A recent visit to Coniston Water reminded Ray Doran of one of his saddest memories – the high speed death of Donald Campbell.

He recalled watching on television as he tried to break his own water speed record in his Bluebird K7 with fatal results.

He writes: “I was working at Sellafield Power Station recently and on the way home, I decided to divert to Lake Coniston.

“As a young boy, I remembered seeing Donald Campbell attempt various land and water world speed records.

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“In January 1967, I watched on TV as he attempted to break his own water speed record in the Bluebird K7 boat, powered by a jet engine.

“He made several attempts and on the next run up the lake, he reached over 328mph, measured by judges over a one-kilometre section.

“As many people will have seen that day, his attempt turned to disaster as the Bluebird craft either hit an object in the water or a wave had not subsided from his previous run over the lake, which was measured at about 280mph.

“In his attempt to increase the record, he set off down the lake once more and having passed the official timekeeper and camera, the Bluebird rose into the air and was flipped end to end before disintegrating.

“Donald’s body was thrown out of the craft on impact with the water and was not found that day.

“After the site of the crash was deemed a ‘grave’, any further attempts to discover Bluebird were discouraged and for many years, the people of Coniston Water would often give false directions to the crash site so as not to disturb the last resting place of one of our ‘heroes’ of the time.”

Mr Doran’s theory for the crash is that the Bluebird became light at the front as it used fuel on earlier runs, causing its nose to lift and somersault.

Campbell’s body and the wreckage of his craft were recovered in an operation between October 2000 and May 2001.

He was buried in Coniston cemetery, with a simple gravestone made of local grey slate.

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The top is shaped as the Bluebird K7 craft and it is adorned by a Bluebird motif.

Mr Doran, of Boxwell Close, Abingdon, writes: “I visited Donald’s grave and took a boat trip around Coniston Water.

“It was a pilgrimage to the site of one of my boyhood heroes.

“It was good to pay my respects to this flamboyant character.

“The speed he achieved on his final run was 328mph so he broke his record but, like many pioneering heroes of old, he paid the ultimate price.”

Between them, Donald Campbell and his father, Sir Malcolm Campbell, set 11 speed records on water and 10 on land.

On March 23, organised by the Ruskin Museum, two Hawk jets of the Royal Air Force staged a fly past over the Lake District to mark the 100th anniversary of Campbell’s birth.

As they flew over Coniston Water, the jets dipped their wings in salute in a repeat of a gesture carried out by an Avro Vulcan on the day after his death. Campbell’s daughter, Gina, laid flowers on the surface of the lake.