Commander Donald Cameron VC (18 March 1916 – 10 April 1961) was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He is one of three VC winners from the small town of Carluke in South Lanarkshire (then a population of 7,000). The Rotary Club of Carluke have erected a millennium stone in the town market place to commemorate this.
Cameron was 27 years old, and a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve during the Second World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC. He had served in the Merchant Navy since the age of 17.
On 22 September 1943 at Kåfjord on the Altafjord, North Norway, Lieutenant Cameron, commanding Midget Submarine X.6, and another lieutenant (Basil Charles Godfrey Place) commanding Midget Submarine X.7, carried out a most daring and successful attack on the German Battleship Tirpitz. 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 Tirpitz was out of action for months.
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 anti-submarine and torpedo nets surrounding the Tirpitz, 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.
He achieved the rank of commander in 1955, and was in charge of HMS Dolphin, the submarine base at Fort Blockhouse. Cameron married WRNS's member Eve Kilpatrick in 1940 and they had four children. Cameron's health deteriorated in the last years of his life and he was eventually admitted to Royal Hospital Haslar, Portsmouth, where he died on 10 April 1961. His remains were cremated at Portchester and buried at sea from submarine HMS Thule on 13 April 1961.
The X-Craft were designed for use against the Tirpitz and Scharnhorst.
The targets for the X-Craft were:
X-5: Tirpitz; X-6: Tirpitz; X-7: Tirpitz; X-8: Lützow;
X-9: Scharnhorst; X-10: Scharnhorst
X-5 Was sunk 22 September 1943 during Operation "Source" (disappeared, wreck never found)
X-6 Scuttled 22 September 1943 during Operation "Source", after placing side cargoes beneath the battleship Tirpitz.
X-7 Scuttled 22 September 1943 during Operation "Source", after placing side cargoes beneath the battleship Tirpitz.
X-8 Abandoned 16 September 1943 during outward passage on Operation "Source"
X-9 Foundered 16 September 1943 as a result of broken tow rope during outward passage on Operation "Source"
X-10 Scuttled 23 September 1943 after Operation "Source"