John Cobb – A Real Life Hero and Land Speed Record Holder – and appeared in a film


Who remembers John Cobb ? – Well I for one do !

John Cobb died whilst attempting to break the Water Speed Record of Loch Ness in September of 1952.

He is nothing like as well remembered as is Donald Campbell but in my view he should be.  Maybe it is because he was a quiet type was much less of a showman.


John Cobb on Loch Ness

There is a  link to the film world here here as John Cobb appeared in a 1941 film Target for Tonight which was a Crown Film Unit Production for the Government – much of it filmed at RAF Mildenhall.

John Cobb

The A82 is the major transport route south from Inverness to Fort William at the opposite end of the Great Glen. Exactly 1 mile south of Urquhart Castle  the A82 passes a beehive-shaped cairn by the side of the road overlooking Loch Ness. Itcommemorates the tragic story of John Cobb, who lost his life while attempting to break the world speed record on Loch Ness on 29 September 1952.

John Rhodes Cobb was born in Esher, Surrey in 1899. He was  quiet spoken and unassuming. His wealth enabled him to follow his passion for fast cars and that evolved into repeated attempts to break the Land Speed Record, a feat he achieved in 1939 by travelling at 367.91 mph. He broke the record again in 1938, travelling at 394.19 mph

During the War he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force between 1943 and 1945  and was demobbed with the rank of Group Captain.

He made an  appearance in the wartime propaganda film Target for Tonight (1941).

This film was made using actual service men and women of the Royal Air Force, as a wartime morale-booster. When viewed over fifty years later, it is still fascinating to watch the planning and execution of the raid over Germany, and in particular follow the progress of F for Freddie and her crew. For once we can be sure that this is how it was done, it has the sense of realism that most dramas lack. A film made by the Crown Film Unit.


John Cobb 2

Not content with holding the Land Speed Record, John Cobb turned his attention to water. He spent some £15,000 designing a jet-propelled watercraft dubbed The Crusader and transporting it to Loch Ness.

Crusader was the first boat in the world to be built specifically for jet propulsion. It was 31 feet long and powered by a De Havilland Ghost 48 Mk1 engine. It was officially launched at Temple Pier, just north of Drumnadrochit on 26 August 1952.


John Cobb s wife waits


ABOVE – John Cobb’s Wife waits, as she always did, for her hsuband to attempt a trial run or a run for the record.   This time he did not come back to her.  This is such a good picture of Mrs. Cobb and yet a very sad one too.

John Cobb made his record attempt on 29 September 1952 over a measured mile from Urquhart Castle. According to the generally accepted rules of the time for speed records, two runs were required. On the first run, Crusader travelled at 206.89mph, making Cobb the first man in history to reach 200mph.

Tragedy struck on the second run, however, when Crusader hit a boat wake that should not have been there and nosedived suddenly into the depths of the loch, killing Cobb instantly. Believers in the Loch Ness monster would later claim that Nessie was in some way to blame for the accident. Cobb was buried at Christ Church in his birthplace of Esher, Surrey.

In 2001 the Loch Ness Project launched an attempt to discover the wreckage of Crusader, thought to lie over 650 ft  below the surface. Over 18 months the research vessel Deepscan traversed the likely wreck location with sonar, mapping the loch floor.


John Cobb s Body is recovered from Loch Ness


One of the men assisting the search was Gordon Menzies, who as a child had witnessed the tragedy and as an adult owned Temple Pier where Crusader had first launched. At 3 pm on 5 July 2002 the remains of Crusader were found.    They were left where they lay on the bottom of the loch.

This Post on the Blog has a tenous link to films in that John Cobb  appeared in a 1941 film Target for Tonight which was a Crown Film Unit Production for the Government

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