Defunct Speedway Tracks



Wembley has had 3 circuits. This page is concerned with "The" Wembley Stadium, Wembley, Middlesex off and on between 1929-1981 

Wembley Stadium (previously the Empire Stadium) was the major sports venue in England.  I was there in 1975 watching my ex Newcastle hero's Ivan Mauger & Ole Olsen take on the worlds best.  If you never attended this final.  Ivan missed out in this one but my other ex Newcastle hero Ole Olsen won the world title.  So I went home (to Newcastle) happy.

Freddie Williams   Bill Kitchen   Tommy Price  Two Tommy Prices  Les Bowden 1938 George Wilks  Split Waterman   Bruce Abernathy   Bronco Wilson  Bronco Dixon  Eric Gregory Wembley 1950s  1969 World Final  Wembley Badges

Wembley Stadium
A Panoramic View Of Our Once National Stadium  
My one and only visit from my north east home. I was there amidst a massive crowd of 70/80 thousand, in 1975 when my ex Newcastle hero Ole Olsen was crowned world champion. The track was too dry which upset some of the riders and some fans too.

Opening Meeting Medals
Courtesy of Norman Jacobs
Courtesy of Norman Jacobs

Norman Jacobs says:  The first two are photos of the medals given to riders who took part at Wembley's opening meeting in 1929, They were issued to Billy Lamont and A H Elliott plus a photo of the 1932 team jumping over a hurdle. I can't quite identify them all, but as far as I can make out, they are, from left to right, Colin Watson, George Greenwood, ?, Ginger Lees, Wally Kilmister, Lionel Van Praag, ?, Norman Evans. Of the 1932 regulars there are three missing, Harry Whitfield, Jack Ormston and Gordon Byers, so presumably two of the ?s are two of them, but I can't quite any of match them to the photo. Hopefully someone reading will be able to put the names to them.

John says second from the right could be Gordon Byers.  If you can name the two ? please send me an email John

Roger Frogley 1929

Roger Frogley won the British championship title of the 1929 Star Championship. He is shown aboard a Harley Peashooter.

1929  Harry Whitfield 1929   George Greenwood
1929  Jack Jackson 1929  Wally Kilmister

George Greenwood On A Douglas 1929


Charlie Barrett 1929
1929 The correct spelling of Charlie's surname is Barrett he came from West Hartlepool and was captain of his local side Middlesbrough before moving to Wembley.

Wembley Team 1929

Wembley 1931
Daily Mail Trophy winners. Back row: Cliff Parkinson, Col Stewart, Wally Kilmister, Lionel Van Praag, Charlie Shelton, Jack Jackson.  Front Row. Buster Frogley, Norman Evans, Colin Watson (capt) Johnnie Hoskins, Jack Ormston, George Greenwood, Harry Whitfield.  The mascot is Ian Hoskins.

Gordon Byers
Gordon from Sunderland is at the time of writing this (2008) the oldest (96yr old) living ex rider
Update! Sadly Gordon died aged 97.  I had the honour of looking after him at a Newcastle reunion, he was living in the Gosforth area of Newcastle upon Tyne.  He was frail but had an active mind and regaled me with a lot of his memories.  I hoped then that he would reach 100 yrs and was very upset when I heard he was no longer with us.
God bless Gordon..John
Wembley's North East England Riders
My friend Colin Greenwell from Middlesbrough has sent me a short list of Wembley team members who were brought down to Wembley from "The cold, grey, industrial north east" :-)
Norman Evans. Middlesbrough
Harry Whitfield. Middlesbrough
Cliff Parkinson. Middlesbrough
Charlie Barrett. Middlesbrough.  (Hartlepool I believe.)...near enough.
Gordon Byers. Sunderland
Jack Ormston. West Cornforth. County Durham.
Bert Fairweather. Middlesbrough
Jack Bronco Dixon The North East



  Ginger Lees

Courtesy of Graham Gleave

The UK's Best Sports Venue
Wembley Stadium

Courtesy of Fred Pallett 


1933 Star Championship
John says: Ron Johnson falling in the 1933 Star Championship, behind an unknown rider, do you know who is leading in this photograph John
VSM says: The rider in front was Bobby Blake,  anyone know the track?
Chris Sweetman says: This meeting was at Wembley on 14th September 1933.There is no such rider as Bobby Blake in that meeting.  The rider list follows:

Wembley Action 1934

Terrific first bend action from 1934, the guy at the back is showing track skills by cutting back to the inside line. I bet he didn't finish last. I have no idea who the riders are, do you? John



L-R Dicky Smythe, Vic Huxley, Jack Parker  and Eric Langton, pre war at Wembley


Jack (Bronco) Dixon
Pic from Colin Greenwell
Jack "Bronco" Dixon ( I have also seen him named "Broncho") rode for Wembley in 1935.
Colin Greenwell says: Jack may have been from the North East of England
Fred Pallett says: Dixon rode at various times for Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Belle Vue, Wembley, West Ham and Hackney Wick. His spells with Wembley were in 1934 and 1935.
John says: Wembley were to sign a post war rider with the same nickname, namely Bronco Wilson

Stenners 1947/48
My eyes are drawn to the ridiculously tall cup in the above picture.  It was for the Scottish Open Championship, won by Wembley rider Harry Whitfield.  The rider doing a headstand was Norman Evans.


Harry Whitfield


Courtesy of Colin Greenwell

Harry Whitfield with an extremely large trophy he won in 1930 at the Edinburgh Marine Gardens track. The trophy is 3 feet 6 inches in height and Harry was allowed to keep it plus the £100 prize money!  Is there a taller trophy in speedway?

The First Official World Championship Final Programmes
The first 3 official world championship finals were staged in London, where else but Wembley.  The world champions were Australian Lionel Van Praag 1936  American Jack Milne 1937 and Australian Bluey Wilkinson 1938

1937 Team
Wembley 1937 Wally Kilmister, Lionel Van Praag, Tommy Price Cliff Parkinson Alec Jackson Frank Charles Eric Gregory Ginger Lees & Wally Lloyd


Eric Gregory 1937



Sally Helvey says: My grandpa has just died aged 96 and I have found amongst his stuff two b/w postcards photos of Eric Gregory. Both are publicity of him on his bike on the Speedway track at Wembley and another head and shoulders shot sporting a tan and his big moustache, with a racing bib on.and another head and shoulders shot sporting a tan and his big moustache, with a racing bib on.
No doubt his descendants would be delighted to see these pictures, if indeed they don't have a pile of them already!
Would you like me to scan and send them to you? No catches, no cost - i would just like them to end up where they belong.
I don't think my grandpa supported Speedway particularly, but since these must be dated around 1937, they might have been given to him by Eric if/when they spent time together as POWs during WW2.
You might be able to shed light on this.
I have contacted you because by Googling his name, I spotted Eric on your existing website photos.
They've come out well, haven't they?
Do let me know if you manage to track down a member of his family. I did notice a Jim (I think it was) Gregory on the website photos, so maybe he is his son?  I am intrigued, especially if it turns out he was a POW with my grandpa. His name was Ralph Cager
Sally Helvey
John Skinner says: Thank you Sally for sending the scans.  If anyone has anything to add I will post it on here
Eric's grandson Mark Gregory says: Hi I am one of Eric Gregory's four grandchildren Mark Gregory. He died around 1988 in Durban South Africa having moved there following the death of his wife. His only son: Antony Eric Waterson Gregory (my father) died in 2004. From memory Jim was Eric's brother (remember him vaguely at my Grandmothers funeral). Whilst Grandad was indeed an Officer in the Army over WW2 period I don't recall him ever saying he was a POW. I just remember him for being a kind and loving Grandfather who came once a month from 1971-1980 for Sunday lunch with a paper bag full of chocolate bars. 
Mark Gregory

1938 Les Bowden
Les Bowden with his 1938 team mates

Aub Lawson 1939
Colin Greenwell
This photograph goes up on my wall as one of the best speedway pics of all time!

The 1939-1945 War
Wembley like most of the other speedway clubs in the UK was brought to a standstill by the second world war.  I believe Belle Vue managed to run a few meetings during the hostilities, correct me if I am wrong!
John Skinner says: Yes in 1939, my team, Newcastle were sitting pretty, top of their league. We were heading for the clubs first major trophy.  Then Adolf Hitler "spitefully" dashed the Diamonds hopes of glory by invading Poland and consequently starting World War Two.  Due to the war, Newcastle's top man Canadian George Pepper took to the skies (not only a speedway rider, George  was also a pilot) and he lost his life due to the war, when his plane crashed on a training flight.

Post War
The Empire Stadium started speedway again in 1946 as members of the National League.  Wembley became the nation's home venue for world championship finals.

Professor David Cheeseman says: As a schoolboy I used to attend the Speedway at Wembley Stadium where my father would often be on duty as a member of the British Red Cross Society.

Accidents were frequent and needed BRCS attention. I remember an occasion (I was not actually there that night) when a rider fell and was trapped with his head under the gravel board at the foot of the safety fence. My recollection is that it was Bronco Wilson, but I cannot be sure. I wonder if you can confirm this.

On a separate point I think you will find that BAOR stands for British Army of the Rhine, not as printed.

There was an aero modelers' shop at Wembley Triangle (a few hundred metres from the Stadium) during and a little after WW2 named after Wally Kilmister but we boys could never get the delightful lady who ran it to explain the

I was a pupil at Wembley Hill School destroyed but not demolished by a doodle bug (V1) in 1944. By then I had left to go to Willesden Tech.

Kind regards, Professor David Cheeseman
Hello John
Have just found your web, really like it! I am 78 years old and I attended my first speedway meeting about 1947 at Wembley. The meeting was Wembley v West Ham. I remember that the track was black and it was just before the Olympic games of 1948.The next time I went back there the track was shale. During the war I was evacuated to Bristol, so as a schoolboy in London I became interested in the "Bulldogs."  I returned to Bristol during the school holidays and I was taken to see the "bulldogs", the match was a friendly with Wembley Lions. This was about 1948, I think that was the year that Bristol was promoted. Can you help me on the date? I remember some of the Bristol riders, Eric Salmon, Billy and Johny Hole, Roger Wise, I think, and Dick Bradley. In my first meeting at Wembley I remember, Bill Kitchen, Tommy Price, Bluey Wilkinson, Aub Lawson, and Eric Chitty
Best Wishes and hope to hear from you soon, Den Sullivan
Fred Pallett says: Hello John,  I have noticed that, just above my 1946 Wembley team photo, there is a para by Den Sullivan in which he recalls his memories. He recalls the riders he saw at his first meeting at Wembley in 1946. Unfortunately, he erroneously remembers seeing Bluey Wilkinson - not in 1946 he didn't, as Wilkinson never rode in the UK after WW2.


Fred Pallett's 1946
Team Photo 


Wembley team 1946 (left to right: Tommy Price, Charlie May, Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), Roy Craighead, Bill Gilbert, Alec Jackson (Team manager), Alf Bottoms, Bronco Wilson, Bob Wells, George Wilks, and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on bike.


Wembley v
West Ham
Wembley's Tommy Price leads in the Lions v West Ham meet. Eric Chitty is about to be unseated by Wembley's Bob Wells


Fred Pallett's 1947
Team Photo 


Wembley 1947: Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), Tommy Price, Bill Gilbert, George Wilks, Charlie May, Alec Jackson (Team manager), Alf Bottoms, Split Waterman, Roy Craighead, Bob Wells, Bronco Wilson, and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on the bike.


Charlie May
Fred Pallett says: Hello John, The above image is another Wembley rider for your website. It is Charlie May, who rode for the Lions in 1946 and 1947. I believe the image dates from 1947. It should measure 6" x 4", although it looks larger than that on my new iPad!
John says: The image has just the resolution I like.  I have posted it above, quite large and doesn't it look great!  Charlie astride a Martin JAP.


Vic Duggan Left 
& Bill Kitchen
At Wembley


Courtesy of Archie Cooper

John says:  My friend Archie Cooper took this excellent long focus shot from the spectators side of the fence, Archie is now in his eighties and still watches Newcastle Diamonds most weeks.


Fred Pallett's 1948
Team Photo 

Wembley 1948: Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), Bill Gilbert, Fred Williams, Unknown (possibly Kemp), George Saunders, Roy Craighead, Bruce Abernethy, George Wilks, Bob Wells, Wilbur Lamoreaux, Tommy Price, Split Waterman, Alec Jackson (Team manager), and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on the bike.

John says: Fred Pallett was a fully paid up member of the Wembley supporters club from 1948 to 1954 inclusive.  I am showing here an example of the cards he has saved all this time.
There are more of Fred's cards down the black column to the right of this page
So if there is a mathematical genius reading this! How much was 1/- (5p) worth in 1948!


Fred Pallett's 1949
Team Photo 

Wembley 1949: Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), Fred Williams, Jack Gates, Alec Jackson (Team manager), Bruce Abernethy, Den Cosby, Alf Bottoms, Bob Wells, Bill Gilbert, Tommy Price, Buster Brown, Split Waterman, and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on the bike.


Fred Pallett's 1950
Team Photo 

Wembley 1950: Tommy Price, Jimmy Gooch, Alf Bottoms, George Wilks, Bob Wells, Duncan King (Team manager), Bruce Abernethy, Eric Williams, Jack Gates, Fred Williams, Den Cosby, Bill Gilbert, Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on the bike.


Fred Pallett's 1951
Team Photo 

Wembley 1951: Jimmy Gooch, Eric Williams, Bob Oakley, Duncan King (Team manager), Tommy Price, Bruce Abernethy, Fred Williams, Unknown, George Wilks, Den Cosby, Tommy Barnett (Chief mechanic), and Bill Kitchen (Captain) on the bike.
Bob Cross says:  Hi John, Just seen your web site, it is very interesting.  In the Wembley section you have a photograph of the 1951 team.  The unknown rider between Fred Williams and George Wilks is my father, his name is Denis Cross. He rode at New Cross then Wembley and after rode for Southampton.  Hope this is of help to you. Regards Bob Cross
Fred Pallett says: In the 1951 Wembley team photo, the man in the white coat on the right is Tommy Barnett, who was the team’s chief mechanic.
Fred also says:  the caption for which states that the fourth person from the right is Rune Sormander. I have my doubts about this, as my recollection is that he was a British Wembley junior rider, but I cannot recall his name. Stenner’s Annual for 1952 does not include Sormander in the list of Wembley riders for 1951. In his book “Speedway in London”, Norman Jacobs states that Sormander joined Wembley in 1953. Stenner’s Annual for 1954, in reviewing the 1953 season, states that Wembley “bought 18-year-old Brian Crutcher from Second Division team Poole for £2,500. A week later, with George Wilks temporarily out of action, they ‘borrowed’ Swedish rider Rune Sormander”. It seems clear, therefore, that the mystery guy in the 1951 Wembley team photo is not Rune Sormander, as the photo was taken two years before he arrived at Wembley.
Fred Pallett says: In the 1951 photo, the fourth person from the right was unknown to me at the time (I had previously disputed the claim by someone else that it was Rune Sormander). I have researched this further and can now tell you that the unknown person was Dennis, or possibly Denis, Cross.  Cross never made it to Wembley’s first team, but represented the Lions in various Junior League races during that year, invariably partnered by Den Cosby. Poor Dennis never made the grade and I believe that he was not retained by Wembley at the end of the 1951 season. As far as I am aware, apart than those who appeared in the team photo for 1951, no other rider was on Wembley’s books for that year.


Wembley Badges
Year Unknown 1930 Remake  
  1968  1969   
1970 1970 1971
1971 1971 1972
1973 1974 1975
1976 1978
1981 World Final
1981 2000   

Bill Kitchen

Fred Pallett's
Fred says: As a teenager, I was an avid Wembley supporter from about 1947, until 1952 when I was called up for my National Service. Although then living on the opposite side of Greater London at Bexleyheath, I travelled the 25 miles to the “twin towers” stadium by public transport every Thursday evening for Wembley’s home matches, not returning home until after midnight. Additionally, I followed the Lions to most of their away matches in London which, at the time, boasted five tracks. Consequently, I could be found at Wimbledon on a Monday, West Ham on a Tuesday, New Cross on a Wednesday, or Harringay on a Friday – although not all in the same week! It was fortunate that Wembley’s colours were red and white, so I was able to use my scarf and rattle for Charlton Athletic, of which I am still an active supporter.

Wembley v
West Ham

Split Waterman (left) and George Wilks (right), holding off West Ham’s Aussie Cliff Watson (circa 1947).



Bill Kitchen


These 7 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett

Bill Kitchen discussing tactics with Tommy Price (1946) and right: Bill Kitchen
One of Englands best: Bill Kitchen


Tommy Price


These 7 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett

Courtesy of Fred Pallett
Fred Pallett says: Top English Rider: Tommy Price, the photos span 1946-1951.  The 7th Photo was taken after he won the British Riders Championship in 1946. I think it is a particularly good photo that deserves a place in your Wembley section. Looks like the steps are those that provided an entrance to the original Empire Stadium.

Another Picture Of Tommy
Courtesy of Graham Gleave

Ken Holbrook's
Ken says: Can you recommend a book* that I can purchase which has photo’s and stories about The Wembley Lions, and in particular my first ‘Hero’,Tommy Price?
Mum & Dad used to take me to watch matches at Wembley, (dad was a school-chum of Bill Slocombe), when I was very young. I remember, to this day, cheering on Tommy (wearing his favourite red helmet), whilst I wore a Red & White suit that Mum had made for me.
Dad introduced me to Tommy in person on a Saturday at his work at British & Colonial Concessionaires in St Martins Lane, which sold & repaired all American Cars for those who could afford them, (mostly Showbusiness Stars, and in this instance my personal Hero!) I was speechless, mouth agape, & could barely walk towards him! He ‘ruffled’ my hair saying “Hello Kenny!”. It was like meeting a God.
I barely slept that night & could hardly wait to get on my bicycle next day to emulate him, front wheel awry as I cornered on the cinder track at Paddington Recreation Ground. I still have my Wembley Lions Members Badge, which is one of my most treasured possessions.

The Wembley ‘Roar’, the smell of ‘Castrol R’, and the memory of Tommy winning again will never leave me!

I am sure that there is a book out there that will re-charge the memories.

*Dear John, In response to the appeal by your correspondent, Ken Holbrook, who wishes to purchase a book on the Wembley Lions, the only one that might be suitable is "Speedway in London" by Norman Jacobs. It is extremely unlikely that Ken would find a copy in any high street. However, it is presently available from a large well known Internet retailer for £14.99 post free, or from various other booksellers from £7.67 plus £2.80 postage, through the same Internet retailer. This particular book covers the history of all the London teams. The chapter on Wembley runs to 27 pages and there is a photo of Tommy Price on the cover!
At present, the only book covering Wembley exclusively is "Wembley - The Pre-War Years", but I suspect that it would be unlikely to interest Ken. I was given to believe that a follow-up book on Wembley's post-war years was to be published, but it has not materialised.  Kindest regards, Fred Pallett
John says: Hi Ken, great memories and thanks for sharing them with us. My friend Fred Pallett has raised some points about Wembley's Tommy Price and a Liverpool rider also called Tommy Price.  Fred thinks a cigarette card Picture on my site is your guy but the reverse of the cigarette card text refers to the other Tommy Price. Maybe you can help?Have a look at the following: -
Two Tommy Prices ?
A friend through my website Fred Pallett says: Hello John, In view of the fame and success enjoyed by the former Wembley rider Tommy Price, it might not be widely known that there was another rider of the same name who appeared for Liverpool in the 1930s. In your Player's cigarette card set, displayed on your Defunct Speedway website, Card No 37 purports to be the Liverpool rider, but I have my doubts about this.

The first photo in the Liverpool section of the website shows that team's Tommy Price as it's captain, sitting on a JAP engined bike. His grandson, Nigel Trafford, has confirmed this. Having compared that photo with the card illustration, I fail to see any similarity between the riders. Conversely, I can see a resemblance of the rider depicted on the card to the photo of Tommy Price in the Wembley section of the website, dressed in a Wembley jersey, i.e. the sixth Price photo (taken possibly just before WW2 or perhaps just after it) that follows the group of Bill Kitchen photos. See also Price in the Wembley team photo for 1937, just above the photos of Eric Gregory.

It is my belief that the card illustration is of the Wembley rider and, therefore, that the profile on the reverse is of the wrong rider. Perhaps someone can confirm my suspicions?
Ok Fred I am happy to show all the "evidence" at my disposal to see if we can  confirm your suspicions. Photos etc from my website appear below: -
This is the 1936 Liverpool team with captain Tommy Price on the machine. His grandson, Nigel Trafford, has confirmed this. But! is the rider pictured on the above cig card the same guy as the Tommy Price on the bike in the Liverpool picture?
The Wembley Tommy Price
The 1937 Wembley team.  I think Tommy is 3rd from the left.
John says in answer to Fred Palletts question above.  The Liverpool Tommy Price does not seem to have very prominent ears whereas the Wembley Tommy Price does. The picture on the cigarette card does look more like the Wembley rider.  It has his ears and smile BUT! as the cig card is a piece of art and not a photo maybe it is just a poor sketch of the Liverpool rider?
My friend Colin Greenwell highlights a problem with the art works on the old cigarette cards, see the following scans
And no they aren't twins and not even related.  Sketches are only useful when photographs were not used.  I love the cards but will never take it for granted that a cig card is accurate so Fred is probably right about the Tommy Price card
The continuing saga of the 2 Tommy Prices: -
John Hyam says: Hello John, In the Wembley photos there is a cigarette card of Tommy Price - who it mentions rode at one time for Liverpool. This IS NOT the Tommy Price who rode for Wembley.  The Tommy Price featured was a brother of the post-war Bradford riders Ernie and Norman Price. The career details on the cigarette card are correct. Regards, John H


George Wilks

These 4 photo's of George Wilks are from the collection of Fred Pallett
Mike C says: Hi John, I have just been reading your speedway pages and looking at the pictures. They bought back some memories. The pictures of Geoge Wilks bought back a special memory. Sometime after retiring from the sport he opened a bicycle shop in my old home village of Radlett, Herts. I got my first decent bike from him and some years later he took that bike in part exchange for my first motorcycle. Well, a Binetta moped actually! Everyone knew of George's speedway past (he never mentioned it once) and the kids were all proud to have bought their bikes from him. I remember him walking with a slight limp, presumably from an injury on the track, He was always smiling, always ready to fix anything mechanical. One of natures good guys.  His shop was still there when I finally left. I often wondered what became of him afterwards. Does anyone out there know? Regards,   Mike C
George Wilks &
Tommy Price
Courtesy of Graham Gleave


Split Waterman

1947  1949
These 2 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett

Split Waterman & Australia's
Jack Young
Courtesy of the Terry Robinson collection
Courtesy of the Terry Robinson collection
Split Waterman
Split Waterman & Derek Close
Not so much name the rider.  They are Split Waterman and Derek Close it is impossible to make out Derek's race jacket so my question is who was he riding for if this is Wembley, Split's home track.  John
Derek rode for Newcastle for a while.  Did Newcastle ever ride at Wembley?
Reg Fearman says: Waterman and Close, it is certainly not Wembley - too untidy. Derek's body jacket could be red, blue, white or yellow.  If a rider turned up without his race jacket which was common the staging track would " kit " him out.
Reg has been in touch again supplying an obituary and some photos of his friend Split Waterman: -

‘Split’ Waterman Obituary
Courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

Devil-may-care star of postwar speedway who later applied his ‘quick, decisive mind’ to crime

Waterman at Wembley, 1947 Credit: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

SPLIT WATERMAN, who has died (2019) aged 96, was a speedway star of the postwar era, an Errol Flynn lookalike of great daring and charisma who could draw crowds of 80,000 – many of them women; after retiring, however, he turned his talents to crime.

Waterman (real name Francis) took up speedway while serving in the British Army in Italy, riding an adapted BSA M20 bike and gaining his nickname after splitting his racing leathers down the back in a fall, after which his colleagues referred to him as “split arse”, later shortened to “split”.

After the war he emerged as the “Speedway Sensation of 1947” when he was snapped up by the Wembley Lions, thrilling audiences with his skill and risk-taking on the track. Unlike other riders, who had taken to riding with their left foot forward, giving them more control, Waterman rode with a trailing left foot, kicking up showers of ash which added to the spectacle – and the danger.

In 1948, he became the first Englishman in many years to win the London Riders’ Championship, the Speedway Express reporting how “like a bolt out of the blue … cheeky, cheery, devil-may-care, ‘Split’ Waterman” had cracked an “eleven-year-old jinx”.

Among other tricks Waterman was said to know how to hook his handlebars under an opponent’s throttle cable while travelling at 80mph, and once rode “on pure nitro” (nitromethane, a highly explosive solvent and sometime rocket fuel which, according to one specialist website, adds “so much power that engines run with it are literally skating on the edge of destruction”).

In 1950 Waterman was transferred from Wembley to Harringay for the then record fee of £3,500, and he went on to ride for West Ham, Wimbledon, Southampton and New Cross, holding the Golden Helmet, representing England in 30 Test matches and captaining the team in the 1953 series against Australia. He also rode in five World Finals, finishing second on two occasions, in 1951 and 1953.

Not surprisingly he was unlucky with injuries which many felt prevented him from becoming World Champion. His career was almost ended in 1952 by a crash at Odsal Stadium in which he sustained two broken teeth and a smashed kneecap, which had to be replaced with an artificial one.

By the time he retired in the early 1960s, however, his daredevil reputation and flair for getting in the news had made him a household name.

But in 1967 Waterman, now described as a “businessman” who had been a gun-runner in Africa, was arrested at Newhaven while attempting to board a ferry to Dieppe, after gold bullion worth £10,000, believed to have come from a robbery in Clerkenwell, was found hidden in the chassis of his fiancée Avril Priston’s Triumph Herald.

A subsequent raid at her home found illegal firearms, including two Schmeisser submachine guns, and in August the pair were charged with conspiring with others to evade prohibitions on the export of gold, receiving 26 gold bars knowing they were stolen, and unlawful possession of firearms.

In September Waterman faced further charges under the Coinage Act of possessing dies and crucibles for purposes of forgery.

In 1968 he was found guilty of all charges at the Old Bailey and sentenced to four years in prison; Avril Priston got six months. As he passed sentence the judge observed, almost admiringly: “You were a man who was, by character, prepared to face danger and take risks – a gun-runner in Africa, and a man with the quick, decisive mind of a speedway rider. You were unable to resist the financial attractions and the risk of the adventure.”

In the same year Waterman was implicated in the case against the Kray twins and two other men, who were charged with conspiring to murder George Caruana, a nightclub owner. Paul Elvey, a witness in the case who had confessed to being involved in three unsuccessful murder attempts, claimed that Waterman had provided him with a briefcase containing a hypodermic syringe loaded with hydrogen cyanide and operated by a spring mechanism.

After leaving prison Waterman and Avril Priston married and moved to the Costa del Sol, but in 1977 he was sentenced to three and a half years by a Milan court for possessing £500,000-worth of forged Spanish pesetas. His defence, that the forged notes had been part of a cunning plan to bring down the Franco government, was not believed.

In 2002 Waterman returned to Britain and was a guest at the 45th annual dinner dance of the Veteran Speedway Riders’ Association at the Coventry Hilton. “Despite the presence of the four-times world champion Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger, whose bike was plated in gold after his third successive world title in 1970,” wrote The Guardian’s Paula Cocozza, “the man who had all 280 diners on their feet was one Split Waterman, second in the toasts only to the Queen … his charisma at 79, in tinted aviators and royal-blue cummerbund, was enough to send multitudes of septuagenarians sprinting to the top table, autograph books in hand.”

Squire Francis Waterman was born on July 27 1923 in New Malden, South West London and worked as a toolmaker’s apprentice after leaving school. In the Second World War his job was classed as a reserved occupation, but eventually he joined the Royal Fusiliers, serving in North Africa and Italy, where shrapnel injuries led to his transfer to the REME and he was posted to a workshop in Pozzuoli, near Naples.

There, he acted as a dispatch rider and became involved in building – and competing on – a speedway track at Vomero Stadium.

After a tour of duty in Palestine, Waterman was posted to Germany where his commanding officer wrote to Alec Jackson, manager of the Wembley Lions, suggesting he give Waterman a trial.

After retiring from speedway, Waterman went into business in sheet metal working and plastic injection moulding and had at least some legitimate customers, including Woolworth and Airfix.

When interviewed in 2002, however, he seemed prouder of the shadier aspects of his business career: “I smuggled gold! I smuggled guns! Zambia, Rhodesia, the jungle.”

‘Split’ Waterman, born July 27 1923, died October 8 2019

Reg's Photographs of Split: -
Split and Avril Waterman VSRA Honoured Guest 2002 Reg Fearman.
Split and Reg, planning a heist no doubt!

Wembley 1950s
Courtesy of Graham Gleave

Howdy Byford &
Fred Williams
Courtesy of Graham Gleave


Bill Gilbert


These 2 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett


Both from 1949

Courtesy of Graham Gleave
Another picture of Bill

Fred Williams
Welshman and double world champion Freddie won the titles in 1950 and 1953 he sadly died 20th January 2013 at the age of 86

The 4 photo's shown above are from the collection of Fred Pallett

Another Picture
Of Freddie
Courtesy of Graham Gleave
Fred Williams RIP
"Fred Williams' granddaughter Harriet has been in touch and has sent 5 of the following 6 photo images:"
The photo (shown above) is on the front cover of Fred's funeral "Order Of Service"  I have permission to show it.
"Fred Williams (centre) holding the World Championship Trophy for 1950, with Wally Green (runner-up, left) and Graham Warren (third, right)."
The photo (shown above) is on the back page of Freds funeral "Order Of Service."  I have permission to show it.  
Fred Pallett says: Re above "Fred Williams (right) holding the World Championship Trophy for 1953, with Split Waterman (runner-up, centre) and Geoff Mardon, third, left)" This image, which might require resizing, is included in Part Six of Reg Fearman's photos, but I cannot think that he would object to it being included here.
Bride and Groom  
Fred with little Fred


Eric Williams


These 2 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett


Late 40's early 50's



Bob Oakley


These 2 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett

Bob Oakley arrived at Wembley from Southampton in 1951 and made an immediate impact.


Bruce Abernethy

New Zealander Abernethy had arrived in 1948 and was a dashing and flamboyant rider, and always enjoyed life, as can be seen by the effervescent smile on his face. The shot of him riding in a black and white jumper is rather puzzling and I can only assume that he was representing his country.


Bob Wells


These 3 photo's are from the collection of Fred Pallett


1948/49 Bob Wells. He never established himself in the first team, but he stuck with the club and they stuck with him


Trevor Redmond

Trevor Redmond was another New Zealander and joined the Lions, I think, about the time that Bill Kitchen retired


Alf Bottoms

2 Pictures of Alf Bottoms from 1949. He died away from speedway, in a racing car accident.


Jimmy Gooch 

Jimmy Gooch 1951 ish!


Jack Gates 

Jack Gates 1949


Den Cosby

Den Cosby 1950 ish



Buster Brown 1949


Alec Jackson 

A great portrait of the flamboyant Wembley team manager of 1949: Alec Jackson, always seen sporting that hat


Not sure about the above photo.  Is it genuine or trick photography? John
Terry Stone says this is Alec Jackson of Wembley



Fred Pallett's

Fred says: These are the photos shot with my box camera back in 1950 (the fuzzy ones), when the Wembley Speedway management hired a British Railways train to take the Supporters Club and most of the Wembley riders to Southend-on-Sea for the day. This made an early start for me and my fellow Wembley supporting pal Ralph Ambrose, since we had to travel right across London first, by train and underground train, to make the special BR train. All the shots were taken in the Kursaal (some indoors without flash), which was a permanent amusement centre that was more like a glorified fairground, although it had other attractions, including a ballroom. The Kursaal is still there, although only about a quarter of its original size, because the remainder of the site was sold off for a housing development.

Wembley Outing (Bill Kitchen (partly hidden) mixing with the fans)


Wembley Outing (Bill Gilbert, wandering among the fans)


Wembley Outing (Bruce Abernethy, a female fan, Fred Williams, Jack Gates and Bill Gilbert)


Wembley Outing (Fred Williams (centre), Bruce Abernethy (right) with a fairground ride, the Waltzer operator)


Wembley Outing (Bruce Abernethy (left) with Fred Pallett’s pal Ralph Ambrose)


More Photos From
Fred Pallett 
Wilbur Lamoreaux 
Wilbur Lamoreaux - This American came over to ride for the Lions just for 1948, when Wembley were obliged to relocate to Wimbledon for home matches for three-quarters of the season, because of the Olympic Games being held at the Empire Stadium. 

Bronco Wilson 
Name: Horatio Nelson Wilson ("Bronco") Born: 1920 Gateshead Tyneside. Died: August 1947
Bronco Wilson – The first photo shows him in a Wembley jersey and was taken in 1946, whilst the other shot was taken the following season. Unfortunately, Bronco met an untimely death when he died from injuries sustained in a track accident at Harringay in August 1947.  
Kenny Holbrook says: Thanks for the information.  Since we last corresponded, I have recalled another rider who I believe was 'Bronco' Wilson. My memory might be failing me but I seem to recall his fatal crash at Wembley on the first corner, where he collided with the fence.
John says: Hi Kenny, your memory is playing tricks.  As you can see from my above piece  Bronco's fatal crash was at Harringay in 1947.
Kenny adds: Thanks John. Half right. Dad had taken me & my Uncle to Haringey. I do remember a lady next to us fainting, whilst others were crying.
I have been sent the following: -
John says: I'll bet Horatio Nelson Wilson was happier being known as Bronco!

Freddie Williams
& Split Waterman
Fred Williams (left) and Split Waterman on their bikes in 1948 or 1949. Fred went on to win the World Championship in 1950 and 1953, whilst Waterman was runner-up to Williams in 1953

Fred Lang 
Fred Lang – A young South African rider who appeared for Wembley for one season in 1954. He never rose above reserve status and was not retained. 

Wembley Supporters Club
Pass 1954
Courtesy of Brian Poulton
Brian Poulton says:  Hi John,  I have attached a couple of scans of my late father's Wembley Speedway Supporters Club card. He died in 1972. In the 1950's he took me to Wembley speedway every Thursday evening. I was only about 9 years old then. We lived in Grand Avenue, about a 15 minute walk from the Stadium. Names that I remember well are Split Waterman, Tommy Price & Bill Kitchen.  Please feel free to use the scans wherever you want. Regards Brian
Courtesy of Brian Poulton
Brian says: I just remembered this one which was taken in our back garden in Grand Avenue. I was 3 years old. Note the Wembley Lions badge on the radiator grill.  Regards Brian

Eric French
Eric French – This former New Cross rider was signed by Wembley in 1953 when the Rangers closed and stayed with the Lions until Wembley’s closure in 1957

 Roy Craighead
Roy Craighead – Rode for Wembley in 1947 and 1948. 


TC's Programmes Etc


Speedway Echo
Courtesy of Graham Gleave

Speedway &
Ice News

Brian Crutcher 1950s
Brian Crutcher bottom right with his 1950s Wembley team mates
Brian Crutcher lying second to Jack Young

Tom Wareham says: Hi John, I have attached some photos of Brian Crutcher from his Wembley days.  I hope the following is ok, but let me know if you need anything else.  Third photo shows Brian chasing Jack Young, whose style he most imitated.  Best wishes Tom


Brian Crutcher – The Authorised Biography by Tom Wareham.  Published by Stadia. Available through Amazon, ebay etc. 

Brian Crutcher was one of the most spectacular speedway riders of the 1950s.  He burst onto the speedway scene at Poole in April 1951 when he made a spectacular team debut there at just sixteen years of age.  Eighteen months later he was riding in his first World Championship at Wembley.  By the time he appeared in the 1952 World Championship at Wembley, Brian had already been capped several times for England.  In 1952, he came eleventh in the World Championship, but he returned two years later to be pipped for the World Championship by the young Ronnie Moore.  By this time, however, he had been scooped up from Poole and added to the Wembley stable, where he remained until Wembley Speedway closed at the end of 1956, when he transferred to Southampton.  With his easy manners and his sensational riding style Crutcher quickly won a devoted and loyal fan base:  he was renowned for his outside overtaking and his fearless determination on the track inevitably had the fans on their feet. 

In 1961 he disappeared from the Speedway scene, his meteoric career ending as suddenly as it had begun.  There was no drama about it, he just lost enthusiasm. But his retirement meant the loss of one of the most brilliant riders of the period. 

Tom Wareham’s biography contains four chapters relating to his time at Wembley, and makes use of lengthy interviews with Brian himself as well as the late Freddie Williams.  The book not only gives an exciting and detailed account of Brian Crutcher’s career, it provides a context for the speedway of the period, following the sport’s trials and tribulations, from its high point in the post-war years to the beginning of its decline in the late 1950s.


Ronnie Moore &
Bruce Abernethy

Wimbledon's Ronnie Moore with Bruce Abernethy



Split Waterman & Newcastle's
Derek Close


West Ham's
Malcolm Craven & Split Waterman
The photo has been signed by Split and is dated 1967.  I presume that someone proffered the picture for Split to sign in the 60's? as the picture is much older

Wimbledon v Wembley 
Ronnie Moore Tommy Price Pete Moore Freddie Williams
Gordon Jack Says: The third rider above is not Pete Moore. I am almost certain that it is Norman Parker 


The list covers 1929 to 1948


Aub Lawson
Better known as a West Ham rider but here is Aub in his Wembley days.

Robert Rogers' Photographs 
Bruce Abernethy Split Waterman


Petula Clark

Fred Pallett says: The photo shows the singer/actress Petula Clark on the rear mudguard; the speedway rider is Bob Oakley, who rode for Southampton, Wembley and Norwich.  We think this pic was taken when Bob rode for Wembley

Goté Nordin
Courtesy of Robert Rogers


Sverre Harrfeldt
& Brian Leonard

Courtesy of Robert Rogers


Wembley Badge
Scan from Russell Earl

1969 World Championship Final Programme
Wembley was a famous club running off and on between 1929 and 1981.  The Empire Stadium was also synonymous with World Championship Finals.  I am showing below, scans of the 1969 world final programme:-
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop

Wembley 1970/71
Bert Harkins
Courtesy of Fred Pallett
Dave Jessup &
Bert Harkins
Courtesy of Fred Pallett

Wembley v Sheffield
12 June 1971
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop
Courtesy of Wattie Dunlop

Wembley World Final Tickets
Courtesy of Graham Gleave

The New Wembley Stadium
Chris Wallett says: I Haven't sent you anything for a while but your website is still looking great!  Spent Sunday watching a football match at the new Wembley Stadium (photos are above).  I went to the old Wembley quite a few times but never saw speedway there sadly.  This was my first visit to the new Wembley and I have to say its very impressive so thought you might like these pics to bring the Wembley webpage up to date. The stadium looks like it could well hold speedway its big enough and the right shape with possible pits access.  Don't know if the new arch will ever echo to the roar of the bikes like the old twin towers did.  Only time will tell but knowing how desperate the FA are for money to pay for the stadium never say never.


If you can scan any pictures, programmes or badges send me an email John


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Reg Fearman  Autobiography 2014
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Ivans 2010 Book
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Jim Henry Page 4 1931
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