Christopher Cockerell (1910-1999) , the inventor of the amphibious hovercraft, was born in Cambridge in 1910 From 1935 to 1951 he worked for Marconi as part of a team designing and developing the navigational and communication equipment for bombers during World War Two and the early part of the Cold War. In the 1950s he turned his attention to developing a hovercraft. He did most of the early work himself at his own expense, before attempting to interest the government and large corporations in the idea. Despite initial scepticism that such a craft could work satisfactorily, in 1958 a team at Saunders-Roe built the first experimental hovercraft and in the following year it made its first channel crossing. In 1960 with the setting up of the Hovercraft Development Limited he moved to Hythe, where the new company was based. He resigned in 1966 because he felt that hovercraft production was becoming too much of a monopoly and that there was insufficient scope for competition. He was knighted in 1969.
He lived for a time at Ardnave Crescent in Bassett, Southampton before moving to Hythe in 1971, where he died in 1999.

Christopher Cockerell

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photograph, c.1970


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The hovercraft arrives in Dover after making its maiden Channel crossing, 1959.

Further reading:
Southampton People, by John Edgar Mann, p30-31. (HS/t)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, Volume 12.


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