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There have been many characters in the sport of Speedway, but ranked amongst some of the biggest must be `Split` Waterman, who was described as the `Speedway Sensation of 1947`, when, after learning the art of Speedway racing in the Army, he was quickly snapped up by the Wembley Lions after a short spell at Rye House.

His daredevil deeds and astonishing flair for getting in the news, plus his great racing skills, made his a household name in the speedway world. He rode for four London teams, Wembley, West ham, Harringay and New Cross, where he finally ended his Racing career.

He won the London Riders Championship; he held the Golden Helmet and was capped for England in both test matches and the World Cup.

In 1950 he was transferred from Wembley to Harringay for the record fee at the time of £3500.

In 1960 he was bought out of retirement to Captain New Cross.

He was unlucky with injures which always dogged him at the most important moment, and it was injuries many felt stopped him becoming England’s 2nd World Champion. It was also injuries that robbed him of the `Sunday Pictorial` Golden Helmet, which he lost by default. He was due to defend it against Ronnie Moore who had been chosen as the May (1952) Challenger, but an injury at Wimbledon meant that under the rules of the Golden Helmet match race, he was unable to defend it, so Jack Young was chosen to challenge Ronnie for the now vacant Golden helmet. (Jack went on to win it). Split had also held the Helmet in 1951.

From the Speedway Express, a report of the 1948 London Riders Championship, considered by many at the times to being the second only to the World Championship as the most important Solo Championship.

New Cross Stadium, Split cracks Eleven-year-old Jinx!

For eleven years now the London Riders Championship has been won by an Overseas rider, but now like a bolt out of the Blue, comes Cheeky, Cheery, Devil-may care, `Split` Wateman. He has become the first Englishman to capture the title since Tom Fandon held it twelve years ago.

After (Ron) Johnston (New Cross) had smashed the track record in heading Waterman home past the post in one of the most thrilling rides seen at New Cross for a long while, it looked odds on that Johnston and Waterman would have to meet in a deciding race as the Rangers skipper had also dropped a point.

However in his final race, Johnston fell while chasing Ray Duggan (Harringay), which left Split two points clear of the field.

And so in his only second year of senior racing, Wembley’s Split Waterman has won one of the greatest honours opened to London Riders, and the way he rode the Old Kent Road Cinders it won’t be the last Trophy he wins by a long Chalk.

As well as making the news, Split wrote a column in the Speedway Gazette called

“Hello Folks”.

Split was often mistaken for his Wembley team mate, Bruce Aberethy (New Zealand), as both had the `Errol Flynn` look about them and it would seem by some of the press cuttings, they were Speedways `Terrible Twins”!

The confusion was not helped by the fact Bruce also wrote a column for the Gazette called “ I get around”.

Split appeared in the World finals in 1948, 50, 51, 52, 53 & 54. His best season was 51, when he, Jack Young and Jackie Biggs were all level on 12 points. The run-off resulted in Young First, Waterman Second and Biggs Third.

He was second again in 1953 win 13 Points; the winner was Wales and Wembley’s Freddie Williams.

And finally `Splits` real name, it is Squire Francis Waterman, he was born 27 July 1928 in New Malden, South West London – there are also reports that he became involved with the seedy side of London life in the 1960’s and indeed may well have served a prison sentence for fire arms and gold smuggling – interesting as that may seem this article is about his Speedway career and to make that easy here is a list of the teams he rode for in chronological order.

Split Waterman

1947 to 1949

Wembley Lions

1950 to 1954

Harringay Racers


West Ham Hammers


Wembley Lions


Wimbledon Dons


Southampton Saints

1960 to 1961

New Cross Rangers


Ipswich Witches


Belle Vue Aces

Split Waterman Golden Helmet 1951

This article is based on an old newspaper clipping who’s origin is unknown, it was sent to me by Robert Rogers as were the photos.

However if you think this is taken from your work please contact me and we will credit or remove.

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