The Gladiator was the last bi-plane fighter used by the Royal Air Force when it entered service in 1937. Within two years, though, the type was already obsolete and being phased out of
service. Despite this the Gloster Gladiator would see action during 1939-40 when it was used in the French and Norwegian campaigns.
By the mid 1930's the Air Ministry was looking for a replacement for the Bristol Bulldog, this lead to specification F.7/30 being issued, and British manufacturers were unable to
produce an aircraft to this specification. As a result of the RAF expansion scheme as proposed in 1935 further Gloster Gauntlets
had to be ordered to equip the proposed new squadrons.
H.P. Folland, Glosters designer, took the Gauntlet design and examined it in detail to see the extent of which its performance could be improved, despite studies showing the promise
of monoplane fighters, the bi-plane design of the Gauntlet was kept for the Gladiator. As a result of the design study the wings were changed to single bay units, with the main spars
strengthen, and internally sprung landing gear installed. With the reduction in drag as a result of the changes a 10 - 15 mph improvement in top speed was expected.
As a result of a private venture, a prototype, designated SS.73 was flown on the 12th September 1934, and a top speed of 236mph was recorded using the Mercury IV engine and in November
1934, the installation of a Mercury VIS engine saw the top speed increased to 242mph.
After submitting the new design to the Air Ministry during June 1935, a specification was written around the plane, F.14/35, however this required changes, including an enclosed
cockpit and the Mercury IX engine being fitted, and three months later an order for 23 aircraft was placed. The 1st July saw the plane's name of Gladiator being announced. July 1936
saw the first order of Gloster Gladiator MK Is being delivered carrying two Vickers guns mounted within the Fuselage and two Lewis guns under the wings. Another order was placed, however
the second batch had a universal armament mounting under each wing, which would accept either Vickers, Lewis or Colt-Browning machine guns. The Colt-Browning was installed in both the
wing and fuselage for the majority of aircraft delivered in 1938.
No. 72 Squadron at Church Fenton were the first to receive the new plane during February 1937, although a little over two years later they, along with other squadrons equipped with the
Gladiator, had been re-equipped with either the Supermarine Spitfire or Hawker Hurricane. Despite being outdated two squadrons saw action in November 1939, as part of the Advanced Air
Striking Force, they were posted to France, another two squadrons were involved in the Norwegian campaign and between April and June 1940 a number played a role in the defence of Malta.
The RAF also took delivery of the Gloster Gladiator Mk II fitted with a Mercury VIIIA engine. A small number of these were converted to Sea Gladiators with a arrester hook being
fitted. These were then followed by 60 Sea Gladiators, which as well as an arrester hook had catapult points and dinghy storage.
Total production for the Gloster Gladiator was 746, as well as serving with the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, they also served with the RAAF, and continued to be used until 1944, for
communications, liaison and meteorological reconnaissance, after being removed from 1st line service.