David and Ute on their way to their wedding reception on board the Ark Royal. | D. Campbell

On April 29, 2003, HMS Ark Royal made a surprise visit to Palma after 108 days at sea, having been deployed to the Gulf as part of the Task Force for the second Iraq War.

On board was Surgeon Commander RN David Campbell, who is now happily married and living in Mallorca. However, when the Ark Royal, accompanied by the destroyer HMS York, docked in Mallorca, David was a divorcee.

During the six-day break in Palma, the first proper ship-to-shore since they had set sail from Portsmouth for the Gulf, the late Vice-Admiral Sir Frederick Donald Gosling, KCVO KStJ, who used to keep his superyacht, the legendary Leander G, based in Palma for most of the year and was a great benefactor to naval charities, threw a special cocktail party for the officers at the Son Vida Hotel. He also invited the crew to a night out at Son Amar.

One of the VIPs at the party was the late David Wickens, who also lived in Son Vida and was a very close friend of Sir Donald. Wickens was accompanied by his personal assistant Ute and it would appear that the Surgeon Commander and Ute took a shine to each other.

Rather sad
“We had a wonderful time in Mallorca. I had never visited the island before and loved it, but when we finally docked in Gosport I felt rather sad.
“The bands were playing and families of the crew lined the dock to welcome us all back, but there was no one waiting for me.

“I was divorced, my mother was in hospital and I felt lonely. So, the following the day I booked a flight back to Mallorca and in March 2004 Ute and I were married at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth docks and the wedding reception was held on board HMS Ark Royal. It was spectacular and now I am extremely happy living in Mallorca with Ute and our daughter Luisa,” David, whose father served in the RAF with Bomber Command, told the Bulletin.

David may well be giving his sea legs a rest after a long naval career, but he is still deeply involved with one of his great passions - rugby. He is the Social Liaison Officer for El Toro Rugby Club and brings a number of top clubs from the UK over to play every year.

Harry Potter
But before all the excitement, and terror, kicked off in David’s career, he started life at King’s School, Gloucester, which was the setting for the Harry Potter films, before moving on Wycliffe College, which is where rugby became very much part of his life. On leaving school, he then went to study medicine at The Middlesex Hospital Medical School.

Royal Marine Reserves
“I was not sponsored through medical school but firstly joined the RMR, Royal Marine Reserves, then the RNR, Royal Navy Reserves, before the Royal Navy, as a Surgeon Sub Lieutenant, after four years recall to active service.

“During that time, in 1985, I worked in Barbados for one year (not RNR) as medical officer in Speightstown polyclinic introducing free medicine to the population. But while also introducing the local people to ‘modern’ medicine, I became fascinated with their old traditional medicine,

Project HARP
“While I was there, up in the north of the island was Project HARP, short for High Altitude Research Project, which was a joint venture of the United States Department of Defense and Canada’s Department of National Defence created with the goal of studying ballistics of re-entry vehicles and collecting upper atmospheric data for research. Unlike conventional space launching methods that rely on rockets, HARP instead used very large guns to fire projectiles into the atmosphere at extremely high speeds.

“It was a 16-inch (41 cm) HARP gun operated originally by the US Army’s Ballistic Research Laboratory and which was later, and ironically, used by Saddam Hussein,” David said.

On his return to the UK David was based at HMS Dolphin, the Royal Naval shore establishment sited at Fort Blockhouse in Gosport. Dolphin was the home of the Royal Navy Submarine Service from 1904 to 1999 and the location for the Royal Navy Submarine School.

“I’ve had multiple jobs including ships, diesel submarine and Air Stations and Aircraft Carrier (at war). Shore based jobs have included most bases in UK.
“ I was a qualified submarine escape training instructor together with screening of all candidates for escape training. This included breath hold diving to 30 metres in the Escape Training Tank (SETT).

“I was also member of the SPAG (Submarine Parachute Assistance Group) on six hours notice to move worldwide for rescue missions with a group of very highly trained specialists including specialist submariners, anaesthetists and specialist diving medical officers jumping into the sea.

“I was a diving medical officer and undertook on call all diving incidents worldwide, civilian and military, and arranged treatment for 15 years. Undertaking numerous compression chamber runs as inside MO (training and real) as risk of Decompression illness was high at Submarine Escape training.

South Africa
“Overseas jobs included BMATT South Africa, Gibraltar and Brunei. In fact, I was in South Africa helping to train the defence force when they won the Rugby World Cup in June 1995. That was a tremendous experience.

“More than this, I am a great traveller I love to travel and I had my old Rover 20 shipped out to Durban and did a great deal of driving and exploring around southern Africa, Botswana and the likes. In fact, I drove her home and then sold her, what a car that was,” David added.
His passion for travel did not stop in South Africa by any means, He has since extensively trekked Nepal and North America, for example.

Gulf War II
But having been deployed to the Standing Force North Atlantic when the first Gulf War broke out in December, 2002, it happened all over again. Only this time David had joined HMS Ark Royal.
“We joined the US-led task force. We had no aircraft on deck but helicopters instead and Delta Company 40 Commando Royal Marines.”

In fact, it was from the decks of HMS Ark Royal and HMS Ocean that the first wave of Royal Marines were flown ashore spearheading the assault on Southern Iraq.

“I was ship bound. My main task was to be in charge of the logistics of handling the casualties. I had to assess the wounds and decide which hospital ships the wounded should be sent to in order to be best attended to by medics. It was exciting and terrifying. It was like a constant game of Russian roulette, you never knew when a missile strike would occur, whether they would be ballistic or not, and we were not allowed to use the klaxon. We were either drummed or bugled below decks by the Royal Marines and were constantly training in preparation for the worst-case scenarios. But after the best part of 100 days off northern Iraq, we eventually called in at Palma.” And the rest, as they say, is history.