell’s mil­i­tary hon­ours for £840,000 in 2017 – 64 years af­ter his death at the age of 67. She says the holy or­der had no right to auc­tion the medals, so she is due the pro­ceeds.

The monks say that they were left them by the ad­mi­ral’s only son, David Camp­bell, who pledged all his worldly goods to the or­der when he joined in 1966, ris­ing to be­come Fa­ther Su­pe­rior. Now the dis­pute is be­fore Lon­don’s High Court.

Vice Ad­mi­ral Camp­bell earned his VC when his tor­pedo-hit ship, HMS Farn­bor­ough, de­stroyed a Ger­man U-boat in the North At­lantic.

As the Farn­bor­ough, a mer­chant ship fit­ted with hid­den guns, was sink­ing he or­dered some men to the lifeboats but kept oth­ers back. When the sub­ma­rine sur­faced, they opened fire and sank it. He was also awarded a Dis­tin­guished

Ser­vice Or­der, with two bars, and a clus­ter of other gongs in­clud­ing the French Croix de Guerre.

He used the same tac­tic to at­tack two more Ger­man sub­marines. The rec­om­men­da­tion for a se­cond VC was backed by King Ge­orge V but was po­litely re­fused.

The Fel­low­ship of St John, based in High Wy­combe, Buck­ing­hamshire, says it came into pos­ses­sion of the medals af­ter the ad­mi­ral’s paci­fist son, Fa­ther David Camp­bell, joined the or­der in 1966. They were loaned to Dul­wich Col­lege in south Lon­don, where Vice Ad­mi­ral

Camp­bell had at­tended, be­fore fi­nally be­ing sold at Sotheby’s.

The col­lec­tion was bought by his great-nephew Baron Lorne Thyssen-Borne­misza, a multi-mil­lion­aire art col­lec­tor and Mrs Roscorla’s se­cond cousin.

But Mrs Roscorla is now su­ing the Fel­low­ship of St John (UK) Trust As­so­ci­a­tion for £700,000 – the amount fetched at the auc­tion be­fore the £140,000 ‘buyer’s pre­mium’ com­mis­sion was added – claim­ing she ac­tu­ally in­her­ited them in 1974.

The ad­mi­ral’s grand­daugh­ter, who is niece to David Camp­bell, claims the medals were hers and only at Dul­wich be­cause she had agreed to the loan.

Her lawyers say that, while Fa­ther David made a will in 1966 when he joined the or­der, leav­ing ev­ery­thing to the fel­low­ship of St John, that did not in­clude the medals – which they say stayed in the fam­ily.

She claimed her un­cle, who died aged 95 in 2010, had wanted noth­ing to do with the medals be­cause he was a paci­fist. Mrs Roscorla, a fi­nan­cial ad­viser from Truro, Corn­wall,

in­sists that her un­cle ‘re­lin­quished’ the medals to her.

How­ever, the Fel­low­ship of St John say the or­der’s rules make clear that all of Fa­ther David’s pos­ses­sions passed to them.

The or­der’s QC said Fa­ther David made ‘life vows’ when he be­came a monk in 1966, mean­ing ‘his prop­erty passed to the or­der ... and the or­der as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity and li­a­bil­ity for his welfare and health for the rest of his life’.

The le­gal dis­pute had a brief hear­ing last month at the High Court and is to go to trial next year.

Hon­oured: Gor­don Camp­bell and his medals

Fought over: His VC and other hon­ours

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