Mike Campbell-Lamerton

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Mike Campbell-Lamerton
Date of birth 1 August 1933
Place of birth Valletta, Malta
Date of death March 17, 2005(2005-03-17) (aged 71)
Height 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Weight 18 st (110 kg; 250 lb)
Rugby union career
Playing career
Position Number 8
Amateur clubs
Years Club / team
Blackheath Rugby Club
London Scottish RFC
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
British Lions


Colonel Michael John "Mike" Campbell-Lamerton (1 August 1933 – 17 March 2005) was a British army officer and rugby union player.[1] Despite being a career soldier on active service, he would captain the Scotland rugby team a number of times.[2]

Richard Bath writes of him that he was:

"A strong scrummager who held his own in the at the line-out and was a considerable presence in the loose, Campbell-Lamerton excelled in the second row for Scotland from his first cap in 1961 until his 23rd in 1966."[2]

Allan Massie provides a more colourful description of him:

"The sight of captain M.J. Campbell-Lamerton of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment surging round the tail of a line-out like an enraged hippopotamus was one of the most stirring spectacles in Scottish Rugby. A huge man, 6 feet 5 inches and often over 17 stones, he made an abrupt and unheralded entry into top-class Rugby for a Combined Services team against a Scottish Select at Murrayfield in December 1960. The game was played in a thick haar, and almost the only impression spectators retained of it was of this man-mountain surging out of mist as a mastodon from a primeval swamp. It took him into the Scottish team and he stayed there til 1966 to win twenty-three caps."[3]

Early life

Campbell-Lamerton was born in Valletta, Malta, the elder of two sons of Lieutenant-Commander Robert Campbell-Lamerton, and his wife, Margaret. His father was killed in action in 1943 on North Atlantic convoy duty, he was educated at Ottershaw School near Windsor, Berkshire.[1] National Service took him to the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) in 1952, the start of 33 years' service in the Army during which he served in Korea and Cyprus.

Army career

He and his lifelong friend, David Gilbert-Smith, led two platoons of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) during the Battle of the Hook in Korea, recovering positions overrun by the Chinese offensive. Campbell-Lamerton had already escaped a life-threatening injury at school when, aged 15, he was struck on the chest by a javelin; he courted death again on foot patrol in Korea when he trod on a mine. Hearing the faint click, he remained still while the corporal with him, who fortunately had worked in bomb disposal during the Second World War, rendered it safe.[citation needed]

Three years later, serving in Cyprus during the EOKA campaign, he fell 60 ft from a helicopter in full combat gear, sustaining severe back, hip and leg injuries. That he recovered to play international sport is a tribute to his perseverance as well as his ability; He played rugby for his regiment (The 'Dukes'), the Army and Combined Services, and club rugby with Halifax, Blackheath Rugby Club and London Scottish RFC.[citation needed] He eventually rose to the rank of Colonel before leaving the army.


The first of his 23 Scotland caps came against France in 1961, as he appeared in the next five seasons, twice as captain in 1965. He was picked for the Lions tour to South Africa in 1962, playing all four internationals at number eight. But when the Lions team was selected for the 1966 tour, he was 32, no longer captain of his country and the leadership was expected go to Alun Pask, the outstanding Welsh No. 8; Massie says that "You would have had no doubt that he [Mike Campbell-Lamerton] could push in the scrum, and with him and Frans Ten Bos together it achieved a solidity and power that had long been lacking."[4] However, he also says that Lamerton was not a good national captain, "he was perhaps over-conscientious and a worrier, and hardly spoke the same language as many of the team; it affected his play."[4] In terms of sheer entertainment value, Massie says "I doubt if any other Scottish lock forward has given so much fun, not even Alastair McHarg."[4]

Lions in New Zealand (1966)

Though the Lions beat Australia in successive internationals, the New Zealand section of the tour was marred by ill feeling. After the game with Canterbury, the Lions captain for the day, Jim Telfer, said at the after match function: "I would not describe today's game as dirty because all our games in New Zealand have been dirty." Understandably this caused a furore but it was the backdrop against which Campbell-Lamerton had to keep his players united.

Campbell-Lamerton, would not have been out of place in the modern game: he was a big man, at 6 feet 5 inches, weighing more than 17 stone, yet athletic enough to play No. 8 as well as his accustomed position in the second row. But the qualities which served him best on the difficult tour of New Zealand as captain of the 1966 Lions were his commitment and willingness which did so much to sustain a struggling tour party.

At one stage the manager, Des O'Brien left the party for a reconnaissance mission to Fiji (where a final tour game was to be played), and the coach, John Robins, was in hospital with damaged ankle ligaments, leaving Campbell-Lamerton with far greater responsibilities than any modern equivalent would face. Yet in a squad which he had not been expected to captain, his players still speak warmly of the example he set after a tour in which the Lions lost all four internationals against the All Blacks. The recurrence of an ankle injury which caused his withdrawal from the second game against New Zealand, did not help and he also missed the final international. "Mike was a decent man and much-maligned", Brian Price, his second-row partner in three of the tour internationals, said. "We knew how hard he was working and it was because we respected his efforts, we stuck together."[citation needed]

After the tour he retired from rugby but in his military career, he rose to the rank of colonel, led him to the command of a battalion in Northern Ireland, thence to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, where he was commander of Old College and Victory College.


He left the Army in 1985 and became bursar at Balliol College, Oxford, later being elected an Emeritus Fellow of the college. He also took a close interest in the fortunes of the university rugby club, whose president he eventually became. He was elected a Knight of Malta, the organisation which raises funds for Catholic charities. In 2001 prostate cancer was diagnosed, an illness he endured with great fortitude until his death on 17 March 2005, aged 71.


Campbell-Lamerton is survived by his wife Marie-Christine (née Cottrell), whom he met and married in 1956 while stationed in Gibraltar, and by three sons (one of whom, Jeremy,(born 1957) also played lock for Scotland, five times in the 1986-7 season[2]), Michael Patrick (born 1958), Ian Anthony (born 1962) and a daughter Clare Josephine Margaret (born 1961).


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Obituaries - Col Mike Campbell-Lamerton". The Independent. 30 March 2005.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bath, p123-4
  3. Massie, p174
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Massie, p175


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