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Gloster Gladiator

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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.

Quick Facts
First flight
12th September 1934
Entered service
February 1937
Total built

Front view
Gladiator front view photo
Side view
Gladiator side view photo
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

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.


Click on the aeroplane image to view a larger version.

Max Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Gladiator Mk I 253 mph 428 miles 32,800 ft four 0.303-in machine-guns
Gladiator Mk II 257 mph 440 miles 33,500 ft four 0.303-in machine-guns


On Display

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Variant Location
Gladiator Mk II Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Gladiator Mk ? (R) Jet Age Museum
Gladiator Mk II (R) Royal Air Force Museum, London
Gladiator Mk I Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford
Gladiator Mk I Shuttleworth

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