Ross Gilbertson



A young Ross Gilbertson (kneeling, left) lines up with the 1955 California Poppies team
(Picture courtesy Bob Andrews website)

Born on February 3rd, 1933, the Bombers skipper started his speedway career at Eastbourne back in 1955 when he also turned out in the Sunday afternoon Southern Area League for both Eastbourne and the California Poppies. Despite its simple formula the old S.A.L. bred many future champions and during those early years Ross' opponents included riders later to make a real name for themselves, including multiple World Champion Ivan Mauger.

So impressive was Ross that he was chosen to tour South America with a team led by Phil Bishop and on his return was signed by the Poole management, who were entering a team in the newly-formed Provincial League - forerunner of the British League Second Division. Whilst with the Poole Pirates, Ross shot to international stardom and was selected for both Great Britain and his native Scotland. His Scottish caps include matches against Russia, New Zealand and England. Besides topping the Poole score-sheet he picked up numerous individual trophies and finished third in the 1963 Provincial League Riders Championship, which was won by Mauger.

Married, with two children, Ross ran his own plumbing and heating business in Colehiil, near Wimborne, Dorset. It was the extra work involved in running this business that forced him to quit speedway a few years prior to the formation of the Bombers. Happily he found time to come back to the saddle for the Bombers and there is no doubt that his experience helped many of the younger riders. 

Ross proved his own ability with third place in the 1969 Second Division Riders Championship at Hackney and averaged over 10 points per meeting during the Bombers' first season. Twice holder of the Brooklands track record, Ross also set the first sub-60 second time in British League history when he smashed the track record at Nelson. He also made Division 1 appearances for both Exeter and Poole during 1969. Ross announced his intention to retire again before the 1970 season but was persuaded to continue for a second season as Bombers captain, not missing a meeting and ending the season second in the Bombers' averages. Ross was also awarded the inaugural Silver Helmet as the rider with the highest average from the previous season and made one successful defence.

1971 saw Ross again make the decision to retire, after being linked with moves to two Div. 1 sides, Exeter and Newport. He was one again to change his mind but, this time, not to ride for the Bombers but to move to Div. 2 rivals Canterbury, where he enjoyed three successful seasons, topping the Crusaders' averages on each occasion. In 1973, Ross rode just in one league meeting for Canterbury, before breaking his nose and jaw in a fall. He never returned to the Crusaders, being granted a transfer. Ross ended his speedway career where it had begun, at Eastbourne, where he replaced the injured Eric Dugard, before retiring again at the end of the 1973 season.....this time for good!


The race jacket may not be the familiar Bombers roundel, but the riding style is unmistakably Ross Gilbertson, during his spell with Canterbury.