When a British daredevil attempted a rocket-powered speed record on Loch Ness

In the 1930s and 1940s, British motorist John Cobb smashed a number of land speed records.

After achieving a world-record speed of 394.19 miles per hour on the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1947, Cobb sets his sights on the water.

To design a vehicle capable of setting a water speed record, Cobb turned to engineer Reid Railton, who had crafted the streamlined Railton Mobil Special which conquered Bonneville.

With Cobb’s financial backing, Railton began exploring concepts for a jet-powered boat which would shoot across the surface on narrow outrigger floats.

Initial miniature tests proved promising, and with a jet engine borrowed from the Ministry of Supply, the vehicle began to take shape in 1952.

Cobb dubbed it Crusader.

21 PHOTOS
1952: Daredevil attempts to break speed record on Loch Ness
See Gallery
1952: Daredevil attempts to break speed record on Loch Ness
Engineers George Bristow of De Havilland (standing, left) and Hugh Jones of Vospers (right) towing the jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' on Loch Ness, Scotland, during an attempt on the world water speed record by British racing driver John Cobb (1899 - 1952), September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and Peter Du cane and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British racing driver John Cobb (right) and engineers with Cobb's jet-powered speed boat 'Crusader' at New Malden, Surrey, 22nd August 1952. Designed by Peter Du Cane and Reid Railton, built by Vospers, and powered by a De Havilland Ghost engine, 'Crusader' will be used by Cobb in an attempt on the world water speed record at Loch Ness in September. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' is towed through the streets of Aberdeen on its way to Loch Ness, where it is to be used in John Cobb's world water speed record attempt, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
The jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' is towed through the streets of Aberdeen on its way to Loch Ness, where it is to be used in John Cobb's world water speed record attempt, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' later crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British racing driver John Cobb's jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' is prepared for a trial run on Loch Ness, Scotland, during an attempt on the world water speed record, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and Peter Du Cane and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
John Cobb's jet-powered speed boat 'Crusader' is lowered into the water at Loch Ness, Scotland, for a trial run before his attempt on the world water speed record, September 1952. Cobb was later killed in his attempt that when 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Boat designer Commander Peter Du Cane (left) and Hugh Jones of boat-builders Vospers (centre), make alterations to the step on which the jet-powered speed boat 'Crusader' runs at speed, Loch Ness, September 1952. The boat was used by British racing driver John Cobb (1899 - 1952) in his attempt on the world water speed record. Cobb was killed when 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A group of children look on as British racing driver John Cobb (1899 - 1952 in boat, 3rd from left) brings his jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' back to the shore of Loch Ness, Scotland, during an attempt on the world water speed record, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and Peter Du Cane and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British racing driver John Cobb's jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' is given an engine test on Temple Pier by Loch Ness, Scotland, during an attempt on the world water speed record, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and Peter Du Cane and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
One time world land speed record holder John Cobb in a boat on Loch Ness, where he died attempting to beat the world water speed record when his boat 'Crusader' exploded. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub.1952 Original Publication: People Disc - HC0282 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Getty Images)
11th October 1952: Commander Peter Du Cane (left), managing director of Vosper's the builders of the jet boat 'Crusader' watching the first engine test. John Cobb was killed when he tried to attempt the world water speed record at Loch Ness when 'Crusader' exploded after reaching a speed of 206 mph. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
De Havilland engineers George Bristow (left) and J. Bennets working on the De Havilland Ghost engine of John Cobb's jet-powered speed boat 'Crusader', during his attempt on the world water speed record at Loch Ness, Scotland, September 1952. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
11th October 1952: Hugh Jones making adjustments to the jet boat 'Crusader' John Cobb was killed when he tried to attempt the world water speed record at Loch Ness when 'Crusader' exploded after reaching a speed of 206 mph. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
British racing driver John Cobb's jet powered speed boat 'Crusader' gets clear of the tender, Astrid, as she sets out on a trial run on Loch Ness, Scotland, during an attempt on the world water speed record, September 1952. Designed by Reid Railton and Peter Du Cane and built by Vospers, 'Crusader' crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
British racing driver John Cobb (1899 - 1952, centre) and colleagues on board the fishing smack Astrid, for a first look at Loch Ness, Scotland, before his attempt on the world water speed record in the jet powered speed boat 'Crusader', September 1952. 'Crusader' later crashed after reaching a speed of 206 mph, killing Cobb. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
29th September 1952: John Cobb, one-time holder of the world land speed record, with two of his advisers on Loch Ness, where he was later killed when his jet boat 'Crusader' exploded during an attempt at the world water speed record. Cobb began his racing career in cars and won the 500-mile race at Brooklands in 1935 and 1937, before serving in the Air Force and returning to race speed boats. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
11th October 1952: Time-keepers at the start of John Cobb's attempt on the world's water speed record on Loch Ness. His Railton designed jet boat 'Crusader' exploded after reaching a speed of 206 mph and he was killed. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
29th September 1952: John Cobb sets out in the Railton-designed jet boat 'Crusader' to attempt a water speed world record at Loch Ness on 29th September. He was killed when 'Crusader' exploded after reaching a speed of 206 mph. Cobb began his racing career in cars and won the 500-mile race at Brooklands in 1935 and 1937, before serving in the Air Force and returning to race speed boats. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
11th October 1952: Mrs Cobb listens in on the ship-to-shore radio telephone while watching her husband John Cobb try to break the world water speed record. Original Publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Getty Images)
A timekeeper fires a signal flare during John Cobb's attempt on the world water speed record in the jet powered speed boat 'Crusader', on Loch Ness, Scotland, September 1952. Original publication: Picture Post - 6097 - Crusader Passes - pub. 1952 (Photo by Raymond Kleboe/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

In the old days a Crusader was a man who liked to get away from his office and go out and have some fun.
John Cobb

To allow Crusader to hit their target speed of 200 miles per hour, Cobb and Railton needed to find a body of water that was long and calm.

After much scouting, they settled on a deep, 23-mile-long gash in the Scottish Highlands: Loch Ness.

By summer 1952, the 31-foot watercraft, built of birch and an aluminum alloy, was deemed seaworthy and transported to the home of the legendary Nessie.

Once there, Cobb and his team took Crusader through a series of escalating speed tests, making adjustments and modifications as necessary.

The water conditions proved worrisome. Winds could come rushing across the loch with little warning, whipping the surface into fearsome whitecaps, and even the smallest boat wake could prove deadly to Crusader at full speed.

On the morning of Sept. 29th, the waters were flat calm, and Cobb decided to go for the record.

Crusader and two support boats went out to their positions, but had to postpone the attempt when the wind picked up.

After a couple hours, the wind dropped out again, and the lane was clear. A green flare was launched, and Cobb activated Crusader’s jet engine.

The craft accelerated smoothly and flawlessly, streaking across the surface and reaching a speed beyond 200 miles per hour.

The attempt seemed to be a triumph until Crusader ran through a series of swells which had materialized seemingly out of nowhere.

Crusader began bucking up and down, rapidly destabilizing until its nose dipped below the surface and it decelerated so suddenly it disintegrated.

Cobb’s body was swiftly recovered, but most of the shattered remnants of Crusader sank into the depths.

The mysterious swells which doomed him have, unsurprisingly, been attributed by some cryptozoology aficionados to the loch’s famous prehistoric resident.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.