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Gloster Gladiator
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As reliable as possible. I will try to add as many variants as possible later. Feel free to comment here on any of these aircraft or post your own data, pilot accounts etc.
PostSun Jun 05, 2011 9:43 pm
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The Gloster Gladiator was Britain's last biplane fighter and was slated for removal from service soon after the start of the Second World War. However the need for anything which could fly and carry a gun offensively meant that the 'Gladdy' continued in RAF combat service until at least 1941 and Finnish combat service until 1943, fighting on fronts as diverse as Norway, the Baltic, France, England, Greece, the Mediterranean and even China. The type also went to sea as the Sea Gladiator. Portugal was still flying the type in the early 1950s.


Pre-war the type had been flown by many RAF pilots who later flew Hurricanes or Spitfires. It was responsible for one of Robert Stanford-Tucks earliest lucky escapes. 'Lucky Tuck' and another pilot were involved in a mid-air collision and the biplane wings of Tuck's machine collapsed around the Gladdy's enclosed cockpit as it went into a spinning dive - trapping him inside. Tuck was in blackness as the wings had closed around him in the impact. Eventually the centrifugal force of the spin threw the broken wings off and Tuck exited - experiencing a sharp blow to his face as he went. His parachute opened promptly and he hung in the harness, looking down at all the blood on his bright white pre-war Sidcot flying suit. Putting his hand up to his face he found that one of the Gladdy's' razor-flat aerofoil-section bracing wires had slashed his face wide open - leaving him with a permanent and distinctive 'sabre scar'. Of course, the same wire could equally have cut his throat. He was not called Lucky Tuck for nothing.

The Gladiator packed a handy four guns at a time when other biplane fighters, like the CR 42, only had two guns. A few may even have carried the six gun conversion over Malta. Its manouevrabilty was legendary. Unfortunately the draw-back with the Gladiator was its slow speed with most Gladdys being hard put to make 250 mph at best height. Eric 'Winkle' Brown found this out to his cost when he chased one German bomber across the west of England. Brown had managed one firing pass from height but, after that, the bomber had the speed advantage and he could not catch up.

The Gladiator was widely exported and served with air forces as diverse as Latvia, Ireland, Finland and Iraq. This last led to the unusual situation of an RAF Gladiator shooting down a pro-German Iraqi Gladiator. An Iraqi Gladiator also shot down an RAF Wellington. See:


It appears that both the Norwegian Air Force and the RAF managed to score kills against Bf 110s flying the Gladiator while some RAF aces first reached their ace scores in the machine, often flying against the Italians. Chief among these was Marmaduke 'Pat' Pattle who was the RAF's unofficial top-scoring ace. He may have outscored official ace Johnnie Johnson but many RAF records were lost during the retreat in Greece and Pattle himself died there. He is reckoned to have scored 15 kills flying the Gladdy.

As well as the Norwegian air force, the RAF in Norway operated the type with some success, often flying off from frozen fiords. Several Gladiators were destroyed by fire and burned through the ice and one of these is now in the RAF Museum at Hendon. Surviving Gladiators were recovered from Norway back onto the deck of a British aircraft carrier for return to the UK. Unfortunately... the carrier concerned was HMS Glorious and most of the pilots were killed when the Glorious and two destroyers were ambushed and sunk by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on the voyage home.



Mention should be made of Malta. The island was initially defended by Sea Gladiators which - allegedly - included three named 'Faith', 'Hope' and 'Charity'. The story has been at least partly debunked since then as fanciful or romantic propaganda. The surviving aeroplane in Malta (named 'Faith') shows no signs of even having ever been flown. Some 'mothballing' features for sea transit have not been removed. Some of these Malta Sea Gladiators may have carried the conversion for an extra pair of guns under the top wing, making six guns in all. About 26 Gladiators of all types were scraped together in the Middle East to be sent to the Far East to defend against the Japanese threat in 1941. Thankfully these were declined by Far East commanders and were replaced with Hurricanes. Only the Chinese appear to have operated the Gladdy against the Japanese. The Germans used captured Gladiators as glider tugs.

Irish Gladiators flew neutrality missions defending their Republic's air space - on one occasion pursuing a German Ju 88 - but were also tasked with shooting down stray English barrage balloons which had broken loose from their moorings in England and were drifting westward into Irish air space. About 30 Gladiators went to China but some of these never survived their first flights - crashing on take-off in the hands of inexperienced Chinese pilots.

Eric 'Winkle' Brown said of the Gladdy, "Manoeuvrability was outstanding with beautiful harmony of control. The view ahead was restricted, especially in the climb, and the view below was poor because of the lower mainplane".

"The Gladiator, in service with 14 air forces in the world, was undoubtedly one of the greatest biplane fighters ever built but, appearing almost simultaneously with the first of the new breed of heavily armed monoplane fighters and bombers, it was pitched into a combat era where it was outgunned and outperformed though never outmanoeuvred".
'Master and Commander' afloat on the seas of life...
PostSat Mar 10, 2012 11:36 am
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Gloster Gladiator from YouTube:



'Master and Commander' afloat on the seas of life...
PostWed Jan 09, 2013 12:08 pm
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