On This Day: Water speed legend John Cobb ‘killed by Loch Ness Monster’

The 52-year-old Englishman’s Crusader vessel disintegrated and sank to the bottom after striking an unexplained wake during his bid to set a new water speed record

SEPTEMBER 29, 1952: Racing legend John Cobb died on Loch Ness on this day in 1952 after his 200mph boat hit a ripple that Nessie hunters say was caused by the lake’s reputed monster.

The 52-year-old Englishman’s Crusader vessel disintegrated and sank to the bottom after striking an unexplained wake during his bid to set a new water speed record.

Believers in the Loch Ness Monster claim the alleged creature caused the rogue ripple by moving just beneath the surface of the Scottish lake.

They note that Cobb, who was on course to set a new record of 206mph was just finishing his first of two laps, so the wake could not have been caused by him.

A British Pathé newsreel, which was accompanied by the menacing music typical of 1950s movies, showed the moment his jet boat plunged into the water.

The was a sudden splash, a few waves bouncing outwards and then total silence and stillness after the Crusader sank on the otherwise eerily calm loch.

The newsreel also filmed earlier moments such as Cobb meeting the Queen Mother days before and clambering into his craft while his wife watched.

His body was later recovered from the surface of Britain’s biggest inland sea, which contains more freshwater than the lakes and rivers of England and Wales combined.

Cobb, a fur trader by day who in his spare time had set a 390mph land speed record a year earlier, was buried near his home in Esher, Surrey.

It took another 50 years before experts using sonar found the boat and its jet engine 650ft below at the bottom of Loch Ness following an 18-month search.
Cobb on a trial run for setting the land speed record in August 1939. (PA)
Most experts agree that the likeliest cause of the crash was caused by one of Cobb’s support boats and scientists insist the monster is merely mythical.

Yet doubts have long persisted.

Among the Nessie hunters who blamed the unconfirmed animal was Tim Dinsdale.



The former RAF engineer slowed down the 24-frames-per-second footage and claims that the killer ripple was moving faster than any boat could have caused.

Eight years later, he filmed what remains one of the few alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster – with a humped creature appearing to leave a massive wake.

There have also been several other sightings, photographs and, in 2011, a sonar image of a 5ft-wide unidentified object moving at a depth of 75ft.

There have also been numerous other expeditions – and yet there have been no scientifically confirmed sightings of Nessie.

Claims of a “water beast” date back to the sixth century, but the term Loch Ness Monster only emerged in 1933.

It followed an Inverness Courier report of London tourist George Spicer spotting “the nearest approach to a dragon or pre-historic animal that I have ever seen in my life”.

Later that year the first purported picture of the alleged creature, taken by Hugh Gray, was published in the Daily Express and sparked monster-mania.

Some observers have claimed the sightings are really those of large eels, seals, birds, dogs and even an elephant.

Yet – along with other alleged cryptids such as the Himalyan Yeti and North American Sasquatch – Nessie claims will undoubtedly continue to fascinate people.