Sqn Ldr William Arthur “Bill” Waterton GM AFC*
William Arthur “Bill” Waterton was born in Edmonton, Canada, on 18 March 1916 and after schooling in Camrose joined the Royal Military College of Canada in 1935 where he was a champion middleweight boxer. Passing out in 1937 Waterton joined the RAF in June 1939, his first operational posting being with No. 242 Squadron flying. Subsequent to this Waterton became an instructor with several units, both in the UK and Canada, had a spell with Transport Command and joined 124 Squadron on in September 1943. Waterton’s next posting was to the Fighter Command Meteorological Flight at RAF Manson before he joined the Air Fighting Development Unit and then the Central Fighter Establishment. In 1946 Waterton, by now a Squadron Leader joined the RAF’s High Speed Flight for Absolute Air Speed Record attempts before leaving the RAF later in the year to join the Gloster Aircraft Company as a developmental test pilot.
Waterton’s first tasks were to test fly Meteors and the E.1/44 jet-fighter prototype. Promoted to the position of Gloster’s Chief Test Pilot Waterton carried out the majority of the involved with the Gloster GA.5 Javelin prototype test programme during which he nearly lost his life. On 29 June 1952, after 98 successful flights, Waterton was piloting GA.5 WD804 at high-speed when there was a structural failure causing Waterton to attempt an emergency landing. The aircraft caught fire but Waterton, having escaped the wreckage returned to the aircraft to retrieve the on-board data recorders. For his actions Waterton was subsequently awarded the George Medal. The course of the incident was described in detail in his George Medal citation:
“Chief Test Pilot Waterton was making a test flight in a prototype jet all-purpose fighter and, whilst travelling at high speed at the height of about 3,000 feet, elevator flutter developed and both elevators became detached from the aircraft. This left the pilot with practically no control of his aircraft in pitch. Waterton climbed the aircraft to 10,000 feet and experimented with what was left of the control, the paramount factor in effecting a safe landing. He found that it was possible to retain some control down to a speed roughly half as fast again as the normal landing speed. Knowing that a crash would put back seriously the development and production he decided to land the aircraft despite having at his command an ejector seat and parachute. He landed the machine heavily owing to the lack of control and the undercarriage gave way. After the crashed aircraft came to rest, fire broke out and Waterton found great difficulty in freeing himself owing to a jammed hood. Eventually he did get out of the wreck. By then the flames had reached the area of the cockpit but despite this he climbed back into the fuselage and salvaged the automatic records relating to the original aerodynamic and structural failures. The behaviour of Chief Test Pilot Waterton was exemplary and beyond the call of duty and his courage was outstanding.
Waterton subsequently continued with the Javelin test flight programme, making the maiden flight in each of the four Javelin prototypes that flew before he left the Gloster Aircraft Company in March 1954.Wg Cdr Richard F “Dickie” Martin DFC AFC
Wing Commander Richard F “Dickie” Martin joined the Gloster Aircraft Company in late 1953 as part of the test pilot team. Wg Cdr Martin qualified as a test pilot at the RAF’s Empire Test Pilot School at RAF Boscombe Down, where he was a member of No. 4 Course in 1946. When Gloster’s Chief Test Pilot, Squadron Leader William Arthur “Bill” Waterton, left the company in March 1954 Martin was the man chosen to replace him at the head of the Javelin test programme. The Javelin suffered from unusual spin characteristics, which were considered dangerous for the uninitiated, and it was part of Wg Cdr Martin’s brief to evolve a spin recovery technique. Wg Cdr Martin subsequently undertook nearly 200 deliberate spins in order to study the characteristics of the spin and develop the recovery protocol. He was aided in this research by a series of experiments using spinning models of Javelins dropped from a tethered balloon.
Wg Cdr Martin was also responsible for proving to the nation that the Javelin was capable of flying faster than the speed of sound. The Javelin’s top speed had been one of the aspects of the aircraft that was receiving criticism, the other being the internal fuel capacity, which was attacked in Parliament. Martin silenced the speed critics with a big bang. On the night of 4 July 1954 a loud boom was heard over London, which led to more questions being asked in Parliament. The official explanation given was that the aircraft’s pilot, Dickie Martin, had been “cruising at high altitude and near the speed of sound when the pilot’s oxygen supply failed; during the ensuing confusion he inadvertently exceeded the speed of sound, causing the bang”.
Wg Cdr Martin subsequently went on to give both the final prototype and the first production FAW.1 their maiden flights, executed a solo aerobatic display at the September 1954 Society of British Aerospace Companies’ Farnborough air show and piloted one of two Javelins used to great effect in the RAF’s 1955 Operation Beware training exercise. Wg Cdr Martin was later involved in test flying other Javelin variants and did some testing with Aviation Traders Accountant twin turbo-prop transport aircraft. Martin left the Gloster Aircraft Company in 1960.