Spitfire Books
The QUICK and the DEAD
The QUICK and the DEAD

The QUICK and the DEAD

The Story of a Chief Test Pilot

Signature of WA 'Bill' Waterton

  • Price: £ 185

Card signed by 

Squadron Leader W. A. ‘Bill’ Waterton GM AFC*

Frederick Muller First edition 2nd impression 1956. 237 pages with photographs.

Very Good condition hardback book with a Fine condition unclipped dustjacket (exceptionally good). The book is clean bright & tight with just a trace of foxing to the page edges.  The signature is on a section cut from a postcard and the reverse bears the postmark ‘Gloucester 30 Sep 1953’. It is not attached to the book.

Bill Waterton, a Canadian, was a wartime RAF fighter pilot who flew with 242 Squadron in the Battle of France and after instructing and flying with the Air Fighting Development Unit transitioned into test flying. In 1946 he was a member of the High Speed Flight with Teddy Donaldson and Neville Duke before joining the Gloster Aircraft Company becoming Chief Test Pilot in 1947. He was heavily involved in the development of the Meteor.  In December 1949 he was sent to Canada on loan to Avro Canada to test fly the prototype Avro CF-100 and on his return became best known for his first flight of the Javelin and its subsequent development including a spectacular crash which won him the George Medal for his bravery. 

Written in 1956 but still relevant and thought-provoking today, this book is an absolute revelation on test flying with the British aircraft organisations and manufacturers in the 1950s. Written with refreshing frankness and truth – which allegedly finally cost him his job at the “Daily Express” – this account details what really went on behind the scenes in the defence world. Waterton pulls no punches in recounting the non-cooperation of civil servants in improving/altering recognised faults (often minor) when developing aircraft – to the cost of lives lost. This is an astonishing insight into the workings of the British aircraft industry. After leaving Gloster, Bill Waterton returned to Canada and became an aviation journalist.

This memoir was the inspiration behind the fairly recent best-selling book ‘Empire of the Clouds’ which vindicates Waterton’s outspoken but ignored testimony.   

This is a scarce volume with its striking dustjacket but the signature of Bill Waterton is particularly rare and one of the hardest of all of the British 1950s Company Chief Test Pilots to find.  A great addition to any collection.