Meteorological Reconnaissance & Foreign Service
Gloster Gladiator - Meteorological Reconnaissance
& Foreign Service Last biplane fighter operated by Britain's
Royal Air Force, the Gloster Gladiator was already considered obsolete
at the beginning of the Second World War, but because of the lack
of enough fighters of the next generation it continued to be put
into front line combat until the latter half of 1941. After the
delivery to squadrons of Hurricanes and Spitfires in enough quantity,
it would have been understandable if the biplane Gladiator had experienced
the destiny of other obsolescent machines in service for some time
and been sent for scrapping, but it extended its active life almost
up to the end of the war.
At the beginning of 1942, 62 Gladiators of different versions remained
in the complement of the R.A.F. It was decided to transfer them
to special units (referred to as Meteorological Flights), that were
constantly engaged in monitoring of weather conditions above the
territory of the Mother country and in the dominions. Overall 12
such special units were created, two of them based in Britain, one
in Gibraltar, and nine more in Africa. For planes adapted for weather
reconnaissance, the armament was removed, and special equipment
was installed instead. In case of the Gladiator, a thermometer was
fitted between the wings to the rear lefthand strut, a headlamp
near the cockpit for illumination, and an additional aerial for
measurement of air humidity. No pressurisation was provided for
the cockpit, and for flights at higher altitudes pilots had to wear
substantial sets of warm insulated clothing.
In this role of weather scout the Gladiator survived almost to the
end of the Second World War - the last meteorological reconnaissance
flight took place on January 7th, 1945. Soon all extant Gladiators
were written off, because for some time the more modern Mosquito
and Spitfire, faster and capable of greater altitude, had been ready
to take its place.
At the end of the 1930s the Gladiator was widely exported to many
countries. The most interesting was the destiny of the planes which
were bought by Lithuania and Latvia. After the annexation of the
Baltic nations by the Soviet Union, their Gladiators found their
way into the hands of the Soviet Air Force, and a little later,
after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, the same machines were
taken over by the Luftwaffe. The Germans used the Gladiators as
training machines because they had no need for them as front line
Other Gladiators were later presented by the British government
to various countries - to Ireland, to Egypt; and some machines were
transferred to Free French forces in North Africa. Portugal used
more Gladiators than almost all other nations: its last few machines
were finally signed off in 1953. They were archaic, and outdated
for military service, but their long service career was only a little
bit less than 20 years - much more than some other more modern planes.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.II (Meteo), N5592, No. 1402 (Met) Flight,
based at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, January 1945.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.II (Meteo), N2309/B, No.1401 (Met) Flight,
based at Bircham Newton, 1942-1943.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G-704, 5 Eskadrile, Lithuanian Air
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G-709, Soviet Air Force (ex-Lithuanian
aircraft), unknown training unit, Baltic Coast, circa 1941.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, "Black 427", Norwegian Army
Air Service Fighter Wing, flown by Sgt K F Schye, Fornebu, April
- Gloster Gladiator J-8, Royal Swedish Air Force, 1941.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, No.175, Latvian Air Force, 1937.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G.30, 1 Escadrille (les Cometes),
1 Groupe Belgian Air Forces, Schaffen, 1938.
- Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, NJ+BO, ErgGr (s) 1, Luftwaffe, Baltic
||30,01 sq. m
||1xBristol Mercury IX (VIII) 830 h.p.
||4x0,303(7,7mm) machine guns