A very talented singer, author and teacher who married speed king Donald Campbell



My Speed King, book cover    Tonia Bern-Campbell at the National Motor Museum in England, with Don Wales


LEFT - Toni's book about her life with the speed king. RIGHT - Tonia in England, at the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu, with Don Wales, July 2014.



Tonia Bern was born in Belgium. She spent her childhood in her father's Five Star hotel and famed night club; The Carlton. From the age of 13 she studied acting and music at the Conservatoire Royale in Brussels and won her first stage success in Paris at age 16. Tonia went on to headline in such places as Carnegie Hall, the Savoy in London, in Monte Carlo and Las Vegas....... 




Tonia Bern, singer and actress  Tonia Bern and Donald Campbell together


It's not hard to see why Tonia turned Donald's head. He had an eye for beauty. Miss Bern must have been a breath of fresh air, an anchor and shoulder to lean on, giving support to a man that some say was on the edge some of the time. Certainly, Donald had doubts about his own achievements, when those successes were every bit as amazing as his fathers' and in the end he surpassed Sir Malcolm's best by taking land and water speed records in the same year. We have no doubts about Donald, just a little sadness that he pushed himself rather harder than was necessary.




As an actress, Tonia is known for The Flaw (1955), The Glass Cage (1955) and Keep It Clean (1956). 


She married Donald Campbell in 1958, travelling with him to Australia, Lake Eyre and Lake Dumbleyung where the speed king set land and water speed records in his CN7 and K7 jet powered vehicles. 


In 1967 the speed king was killed on Lake Coniston.


Some many years later in September (4th) of 1989 Tonia married Bill Maynard. The couple later divorced and Ms Bern-Campbell took up her career again as an entertainer.




Donald Campbell and Tonia Berne with the CN7  Donald Campbell and Tonia Bern at the races


Tonia Bern and Donald Campbell were married on the 24th December 1958 at the Caxton Hall Registry Office in London.






THIRTY-FOUR years after Donald Campbell died in a water speed record attempt on Coniston Water an attempt to raise his craft has sparked a family row.

The sight of Donald Campbell's sleek, high-powered craft cartwheeling across Coniston Water at 300mph, before smashing into pieces, is one of the most memorable, and most chilling, clips of newsreel film. Now the wreck of Bluebird may be brought to the surface in an operation which has split the adventurer's family.

The Telegraph has discovered ambitious, and secretive, plans to raise the wreck, to be filmed by a BBC crew that has been shadowing the operation for weeks. Divers led by Bill Smith, an underwater surveyor and a friend of Campbell's daughter Gina, were testing aquatic surveillance equipment when they discovered the wreck.

A source close to Mr Smith's team said: "Bluebird was found before Christmas and then a BBC-contracted diver was sent down so that the discovery could be re-enacted for the benefit of the cameras. From that point on everyone involved has been at pains to stop the news from leaking out."

The source said: "That has even extended to unconnected divers at Coniston who were there only for sporting purposes. They have been asked to sign confidentiality agreements to stop them talking about it."


Although Royal Navy divers located the wreck immediately after it sank, and established that Donald Campbell's body was not in its cockpit, subsequent efforts to find Bluebird have been hampered by layers of silt.

Now some members of Campbell's family appear willing to allow Mr Smith to salvage Bluebird. Campbell's widow, however, is adamantly opposed, and the squabble over who can determine the boat's future threatens to create a family rift.









Tonia-Bern Campbell, internationally known actress and singer will present her show, “Piaf, Chev-alier, Brel,” at 7 p.m. Saturday, November 22 2008, at the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45-175 Fargo Street, Indio. It is a cornucopia of songs and stories that captures the three legends and their enormously different interpretations.

The show is a production of Irwin Rubinsky and will feature musical direction and vocal additions by Richard Berent. The show will also include accordion artiste Gigi, winner of awards in Italy, England and California.

“Piaf, Chevalier, Brel” is a theater show and includes film clips of Piaf, Brel and a fun one of Chevalier and Tonia in Paris. She said, “I remember it well!”

Tonia actually knew all three. She met Jacques Brel after winning a song competition in Belgium. Brel, one of the judges, offered to coach her in his own style. She says, “He changed my songs from pretty to blatantly realistic.”

Maurice Chevalier’s mother, “La Lou-que,” was cousin to Grandmother Bern, “Natalie.” From childhood on, Tonia adored her Ton Ton Maurice. He influenced her career and her personal outlook on life.

Edith Piaf was introduced to Tonia during a cocktail party at the plush casino in her hometown of Knokke-Heist in Belgium. Tonia’s fiancé, the casino owner, was an ardent Piaf fan, but Tonia was not impressed when she first met the small, skinny singer. It was only two weeks later, when Tonia saw and heard Piaf at the Olympia in Paris, that she was won over. “It seemed incredible that so much emotion and vocal strength could pour from such a seemingly delicate woman,” Tonia said.

Tickets for the IPAC show were $20 ($15 seniors).



  Tonia Bern music album


Tonia Bern was and is a lively, heartthrob of a pin-up girl. Photography was not that great at the time [pity] but you can get the picture from these product covers.



Tonia Bern-Campbell, Campbell's third wife who lives in America, said she wanted the wreck left where it lies as a "memorial" to the achievements of her late husband, the only man to have broken world water and land speed records in the same year.

Mr Smith said he would not proceed with the salvage until he had permission from Gina, who broke the women's world water speed record in 1984. He said: "It's not my show, it's Gina's boat. It's entirely up to her what we do. Gina's out of the country and will be there until the middle of March and until that time we will not be taking anything out of anything."

Commenting on differences within the Campbell family, Mr Smith said: "I'm aware of it, of course. We've all got a family and we all know what families are like. It's none of my concern. Let them get on with it."

Don Wales, Campbell's nephew and godson, and the holder of the world electric car speed record, said he was discussing the possibility of raising the wreck and hinted that his uncle's body may yet be found.

Mr Wales said: "A survey of the lake is being conducted. Nothing will happen until Gina gets back from abroad. Gina and Tonia will have to act together. I want to keep Tonia and Gina singing from the same hymn sheet because they have had their differences in the past and I want to keep them together."

Mr Wales said: "Whether it stays there or comes up has to be a family decision. I want to make sure everyone is on board before we go forward."



Tonia Bern-Campbell relaxing on the salt at Lake Eyre


Tonia Bern relaxing in the baking Australian sun at Lake Eyre



Six years ago, Mrs Bern-Campbell fell out with her 53-year-old step-daughter over the latter's attempt to auction off his lucky totem, a teddy bear called Mr Whoppit, which was with Campbell in the cockpit when he died but was thrown clear.

Mrs Bern-Campbell, a cabaret singer, said: "I did not agree that Gina could auction Mr Whoppit either. I gave her Mr Whoppit but I didn't think she would actually auction it. I suppose I'm too much of a romantic for all that. I'm not a materialistic person."

The Campbell family has a history of record-breaking. Campbell's father Malcolm first broke the world land speed record in 1924, reaching 146mph in a car, also named Bluebird, and later held a number of further land and water speed records.

Donald Campbell had already achieved the world's fastest speed on water - 276mph - when he sought to beat his own record by taking Bluebird out on Coniston Water on January 4, 1967. On his first run he managed to propel the craft, which was powered by a Bristol Siddeley Orpheus jet engine, to 297mph.

On the return leg, however, although it exceeded the 300mph barrier, Bluebird soared into the air and then somersaulted repeatedly before sinking. "I'm going" were the last words Campbell was heard to utter over his radio link.

Last Sunday one of the divers on Mr Smith's team was pulled unconscious from the lake after getting into difficulties below the surface while using a remotely operated piece of equipment.

If the salvage goes ahead it will also upset local people. Mike Humphreys, the custodian of the Ruskin Museum in Coniston, which has a Campbell exhibition, said: "Donald Campbell was a hero to people here and the feeling is that the boat should be left where it is in accordance with the wishes of family at the time of the crash."



Tonia Bern-Campbell visits the UK to pay her respects  The Bluebird K7 raised from her watery grave


Tonia Bern-Campbell, still looking good at 70, paying her respects as the K7 is raised from the silt. The event caused some division within the family. We support the view that the K7 should (at least) have remained in condition in which it was found, as a memorial to the king of speed, and also as a scientific reminder of man's quest for advancement and the price that some have paid in the cause. It's a bit late now, but possibly having found the wreck, an underwater shrine could have been set out tastefully, with Union-Jack posted lighting and a camera feed that could have been transmitted (displayed) on the web at important dates in the calendar - like January the 4th.




To find out what this was like, we suggest that you read Tonia's book. Tonia will be at the National Motor Museum on the 19th of July 2014, for the 50th anniversary of the CN7 Bluebird 403.1 mph record.




Autographs of Tonia Bern-Campbell and Donald Campbell CBE






Napier Lion

Rolls Royce






Tonia Bern-Campbell in July of 2014.



Tonia Bern-Campbell at Lake Eyre in 1964  A paining of Tonia looking on from the sidelines as her husband prepares to enter the record books


LEFT: Looking on, Tonia Bern-Campbell watches from the sidelines as the 'circus' prepare her husband's car for his land speed record run. RIGHT: A painting, presumably inspired by this or other similar photographs of Tonia and the LSR attempt, by Alister Little.



A clause from a Declaration of Trust dating from the 16th of October 2001, where Tonia agrees to vary the will of her husband Donald.


A clause from a Declaration of Trust dating from the 16th of October 2001, where Tonia agrees to vary the will of her husband Donald. This was to enable the family in England to do what they could to preserve the K7 Bluebird, despite the fact that she would have preferred that the wreck was left where it was as a memorial site. This is a controversial subject, with the Heritage Lottery Fund siding with Tonia, from an archaeological perspective.









Jetstar (not a bluebird boat)







Tonia Bern-Campbell

Twitter Bluebird Speed

Linkedin tonia bern-campbell

IMDB Tonia Bern


Twitter Bluebird Speed

The Telegraph Campbells feud over Bluebird wreck

Daily Record Scotland unseen photographs of Donald Campbells Bluebird CN7

Desert Entertainer November 2008 Tonia Bern-Campbell Piaf Chevalier Brel

Bill Maynard both of us

Daily Mail Donald-Campbell-Bluebird-Unseen-photographs-speed-record-breaker





Bluebird land speed record 50th anniversary



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