Fleetwood man's quest to unravel legend of Loch Ness Monster

Franke Searle spent years searching for the Loch Ness Monster. We look back at his intriguing life...

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 3:45 pm
A photo appearing to show the Loch Ness Monster, taken by Frank Searle
A photo appearing to show the Loch Ness Monster, taken by Frank Searle

It was biting cold on the banks of Loch Ness but Frank Searle, who eventually ended up in Fleetwood couldn’t afford to let the weather beat him in his quest to unravel the legend of the Loch Ness Monster.Frank was an enigmatic photographer and he spent much of the 1970s camping in a caravan on the edge of the cold loch, keeping an eye out for anything that might appear from the inky, murky depths. He was always keen to spot the monster and was mostly found scanning the ripples through powerful binoculars.

Frank, who died in Fleetwood at the age of 85, once told how he saw the monster’s big back breaking the surface out towards the middle of the lake. There were some American tourists with him at the time, and they were over the moon. They were lucky, he said, to see it.

Born in the east end of London, Frank joined the army on leaving school before the Second World War.

Frank Searle who spent years trying to photograph the mysterious Loch Ness Monster

In the early part of the conflict he was an anti-tank gunner in North Africa, fighting against the Italians before joining the newly-formed Parachute Regiment. He later worked with the Long Range Desert Group and the Small Boat Service. After a raid against the Germans in the eastern Mediterranean, Mr Searle was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was a sergeant at the time.

With the Paras for the invasion of Sicily he gained a field commission after his unit sustained heavy casualties and after the successful advance in Southern Italy he resumed special operations, working behind enemy lines.

He also saw service in Yugoslavia and Malaya and promoted to captain, was involved in action in Korea.

He was, however, invalided out of the army in 1957 and worked as a supervisory role for a firm of London fruiterers.

Loch Ness is one of the largest of the Scottish lochs and home of the Loch Ness monster. Photo: Getty Images

That was until his fascination with the Scottish legend bubbled to the surface.

For the years that followed, Frank was ever alert for a glimpse of the creature which inspired him to give up his job and devote his life to monster watching.

Totting up, by 1975 he had spent 20,000 hours and had logged 24 sightings and pictures.

The photographs ranged from a fuzzy hump to an amazing dinosaur-like creature rearing upwards from the water.

These visitors to Loch Ness in 1969 were perhaps looking for Nessie?

And Frank had preserved the images under plastic in his make-shitft shed which he referred to as his HQ. During his time in his caravan, Frank saw enthusiasts come and go.

A team from Japan turned up one day and scoured the loch in an old herring boat. Like something out of a movie, he claimed a man from Texas came all the way from America to use a yellow submarine as a look-out point. He always dissed their efforts though because further than 20 feet underwater, there was nothing to be seen. It was full of peat particles.

He estimated there were about 20 monsters in the loch, descended from 30-foot long prehistoric creatures trapped inland when volcanic eruptions sealed Loch Ness from the sea, 7,000 years ago.

The pictures he created of the monster still remain among the most famous images that claim to have captured the beast. But they are now widely believed to have been manufactured, although this has never been conclusively proved.

A view of the Loch Ness Monster on April 19, 1934. The photograph, one of two pictures known as the ‘surgeon’s photographs,’ was allegedly taken by Colonel Robert Kenneth Wilson, though it was later exposed as a hoax by one of the participants, Chris Spurling, who, on his deathbed, revealed that the pictures were staged by himself, Marmaduke and Ian Wetherell, and Wilson.

Frank moved back to Fleetwood in 1980 and lived out his years in relative anonymity in the port.