John Cobb (racing driver)

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John Rhodes Cobb
John Cobb (motorist).jpg
at Brooklands
Born 2 December 1899
Esher, Surrey
Died 29 September 1952(1952-09-29) (aged 52)
Loch Ness
Cause of death crash during water speed record attempt
Resting place Christ Church, Esher
Nationality British
Occupation Speed record holder,
fur broker
Employer Anning, Chadwick and Kiver (director)
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Mitchell-Smith (1947-1948) (her death)
Margaret Glass (m. 1950–1952) (his death)

John Rhodes Cobb (2 December 1899 – 29 September 1952) was a British racing motorist. He made money as a director of fur brokers Anning, Chadwick and Kiver and could afford to specialise in large capacity motor-racing. He was born and lived in Esher, Surrey, near the Brooklands race track.

Racing career[edit]

He held the ultimate lap record at the Brooklands race track, driving the 24-litre Napier Railton at an average speed of 143.44 mph (230.84 km/h) achieved on 7 October 1935, having earlier overtaken the 1931 record set by Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin driving Bentley Blower No.1, and regaining it from his friend Oliver Bertram.

Driving the piston-engined, wheel-driven Railton Special he broke the land speed record at Bonneville on 23 August 1939, achieving a mark of 367.91 mph (592.09 km/h). Without this being beaten he raised the record to 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) in 1947.

During the Second World War he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, and between 1943 and 1945 in the Air Transport Auxiliary. He made an (uncredited) appearance in the wartime propaganda film Target for Tonight (1941).[1] He reached the rank of group captain.

The memorial to John Cobb

He died in 1952, attempting to break the world water speed record at Loch Ness in the jet speedboat Crusader at a speed in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h). The boat hit an unexplained wake. Nearby, there is a memorial to him erected by the people of Glenurquhart. He is buried at Christ Church, Esher.

Personal life[edit]

John Cobb married twice, first to Elizabeth Mitchell-Smith in 1947. After her death in 1948 he married Margaret Glass (1917–2007) in 1950.[2]


He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1947.

On 27 March 1953 he was posthumously awarded the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct:

John Rhodes Cobb (deceased), Racing Motorist. For services in attempting to break the world's water speed record, and in research into high speed on water, in the course of which he lost his life.[3]


  1. ^ "John Cobb". Flight. LXII (2280): 439. 3 October 1952. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. ^ The Automobile. Obituaries. November 2007
  3. ^ "No. 39813". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 March 1953. p. 1806.

External links[edit]