Split Waterman

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Split Waterman
Personal information
Nationality  England
Date of birth (1923-07-27) 27 July 1923 (age 91)
Place of birth    New Malden, England
Current club information
Career status Retired
Career history
Wembley Lions
Harringay Racers
West Ham Hammers
Wimbledon Dons
Southampton Saints
New Cross Rangers
Ipswich Witches
Belle Vue Aces
1947-1949, 1956
Individual honours
London Riders' Championship 1948
Team honours
National League Champion
National Trophy winner
British Speedway Cup winner
London Cup winner
1947, 1949
1948, 1952
1948, 1949

Squire Francis (Split) Waterman (born 27 July 1923 in New Malden, England) is a former international speedway rider who finished twice finished second in the Speedway World Championship final.[1] Waterman took up speedway while serving in the British Army in Italy and went on to become one of the top riders of the post-war era. He made the headlines again in the late 1960s when he was convicted of gold smuggling and firearms offences.


Wartime service[edit]

Waterman applied to join the Royal Air Force when World War II broke out but was unable to join as his job as a toolmaker was classed as a reserved occupation.[2] He joined the Local Defence Volunteers (Home Guard) in 1942, before joining the Royal Fusiliers, and was posted to North Africa before being involved in the invasion of Italy.[2] Shrapnel wounds that led to him being declared unfit for front line service saw him transferred to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and posted to a workshop in Pozzuoli, near Naples.[2] Motorcycle racing events became a regular occurrence, and Waterman was involved in building a speedway track at Vomero Stadium.[2][3] He became a proficient racer on his adapted BSA M20 bike, and it was from speedway racing that Waterman gained his nickname; After falling in a race he split his racing leathers down the back, after which his colleagues referred to him as "split arse", which was later shortened to "split".[2] After a tour of duty in Palestine, Waterman was posted to Germany where his commanding officer, a Major Fenwick, wrote to Wembley manager Alec Jackson, with whom he had served earlier in the war, to recommend giving Waterman a trial.[2][3]

Speedway career[edit]

Waterman began his career with the Wembley Lions in 1947, winning the National League Championship.[4] In 1948 the Lions won the National Trophy and Waterman won the prestigious London Riders' Championship, as well as making his debut for England against Australia.[2][5] The Lions won League Championship again in 1949.

In 1950 Waterman transferred to the Harringay Racers for a then world record transfer fee of £3,000 and qualified for his first of five World finals, finishing seventh.[4] In 1951 he qualified again and after finishing level on points with Jack Young and Jack Biggs, the three had to race off against each other to decide the championship. Young headed home Waterman followed by Biggs.[1] He won the Match Race Championship in 1951, taking the title from Jack Parker.[2] He successfully defended the title twice (against Aub Lawson and Jack Young) before relinquishing it due to injury.[2]

Waterman qualified for the World Final again in 1952 but only managed twelfth but did win the National Trophy with Harringay. His career was almost ended in 1952 by a crash at Odsal Stadium in which he sustained a badly broken kneecap, with the first doctor he saw suggesting amputation of the leg.[2] A second opinion disagreed, and he was able to ride a few days later with the leg heavily strapped. His kneecap was later replaced with an artificial one.[2] 1953 saw him in second place again, with his last appearance coming in 1954, finishing fifth. At the end of the season Harringay closed and he transferred to the West Ham Hammers, but only stayed a season,[5] returning to the Wembley Lions in 1956.[4]

In 1957 he was on the move again to the Wimbledon Dons but seemed to be becoming more uninterested in speedway as time moved on. Only six appearances for the Dons in 1957 was followed by only five for the Southampton Saints in 1958. Waterman didn't ride at all in 1959 but made a surprising return in 1960 for the New Cross Rangers. He rode for the Rangers again in 1961 before finally calling time on his career at the end of a couple of short spells with the Ipswich Witches and the Belle Vue Aces in 1962.[6]

Waterman rode in thirty Test matches for England, and captained the team in the 1953 series against Australia.[7][8]

Later life[edit]

After speedway, Waterman went into business in sheet metal working and plastic injection moulding, making plastic goods for companies such as Woolworth and Airfix.[2]

In 1967 he was arrested at Newhaven while attempting to board a ferry to Dieppe, after gold with a value of £10,000 was found in the chassis of his fiancée Avril Priston's car.[9] A subsequent raid at Priston's family home in Bedfordshire found illegal firearms.[9] Waterman was convicted in 1968 of attempting to smuggle gold out of Britain, as well as unlawful possession of firearms including two sub-machine guns, two rifles, and three pistols, and possession of dies for forging coins, and sentenced to four years in prison.[10][11][12] The gold was thought to have come from a bullion van robbery in Clerkenwell.[12] Priston was convicted of conspiracy to smuggle gold and possession of two pistols and a pen gun, and was sentenced to six months in prison.[12]

Waterman married Avril in 1970 at Caxton Hall.[2] As of 4 July 2011, they were living in Nerja, Costa del Sol, Spain.

World final appearances[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bamford, R. & Shailes, G. (2002). A History of the World Speedway Championship. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0-7524-2402-5
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Davies, Trevor (2008) Warzone Speedway, Trevor Davies Publishing, ISBN 978-0-9558624-0-3, p. 143-150
  3. ^ a b Morgan, Tom (1949) Who's Who in Speedway 1949, Sport-in-Print, p. 71-2
  4. ^ a b c Jacobs, Norman (2001). Speedway in London. Stroud: Tempus Publishing ISBN 0-7524-2221-9
  5. ^ a b Belton, Brian (2003). Hammerin' Round. Stroud: Tempus Publishing ISBN 0-7524-2438-6
  6. ^ Pavey,A. (2004) Speedway in the North-West, Tempus Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-7524-3192-7
  7. ^ Rogers, Martin (1978) The Illustrated History of Speedway, Studio Publications, ISBN 0-904584-45-3, p. 77
  8. ^ May, Cyril (1978) Ride It! The Complete Book of Speedway, Haynes, ISBN 0-85429-210-1, p. 64
  9. ^ a b "Gold", The Sun, 16 August 1967, p. 1,2, retrieved 2012-04-27
  10. ^ "Speedway star on gold bar charges", Sydney Morning Herald, 16 August 1967, p. 1, retrieved 2011-11-27
  11. ^ "Co-founder of BoS dies", Bedfordshire on Sunday, 14 June 2010, retrieved 2011-11-27
  12. ^ a b c ""Split" Waterman Jailed for Four Years on Gold Charge", Glasgow Herald, 20 March 1968, p. 7, retrieved 2012-04-27