The Hon Ronald George Elidor Campbell, the second son of the Earl of Cawdor, was born on 30 December, 1848, and educated at Eton. He entered the army in 1867 as an ensign in the Coldstream Guards. In 1871 he became lieutenant and captain and was appointed adjutant in the same year. This latter appointment he held until October, 1878.
Captain Campbell embarked for South Africa in November, 1878, and was appointed staff officer to Col Evelyn Wood, whose column was at that time in the course of formation on the Transvaal frontier, preparatory to the invasion of Zululand. This column crossed the Blood River on 6 January, 1879, and Captain Campbell was present as staff officer throughout the various operations. He took part in the attack on Hlobane Mountain on 28 March, 1879, and was killed in action that day. Col Wood was riding along the southern slope of Hlobane with his personal staff and an escort of mounted men from the 90th Regiment and some mounted Zulus. Mr Llewellyn Lloyd, Wood's Political Agent, and Lt Henry Lysons of the 90th Regiment, were also in the party with Captain Campbell. The party encountered Col F.A. Weatherley and the Border Horse, and Wood directed them to proceed to the sound of firing towards the summit. Wood and his party pressed ahead towards the Ityenka Nek and soon came under fire from the enemy.
The following passage, taken from Colonel Wood's despatch to Lord Chelmsford, describes the manner in which Captain Campbell met his death.
'We soon came under fire from an unseen enemy on our right. Ascending more rapidly than most of the Border Horse, who had got off the track, with my staff and escort I passed to the front, and, with half-a-dozen of the Border Horse, when within a hundred feet of the summit, came under a well-directed fire from our front and both flanks, poured in from behind huge boulders and rocks. Mr Lloyd fell mortally wounded at my side, and as Captain Campbell and one of the escort were carrying him on a ledge rather lower, my horse was killed, falling on me. I directed Colonel Weatherley to dislodge one or two Zulus who were causing us most of the loss; but, as his men did not advance rapidly, Captain Campbell and Lieutenant Lysons, and three men of the 9Oth,jumping over a low wall, ran forward, and charged into a cave, when Captain Campbell, leading in the most determined and gallant manner, was shot dead.... Mr Lloyd was now dead, and we brought his body, and that of Captain Campbell, about half-way down the hill, where we buried them, still being under fire.' In another of his official despatches Colonel Wood wrote of Captain Campbell: 'He was an excellent staff officer, both in the field and as regards offce work; and having shown the most brilliant courage, lost his life in performing a gallant feat.' Again, in a private letter, bearing date January the 29th, Colonel Wood wrote: 'I never saw a man play a more heroic part than he did yesterday.'In a letter, dated 25 July, 1881, addressed to the Military Secretary, Horse Guards, London, Sir Evelyn Wood states that had Captain Campbell survived he wood have recommended him for 'the coveted distinction' (the Victoria Cross). It is interesting to note that his son, John Campbell, also of the Coldstream Guards, gained the Victoria Cross in 1916.