Col Mike Campbell-Lamerton

Scotland and Lions captain who sacked himself
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The Independent Online

It is a tough call to drop yourself as captain of any team, but that is exactly what Mike Campbell-Lamerton did on the 1966 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand when he felt he wasn't getting the best out of his players.

Michael John Campbell-Lamerton, soldier and rugby player: born 1 August 1933; MBE 1974, OBE 1979; married (three sons); died 17 March 2005.

It is a tough call to drop yourself as captain of any team, but that is exactly what Mike Campbell-Lamerton did on the 1966 British and Irish Lions tour to Australia and New Zealand when he felt he wasn't getting the best out of his players.

Having played in every Test on the 1962 tour to South Africa, the Scottish rugby forward was one of the more experienced players to head down under four years later. Even so, he was considered a surprise choice as captain.

The two Tests in Australia went very well, as the Lions cruised to a 2-0 series victory with an 11-8 triumph in Sydney and a record 31-0 win in Brisbane. But New Zealand was always going to be a different prospect, with some of the game's most awesome forwards, Colin Meads, Kel Tremain, Brian Lochore, Ken Gray and Waka Nathan, lying in wait.

The All Blacks of that vintage were among the greatest teams of all time. The Lions came with a roar and left with a whimper as they lost all four Tests and recorded four defeats and two draws in 21 provincial matches.

"We had got off to such a great start in Australia that perhaps expectations were a bit high," recalled David Watkins, to whom Campbell-Lamerton handed over the Test captaincy:

We knew we would meet a different and much stronger challenge in New Zealand and it was an incredibly tough tour. We lost three of our first five games in New Zealand at Southland, Wellington and Otago and then we lost the first Test 20-3. Mike decided to stand down for the second and fourth Tests

and asked me to take on the captaincy. He only wanted what was best for the team and was someone whom I greatly admired.

Born into an army family in Malta, Mike Campbell-Lamerton joined the Duke of Wellington's Regiment in his teens and served in Korea, Suez, Kenya and Cyprus. On one tour he broke his leg jumping from a helicopter, while at the Battle of the Hook in the Korean War in 1953 he was pipped to a Military Cross by another Scottish rugby international, David Gilbert-Smith, after both men, then lieutenants, had regained high ground overrun by the enemy while under heavy fire. Only one MC could be awarded and the older man received it.

Campbell-Lamerton rose to the rank of colonel. When he left the Army he took up the post of Bursar at Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1979 he was appointed OBE.

Educated at Ottershaw School, he played rugby for Guildford, Halifax, the Army, Combined Services, Blackheath, London Scottish, Surrey, Yorkshire and the Barbarians, as well as Scotland and the Lions. He made his début for Scotland against France in Paris in 1961, captained his country twice in 1965 and went on to win 23 caps as a second-row forward.

He was selected for the 1962 Lions tour to South Africa and appeared in all four Tests in the back row. He made 20 appearances on that tour, the most by any player, and started in a further 22 in 1966.

A surprisingly athletic man for his size - he won silver medals in the All-Ireland shot and discus championships - he went on to become President and Treasurer of Oxford University RFC.

His three sons, Jeremy, Michael and Ian, all went on to play for London Scottish. Jeremy also followed in his father's footsteps by playing three times in the second row for Scotland in 1986 and 1987.

Howard Evans

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