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2018: 100th Anniversary of the birth of Robert(a) Cowell (1918-2011)

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Roberta Elizabeth Marshall Cowell was a racing driver and World War II fighter pilot. Roberta Cowell was born Robert Marshall Cowell. In 1936 she began motor-racing, winning her class at the Land's End Speed Trial in a Riley. She gained initial experience of the sport by sneaking into the area where cars were serviced at the Brooklands racing circuit, wearing mechanic's overalls, and offering help to any driver or mechanic who wanted it. By 1939, she owned three cars and had competed in the 1939 Antwerp Grand Prix. On 28 December 1940, Cowell was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps as second lieutenant. Cowell served in Iceland before transferring from the Army to the RAF on 24 January 1942 with the rank of pilot officer. After the war, Cowell was engaged in a number of business ventures until, in 1946, she founded a motor-racing team and competed in events across Europe, including the Brighton Speed Trials and the Grand Prix at Rouen-Les-Essarts. Robert Cowell who achieved notoriety as the first racing driver to change gender, being legally renamed Roberta Cowell in May 1951. She was the first known British transsexual woman to undergo sex reassignment surgery.
By 1954, her two business ventures, a racing car engineering company (Leacroft Sheet Metal Works in Egham) and a clothing company had both ceased trading and her change of legal gender had made it impossible for her to continue Grand Prix motor racing. She continued to be active in motor racing and attracted some publicity for winning the 1957 Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb. She was still an active figure in British motor racing in the 1970s.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roberta_Cowell

 

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