St John Jock Horsfall-Race Car Driver and Secret Agent
May 10, 2011
In late 1943 as WWII raged, the British intelligence agency MI5 launched a covert operation, known as Operation Mincemeat. This operation involved floating a corpse to shore in Spain. The corpse carryed falsified documents, in hopes it fell into German hands. It required hundreds of moving pieces, and specifically one that stayed very still, and one that moved very fast. The corpse would of course stay still but also decompose quickly, so the driver that carried it had to be fast. In 1943 England, if you needed something moved quickly, you called St. John Jock Horsfall.
Born in England in 1910, Horsfall quickly developed a love for speed, and engineering. As young boy he shared a motorcycle with his brother, and often disassembled, reassembled and tweaked the little bike to maximize its speed. At the age of 23 he met his soulmate, an Aston Martin sports car, and went on to be one of the most prolific drivers of his time.
While driving fast was always important to Horsfall, so was looking good. In Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre writes, “[Horsfall] seldom wore racing leathers or a crash helmet, preferring to race in a shirt and tie”. This is amazing as he crashed almost as often as he won.
Prior to WWII Horsfall’s racing career was booming, and his need for speed landed him on the radar of MI 5 (Britain’s counterintelligence organization) for time sensitive missions most notably Operation Mincemeat. This operation was instrumental in the allied war effort helping to secure a foothold in Europe. The entire episode was portrayed in the 1956 film, “The Man who never Was”. During this time Horsfall also crossed paths with James Bond Author Ian Flemming, who was working at MI 5 at the time. This may be Flemming’s inspiration for 007s first ride.
After the war, Horsfall returned to racing and achieved his greatest victory was in the winning the 1948 Spa 24 Hour in Belgium. For this race he partnered with Leslie Johnson, driving an Aston Martin prototype DB1, which construction had started on just six weeks before the race. The DB1 went into limited production and limited commercial success. The following year, Horsfall would race the entire 24 hour race solo, still managing to finish in 4th place.
In 1949 Horsfall was racing at Silverstone in the Daily Express International Trophy Race. Not racing in his Aston Martin, he raced instead in an ERA (English Racing Automobiles), a car which he held concerns with before the race. On lap 13 of the race he lost control of the car, and left track and crashed. Regardless of whether he was wearing proper protective equipment, the impact of the crash broke his neck and age 39 St. John Jock Horsfall died.
While Horsfalls career came to an unfortunate end, we at the Invisible agent tip our helmets (or lack thereof) to Jock Horsfall, for going fast, saving the world, and doing it in style!