Commander J. Campbell Clouston

Backgrounder

J. Campbell Clouston was born near the Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec, on August 31, 1900, to William Stewart Clouston and Evelyn Campbell, from Lachine. Subsequently living across from the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club, “Campbell,” as referred to by family and friends, learned to sail on nearby Lake Saint Louis, winning, the Challenge Cup in 1913. He attended Lower Canada College, and then McGill University where he studied engineering for a year before enlisting in Britain’s Royal Navy in 1918 as a special entry cadet.

Over the next two decades, Clouston rose through the officer ranks. He trained at the Royal Naval Gunnery School at HMS Excellent, Whale Island, Portsmouth, later serving as gunnery commander at this establishment in the first half of the 1930s. He also obtained his air pilot’s license. During his tenure at the school, the Admiralty had Clouston develop anti-aircraft tactics to neutralize the growing airborne threat posed by planes on Britain’s naval fleet. Students were subsequently trained in these new techniques.

He was appointed to command the destroyer HMS Isis in 1937. In 1940, with Isis laid up for repairs following intense action during the Norwegian campaign, and as British, French and Belgian soldiers were being pushed back to the coast of France at Dunkirk by advancing German forces, Commander Clouston, took part in Operation Dynamo (May 26 - June 4) to evacuate the trapped Allied troops. As piermaster of the east mole, while under enemy fire, he worked courageously around the clock for six days organizing and overseeing the boarding of troops onto waiting ships.

Although expectations were for 45,000 to be evacuated, the “Miracle of Dunkirk” resulted in more than 338,000 troops saved. The majority of those were embarked from the east mole under Clouston’s command. After a brief meeting in England, and while returning to Dunkirk on June 2 to coordinate the rescue of remaining French and Belgian soldiers, his motor launch was attacked and sunk by enemy aircraft. Campbell Clouston perished at sea and was later laid to rest at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Becklingen War Cemetery in Germany. In the London Times, Captain William Tennant, Senior Naval Officer at Dunkirk and future Admiral, described the actions of the pier party who worked without rest for days, writing: “No one is more deserving of praise than Commander Clouston.”

The Clouston family has deep roots in Canada extending back to the late-eighteenth century when Clouston’s great-grandfather arrived from Orkney, Scotland, as an agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Subsequent generations also held positions in the company, with his grandfather, James Stewart Clouston, being chief trader and chief factor at the Lachine post for a decade. Other family members became involved in organized sports and Canada’s growing financial sector, including his father and his uncle, Sir Edward Seaborne Clouston, who held leadership roles with the Bank of Montreal. It was this same uncle who played in the very first indoor ice hockey game in 1875 and who was also a trustee of the Stanley Cup. It is noteworthy that J. Campbell was also an avid hockey player.

Parks Canada “Hometown Heroes” program

Canada's participation in the First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1939-1945) touched every community in this country. In 2014, the Government of Canada launched a seven year commemoration period to mark the centennial of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War. As part of this program, Parks Canada developed the Hometown Heroes program. Now very well known, the program honours the courage of individuals from all walks of life who made unique contributions to the war effort. Their exploits are told through posters, exhibits and special events across the country. To date, more than 25 Parks Canada places have taken part in the program and more than 100 individuals have been recognized.

Lachine Canal National Historic Site

The Lachine Canal’s history stretches over more than 150 years. The canal was the port of entry for a canal network that linked the Atlantic to the heart of the continent. Its development influenced the urbanization of the South-West of the island of Montréal. The waterway and its surroundings bear witness to the role of the Lachine Canal in the development of the Canadian manufacturing industry.


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