Gloster Gladiator
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 fighters.
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.

  1. Gloster Gladiator Mk.II (Meteo), N5592, No. 1402 (Met) Flight, based at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland, January 1945.
  2. Gloster Gladiator Mk.II (Meteo), N2309/B, No.1401 (Met) Flight, based at Bircham Newton, 1942-1943.
  3. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G-704, 5 Eskadrile, Lithuanian Air Force, 1938-1939.
  4. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G-709, Soviet Air Force (ex-Lithuanian aircraft), unknown training unit, Baltic Coast, circa 1941.
  5. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, "Black 427", Norwegian Army Air Service Fighter Wing, flown by Sgt K F Schye, Fornebu, April 1940.
  6. Gloster Gladiator J-8, Royal Swedish Air Force, 1941.
  7. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, No.175, Latvian Air Force, 1937.
  8. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, G.30, 1 Escadrille (les Cometes), 1 Groupe Belgian Air Forces, Schaffen, 1938.
  9. Gloster Gladiator Mk.I, NJ+BO, ErgGr (s) 1, Luftwaffe, Baltic region, 1942-1943.
Span 9,83 m
Length 8,36 m
Wing area 30,01 sq. m
Take-off weight 2206 kg
Speed max 414 km/h
Service ceiling 10210 m
Range 708 km
Powerplants 1xBristol Mercury IX (VIII) 830 h.p.
Armament 4x0,303(7,7mm) machine guns