Special Exhibition- Donald Campbell & Leo Villa Bluebird Memorabilia

The items in this exhibition are from a  collection which belonged to a close friend of the Campbell’s; Mr Howard Webster. All items had been stored away nicely for a long time, meaning they are all in pretty good condition. We now have the great opportunity to be selling these items in our gallery! Enjoy browsing!


Howard Webster is his real name but he was affectionally known as ‘Dick’ Webster or ‘Webby’

Webby started at Sunbeams in 1913 and knew the early land speed record aspirants such as Rene and Parry Thomas, but once he had met Malcolm Campbell he began a relationship that was to last a lifetime and which continued with his son Donald Campbell.

Webby was with Malcolm Campbell during those early heart-breaking years, when three record attempts – one at Saltburn and two at Fanoe – were discounted on time-keeping technicalities before success finally rewarded him at Pendine.

The second Fanoe trip proved tragic as well as disappointing for whilst travelling at high speed Campbell lost a tyre which ran into the crowd and killed a boy.

It was after the Pendine trip that Campbell decided to use a Napier engine and he invited Dick Webster to join him and his now famous mechanics, Villa and Leach.

It was a hard choice, for Campbell was “the finest man that ever lived” in Dick Webster’s eyes, but Webby was a Sunbeam man and there he stayed until the works finally closed.

However, Campbell never forgot him ; over the years they kept in touch and they were together again after the last war when the veteran record holder produced the first jet-driven boat to attempt to break his own water speed record.

The attempt failed but his son Donald was to prove just what could be done before he turned to the land speed record. Like his father, Donald kept in touch with Webby and even found time to write to him from Lake Eyre. Webby cherished the link just as he cherished the model of the old 350 h.p.  Sunbeam that gave the Campbell family their first speed record.

According to Webby it is the metallurgists who deserve the praise : “The drivers get the honours, the designers are recognised, but is is the metallurgists who have made all thes e advances possible” he said.

 Fabulous original newspaper article from ‘The Birmingham Post’ on Monday August 3rd 1964. Headline reading ‘Donald Campbell and his life in a world of speed. The early years- the start of an era’ Featuring a nice sized photograph of Donald and his father Malcolm at the top with a nice lengthy article going into great detail of  the Campbells life’s of breaking the water land speed record £50.00

A lovely two sided letter in perfect condition, still in it’s original addressed envelope. Written to ‘my dear Webby’ from Sir Malcolm Campbell, this is a very personal letter going in to detail about his own health and how his dear mother recently passed away while he was in hospital. This is a very rare letter dated 19/8/48 and is signed by Sir Malcolm Campbell. The letter is written on cream paper which has been embossed with ‘From Sir Malcolm Campbell’ in the top left corner and ‘Little Gatton, Gatton Road, Reigate’ in the top right corner. £795.00

 Christmas card signed by Malcolm Campbell with a typed message written inside saying ‘Wishing you a happy, and when past, a record year unclouded to the last. may all our efforts in 1933 be crowned with success from Sir. Malcolm Campbell. Great photo on the front of the Blue Bird crossing the line at Daytona on the 24th February 1932. Inside on the left page is a list of the distances and times Bluebird recorded that day.  £1650.00- SORRY NOW SOLD

Original postcard picture, which again is to Malcolm’s dear friend Webby. The photograph on the postcard is of Sir Malcolm Campbell stood by the waters edge, with the Bluebird K3 to the right of him. Malcolm has signed the picture ‘To Webby, With my best wishes always. Malcolm Campbell’. He has also written below the  K3- ‘speed 129.5 mph 2nd Sept 1937. Message and signature written in blue ink, still strong and clear to read. Measures approx 5.5″ x 4″ £1500.00

‘World Challenge’ booklet containing all the information and the milestones Blue Bird reached. Donald Campbell has also written a little message inside on the introduction page ‘to our old pal Webby, in appreciation and with best wishes Donald Campbell. £950.00 -SORRY NOW SOLD

Another lovely photograph addressed to Webby, from Donald Campbell. This Original photograph show the Bluebird K7 Speeding across the water at lake Ulswater.  The message written on the right hand side of the picture reads ‘To Webby, With very best wishes Donald Campbell’. Written at the bottom of the picture, which unfortunately is’nt as visible is ‘Bluebird Ulswater 23rd July1955 Speed 202.32 mph’. The photo is in good condition for it’s age and measures approx 8.5″ x 6.5″. £650.00

Original black and white photograph of Donald Campbell sitting in the cockpit of the Bluebird K4 and his chief mechanic Leo Villa watching over.  Small typed caption on the front reads ‘Sir Donald Campbell in the cockpit of his new turbo-jet hydroplane ‘Bluebird’ in which he is to attempt to capture the world’s water speed record’. On the back of the photograph is also another typed caption saying
‘LN290213    DAW      London Bureau
Donald Campbell and new turbo-jet ‘Bluebird’
Blackburn Lancashire: Mr Donald Campbell, son of the late speed ace Sir Malcolm Campbell in the cockpit of his new turbo-jet hydroplane ‘Bluebird’, in which he is to attempt to capture the world’s water speed record. At the Samlesbury airfield, near Blackburn, the craft was unveiled  to the press. The revolutionary boat which is over 26ft long and 10ft wide will be launched at Ullswater for preliminary trials in the near future. The water speed record at present held by America stands at 178.497 mph.
26th November 1954′

The photograph is in a great condition and measures approx 10″ x 8″. £95.00

A lovely and rare team photograph of the ‘Bluebird team’ standing in front of one of the land speed cars. Donald Campbell and Leo Villa can be seen standing in the middle at the front with Donald holding his helmet.  Caption on the back says’  Australia- Lake Eyre 1961  The Bluebird team. The Changing Times.  From 1924-1935:  one CASR with Bluebird: if lucky one spare engine- a very limited amount of spare bits and pieces one tool case. 6 Blokes and plenty of hope, but all single minded; get a record.
We had no press bods milling around in those days + appear to have done very well without them.

In perfect original condition, measuring approx 10″ x 7″ £145.00

Unique little collectors item of a little ‘thanks you’ card saying ‘ Donald and his family sincerely thanks you for your kindness and sympathy at this time of great sorrow’, sent out after the death of Sir Malcolm Campbell. A Lovely little cream card with a trademark picture of a Bluebird on the front with Malcolm’s name written below it  and the dates, March 11th 1885 and New Years Eve 1948, complete with a matching blue ribbon for decoration. £495.00

Fabulous signed Christmas card to Webby  from Donald Campbell and his Wife Dorothy. Simple cream card with the trademark Bluebird on the front, and a nice printed message inside reading ‘Wishing you a very happy Christmas and when past, a ‘Bluebird’ year  unclouded to the last. from Donald and Dorothy Campbell. Christmas 1952. The written message from Donald in blue ink reads ‘With all and every good wish- Webby may 1953 bring you every happiness. Donald’ Measures approx 6″ x 4.5″ £795.00

Black and white image of the Bluebird k3 on the lake at Locarno in 1937. The caption on the back says ‘ First BB hydroplane  Locarno 1937. Measures approx 7″ x 5″. £95.00

Lovely little picture of the Blue Bird completing its record breaking run on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Speed 301.1mph 3rd September 1935. backed on to a light blue card. £395.00 -SORRY NOW SOLD

Lovely little picture in a cream sleeve of  Leo Villa and somebody we believe to be Webby (shorter of the two guests), at a press show stood in front of the Bluebird K4.  Measures approx 5″ x 3″ £65.00

A very unusual and creative photograph for its time, of one of the land speed record cars, taken from on the ground. Measures approx 10″ x 8″. This photo unfortunately has a small tear at the top but this doesn’t effect the quality of the image. £250.00

very detailed black and white image of one of the Bluebird land speed record cars after a crash! You can see Leo Villa assessing the damage while the rest of the team and spectators watch over. Caption on the back reads ‘World land speed record attempt Utah 1960- Leo Villa inspecting the damaged Bluebird after the crash on 16th September1960′. Measures approx 10″ x 8″ £95.00

Lovely typed letter from Donald Campbell to his dear friend Webby. The letter has been typed onto personalized ’Donald Campbell’ headed notepaper with his address and name at the top. It is dated 1st October 1963 and is just a very short note saying ‘Dear Webby, Many thanks for your note of September 29, from which it was good to learn that you are fit and well. Attached are two more copies of World Challenge which i hope will be more useful.’ Written in blue ink below is another message saying ‘Well best wishes from us all and the hope that we may meet again in the not too distant future. Yours sincerely Donald Campbell’

This letter is in perfect condition with only it’s original fold line across the center. £575.00

Wonderful trademark Christmas card of the land speed record cars. This card has a typed message inside reading ‘ Wishing you a very merry Christmas and may 1960 bring you every happiness and success. Donald, Tonia and Georgina Campbell.’ Their address is also typed in the left bottom corner ‘Roundwood, Horsehills, Horley, Surrey’ Measures approx 8.5″ x 4″, still in a good condition £175.00

Interesting little document wishing thanks and appreciation to all of the British companies that have had an involvement in the making of Bluebird. $ pages long thanking each individual company for the part that they have played. £65.00

Another great collectors item! Malcolm Campbell’s order of service for his funeral which took place on Friday 7th January 1949 at 12.0 noon. A lovely thick cream paper with a light blue print. The inside contains two hymns, readings, prayers and blessings in which many people followed to pay their respects to Sir Malcolm Campbell after he died on New Years Eve of 1948 at the age of 63. Still in perfect condition. £245.00

An original hand written letter, written by ‘Joan and Leo’ Villa to ‘Dear old Webby + all the family’. This is a lengthy 4 page letter which makes great read, going into detail about how he has had a poor year working on Bluebird and how he feels he is ‘overworked, underpaid and generally kicked around’. A very personal letter with with many funny comments makes this a rare and unique peice. Still with original envelope addressed to ‘Mr Webster’ and in very good condition. £395.00

‘Mr Donald Campbell’s Turbo-Jet Hydroplane “Blue Bird”‘ Lovely little book containing the programme of events at the preview of the new hydroplane, a little article about the world’s water speed records, interesting facts and figures, a message from Donald Campbell himself, notes on construction and acknowledgments. Still in perfect condition £395.00

This item is from a collection of Campbell memorabilia which during its time spent in storage at an auction house, survived a fire. This letter however is only slightly fire damaged round the edges (as per the photograph), but the message itself is still perfectly readable, though a few words have been partly cut of on the left side of the page. It has also been signed by Donald Campbell in a blue ink. The letter is dated 27th may 1966 and is a typed letter.     Size: 6.0″ x 8.0″     Price: £495.00

‘Into the Water Barrier’  signed copy with original dust cover.

Inside cover reads:
A great success story of any young Englishman since the war. This is  the personal story of Donald Campbell, only son of the late Malcolm Campbell. It tells how Donald suddenly determined to try and improve his fathers world water speed record of 141.74 m.p.h for Britain when he heard of an american challenge. 

For six years he has one frustration and bitter disappointment  after another. After his fathers Bluebird was wrecked, when it had hit a submerged log at 170 m.p.h and John Cobb had been killed on Loch ness, he spent every penney he owned- even mortgaging his house- to build a turbo-jet hydroplane.

Following many preliminary discussions about design, Donald went ahead on his own with Leo Villa, his fathers chief mechanic and old family friend , and two unknown designers, the Norris brothers. Their new Bluebird was launched  on Lake Ullswater in February 1955, and after four months of further research and modifications a new world record of 202.32 m.p.h was established on 23rd July. 

Donald thus became the first man to travel at this speed and live to tell the story. Cobb and an italian, Mario Verga, were killed by the effects of what has been called ‘water barrier’- excessive vibration- which caused their craft to disintegrate at 200 m.p.h

Donald regards the development of his jet Bluebird as a scientific venture that could lead to the development of a high speed naval weapon.

He wrote his book in collaboration with Alan W. Mitchell, a New Zealand journalist, who also collaborated with Neville Duke in writing ‘Test Pilot’

With frontispiece and 16 pages of photographs. 

Complete with dust cover, slightly creased around the edges, and the main book spine is slightly faded and frayed at the top. Dedication inside that reads:

‘To Don,
With profound thanks for all his help with this project
Donald Campbell

Lew Norris      Ken Norris

What makes this item unique is that it is also signed by Lew and Ken Norris- the design team behind the successful Bluebird machines.


Lovely original photograph of Leo Villa leaning on the side of the Bluebird K7, with a cigarette in hand, wearing his white mechanics suit.

Message signed in Blue ink reads:
To Ferdie
with sincere

‘Ferdie’ was Leo Villa’s brother and was Phillip Villa’s father. Leo’s brother helped on the Bluebird project from time to time.

Complete with  ’J.Hardman’ Photographers stamp on back (can be seen from image)

This photograph is in very good condition with a nice sharp image. Dedication and signature are strong and clear.

6.5″ x 8.5″    £525.00