John ‘Lofty’ Bennetts

When Len Newton’s wife gave him a case full of photographs and memorabilia inherited from her father, he had no idea that eventually it would lead to building large scale tests models of Reid Railton’s hydroplane designs. But as he delved deeper and put the pieces together he realised that John ‘Lofty’ Bennetts played a key role looking after the Ghost engine in Crusader on Loch Ness but also in the development of the jet engine. Such was his contribution he was later awarded the BEM as the citation below explains.Lofty Bennetts BEM citation

Although he never spoke much to his family about what he did, they do know he attended Watford Technical College. As a De Havilland apprentice he then worked at Salisbury Hall near London Conley on the prototype Mosquito. That prototype, resplendent in its yellow livery, is now back at the De Havilland Museum at Salisbury Hall along with two others and much else telling the DH story. From there he moved to the main test and production facility at Hatfield to work with Guy Bristow on the Goblin jet engine although because of the secrecy surrounding this project it was always referred to as a supercharger project. Armed guards patrolled the site and they were sworn to secrecy with it being made clear they were not to mention anything of their work to anybody.

After Whittle had struggled for years to get the authorities interested in his concepts, things had moved on and there was now a great deal of interest. On one occasion when a high ranking official turned up to see what this was all about, the engine wouldn’t start. But all was not lost when Guy Bristow said “soak this rag in kerosene and stick it on a piece of welding rod”. He then opened one of the canisters, stuck the burning rag in and woof away it went. Not much in the way of Health and Safety in those days. From then on it was a recognised way of getting the Goblin started until high energy igniters came along. Until then this method was known as Bristow’s Last Hope and abbreviated to BLH.

This is one of the many stories Lofty would tell so he was clearly quite a character, very funny and the life and soul of any party. So again, by chance, we have another direct link to the original Cobb Crusader project.