Roden 1:48 Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, Norwegian Jagevingen Fighter Flight.

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Kit: RODEN 1/48 438 GLADIATOR MK.I/MK.II Meteo Reconnaissance & Foreign Service.

Price: £20.69 available from Kingkit.

Decals: Nine Options.

Notes: Montex Mini Mask SM 48031 Gloster Gladiator Roden used with kit.

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History:

At 04:15 (05:15 ‘Weser time’ or German time) on the 9th April 1940 (Wesertag; “Weser Day”), Germany invaded Denmark and Norway. The political motives behind this offensive were said to be a preventative tactic against a Franco-British occupation of Norway which had been openly discussed by the Governments of both countries.

The German Ambassadors to both Norway and Denmark informed the administrations of each nation that the Wehrmacht had come to ‘protect’ their National neutrality against Franco-British aggression.

The Norwegian Campaign saw both Norwegian and British Gladiators battling the Luftwaffe, with the Norwegian Jagevingen fighting in the defence of Oslo on the first day of the German invasion. Later British Gladiators fought to provide fighter cover for the allied reinforcements sent to the assistance of the Norwegian government.

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Jagevingen

The Gladiator pilots of the Norwegian Jagevingen (fighter flight) were based at Fornebu Airport. On 9 April, the first day of the invasion of Norway, the seven serviceable aircraft managed to shoot down five German aircraft: two Messerschmitt Bf 110 fighters, two He 111 bombers and one Fallschirmjäger-laden Ju 52 transport. One Gladiator was shot down during the air battle by the future Experte Helmut Lent, while two were strafed and destroyed while refueling and rearming at Fornebu airport. The remaining four operational fighters were ordered to land wherever they could away from the base. The Gladiators landed on frozen lakes around Oslo and were abandoned by their pilots, then wrecked by souvenir-hunting civilians.

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No. 263 Squadron

Gladiators were also used by 263 Squadron Royal Air Force during the remaining two months of the Norwegian Campaign. The squadron arrived on the carrier HMS Glorious on 24 April, and first operated from an improvised landing strip built by Norwegian volunteers on the frozen lake Lesjaskogsvatnet in Oppland in central southern Norway. After less than a week, all the squadron’s aircraft were unserviceable and the squadron was evacuated back to the UK.

Having re-equipped in Britain, 263 Squadron resumed its Gladiator operations in Norway when the squadron returned to the north of Norway on 21 May, flying from Bardufoss airfield near Narvik. At the Narvik front, 263 Squadron was reinforced by Hurricanes of 46 Squadron, which flew into an airstrip at Skånland a few days later. Due to unsuitable ground at Skånland, 46 Squadron also moved to Bardufoss and was operating from this base by 27 May. The squadrons had been ordered to defend the fleet anchorage at Skånland and the military base at Harstad on the island of Hinnøya, as well as the Narvik area after it was recaptured. The action was short but intense before the squadrons, due to the British government’s response to the invasion of France, were instructed on 2 June to prepare for evacuation.

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By then, 263 Squadron had flown 249 sorties and claimed 26 enemy aircraft destroyed. 263 Squadron’s 10 surviving Gladiators landed on HMS Glorious on 7 June. Glorious sailed for home but was intercepted by the German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst. Despite the valiant defence put up by her two escorting destroyers, HMS Acasta and HMS Ardent, she was sunk along with the aircraft from four squadrons. 263 Squadron lost its CO, S/Ldr John W. Donaldson, and F/Lt Alvin T. Williams along with eight other pilots.

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The Gloster Gladiator:

The Gloster Gladiator (or Gloster SS.37) was a British-built biplane fighter. It was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) (as the Sea Gladiator variant) and was exported to a number of other air forces during the late 1930s. It was the RAF’s last biplane fighter aircraft and was rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced. Though often pitted against more formidable foes during the early days of the Second World War, it acquitted itself reasonably well in combat.

The Gladiator saw action in almost all theatres during the Second World War, with a large number of air forces, some of them on the Axis side. The RAF used it in France, Norway, Greece, the defence of Malta, and the brief Anglo-Iraqi War (in which the Royal Iraqi Air Force was similarly equipped). Other countries deploying the Gladiator included China against Japan, beginning in 1938; Finland (along with Swedish volunteers) against the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War; and Norway, Belgium, and Greece resisting Axis invasion of their respective lands.

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Design and development

The Gladiator was developed from the Gloster Gauntlet as a private venture by H.P. Folland’s team at Gloster to meet Specification F.7/30. F.7/30 demanded a top speed of at least 250 mph (400 km/h) and an armament of four machine-guns, while encouraging the use of the new Rolls-Royce Goshawk evaporatively cooled engine, which was used by most of the competitors for the specification. This engine proved, however to be unreliable, and Folland realized that the Gauntlet could be quickly revised to meet the specification. To reduce drag, the new fighter, the SS.37, had single-bay wings instead of the two-bay wings of the Gauntlet, and was fitted with a cantilever main undercarriage incorporating internally sprung wheels.

The SS.37 first flew on 12 September 1934, powered by a 530 hp (395 kW) Bristol Mercury VIS engine, but was soon fitted with a more powerful engine, reaching 242 mph (390 km/h) while carrying the required four machine guns (two synchronized Vickers guns in the fuselage and two Lewis guns under the lower wing). On 3 April 1935, the Royal Air Force commenced operational evaluations, while Gloster planned a further improved version with an 830 hp (619 kW) Mercury IX and a fully enclosed cockpit.

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Three months later, a first order was placed for 23 aircraft to Specification F.14/35, with the aircraft named “Gloster Gladiator”, followed by an order of 180 in September. The first version, the Mk I, was delivered from July 1936, becoming operational in January 1937. The Mk II soon followed, the main differences being a slightly more powerful Mercury engine driving a Fairey fixed-pitch, three-bladed metal propeller instead of the two-bladed wooden one. A modified Mk II, the Sea Gladiator, was developed for the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA), with an arrestor hook to be engaged when landing on an aircraft carrier, catapult points, a strengthened frame and an under-belly fairing for a dinghy lifeboat. Of the 98 aircraft built as, or converted to, Sea Gladiators, 54 were still in service by the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939.

The Gladiator was to be the last British biplane fighter and the first fighter with an enclosed cockpit. The Gladiator had a top speed of around 257 mph (414 km/h) yet, even as it was introduced, the design was being eclipsed by new-generation monoplane fighters, such as the RAF’s new Hurricane and Spitfire, and the Luftwaffe’s Messerschmitt Bf 109.

A total of 747 aircraft were built (483 RAF, 98 RN; 216 exported to 13 countries, some of them from the total allotted to the RAF). Gladiators were sold to Belgium, China, Egypt, Finland, Free France, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden.

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 The Kit:

This kit represents one of three aircraft in Roden’s 1/48 scale Gladiator series. Options include no less than 9 examples to choose from. There are two examples attached to the R.A.F. Meteorological Flight, Latvian, Belgian, German, Lithuanian, Soviet, Swedish and Norwegian.

The kit comes in a sturdy top-opening box; the box art depicts one of the R.A.F. Met Flight examples. The parts are well molded in soft pale grey plastic. The detail is excellent, the fabric of the wings and rear fuselage are well represented for an aircraft of this scale.

There are 91 pieces on two light gray sprues, one clear sprue containing 6 pieces, the decal sheet for 9 aircraft and the 12-page instruction booklet.

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The undersides of the upper wings and the upper-sides of the lower wings contain locating sockets for the struts and rigging which makes life much easier later in the construction process.

There seem to be fewer parts in this kit than you would expect to find in an aircraft as robust as the Gladiator. However, once you begin constructing the aircraft, you quickly realise that there is a great deal of work required. I recommend dry-fitting parts and constructing a jig for the wings to ensure that the correct alignment is achieved.

Construction:

I started the construction process with the Bristol Mercury Engine. Even without after-market accessories, this is a well detailed 8 part unit. If you include the exhaust stacks, it becomes an 18 part component. The cowling comes in three parts. Once this is dry, I recommend dry-fitting the engine by carefully sliding it into the cowling.

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The next stage of the assembly is the cockpit. This is fairly simple; however, a reasonable representation can be made using the components supplied. Eduard supplies a cockpit dress-up kit should you wish to display the aircraft with the access door and canopy open.

Once the cockpit is complete, the fuselage halves can be joined. With most kits a certain amount of filling and rubbing down is required. With this kit, minimal work was required such was the quality of the fit.

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The lower-wing was fitted which was followed by the rather daunting prospect of assembling the struts. I constructed a jig using plasticard which made the process relatively easy. The under-wing guns were added as was the tail assembly. I decided to rig the Gladiator using ‘Albion Alloys’ 0.5mm brass wire sprayed with Tamiya TS-17 Gloss Aluminium spray.

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The rigging was measured using dividers and a metal rule before dry-fitting. The rigging was attached using ‘Grip’ cyanoacrylate – thick. The thick cryo dries slowly which enables the modeller to move the rigging lines to position them correctly.

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I applied the Montex Mini Mask and attached the canopy using white glue. Once this had dry, I set up a spray booth and sprayed the aircraft with Humbrol Met 11 Silver.

While the Gladiator was drying, I completed the remaining sub-assemblies. The propeller was painted using burnt umber and yellow ochre oils. The tail wheel, main wheels and exhaust stacks were then completed.

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Camouflage and Markings:

The previous post on this website concerned Operation Weserübung (Unternehmen Weserübung) – The German invasion of Denmark and Norway; 9th April 1940. It seemed fitting to complete an aircraft of the Norwegian Army Air Service that took part in this campaign.

I chose ‘Black 427’ the machine flown by Sergeant K F Schye, April 1940.

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Final Construction:

The upper and lower wings were masked, as was the tail in preparation for spraying the red Norwegian National Insignia. Once dry, the kit was given a coat of Johnson’s Klear floor polish before the blue and white decal stripes were applied completing the Norwegian National emblems. Finally, the forward cowling was painted using Citadel Miniatures ‘Tin Blitz’. The cowling was then carefully slid into position. Finally the radio aerials were added and the Norwegian Gladiator was placed on the shelf next to my Danish Fokker D.XXI. Apt stable-mates for the German invasion of Denmark and Norway.

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Conclusion:

I approached this kit with some trepidation. The rigging is quite extensive and a great deal of patience is required. What surprised me is that I had more fun making this kit than I have with any other project in quite some time. This kit comes highly recommended.

References:

  • Gustavsson, Håkan and Ludovico Slongo. GLADIATOR vs. CR.42 FALCO 1940-41. Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford /New York, Osprey Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-1-84908-708-7.
  • Keskinen, Kalevi and Kari Stenman. Hurricane & Gladiator (Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 25) (bilingual Finnish/English). Espoo, Finland: Kari Stenman, 2005. ISBN 952-99432-0-2.
  • Gustavsson, Håkan and Ludovico Slongo. Desert Prelude: Early Clashes, June–November 1940. Hampshire UK: MMP/Stratus White Star No. 9107, 2010. ISBN 978-83-89450-52-4.
  • Thomas, Andrew. Gloster Gladiator Aces. Botley, UK: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-289-X.

Richard Reynolds.

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