History of the scale model kit
The Gladiator should have been one of history’s footnotes but it actually acquitted itself rather well. It was three of this type that helped save the island of Malta in 1940/41. It entered service in the RAF and the fleet air arm in 1937. It was unusual in being a biplane fighter model with a glass cockpit in the manner of a Spitfire or Hurricane. The aircraft was sold to a number of pre-war air forces. Actually it made its combat debut in China flown largely by Chinese American volunteers against Japan with some success.
The Gladiator next appeared flying in the Finnish air force against an aggressive Soviet Union in the Winter war of 1940. Some aircraft actually flown by Swedish pilots, their only real military involvement in the WW2 period. Gaining 45 victories over Soviet aircraft overall, it was relegated to a reconnaissance role later in the continuation war, when it was totally outclassed by the latest Soviet models.
(NB. for the computer gamers out there, you can fly the Gladiator for Finland in the PC game, “Sturmovik- forgotten battles of world war 2”. It is hard work too- the machine guns in the game are like pea shooters!)
The Norwegian air force used Gladiators during the German invasion and scored a few successes before being overwhelmed. The British fleet air arm also used the air craft 3 in this campaign, shooting down 26 German aircraft of various types. Similarly in the invasion of Belgium, the Gladiator was flown by the Belgian air force and the RAF without any great success.
The other main use of the Gladiator was in the North African campaign, where the South African air, ace Marmaduke Pattie got 15 kills in the aircraft against the Italian Regia Aeronautica (airforce). The planes also appeared in some of the “sideshow” campaigns of the war like Iraq and Syria.
The Gloster Gladiator Airfix model itself
The most famous battle the planes fought was in Malta where just 3 Gladiators were the entire defense of the Island for ten days. Actually they were more than three planes and were made up of working parts from different aircraft!. Either way they were named “Faith, Hope and Charity” and certainly had a huge morale boosting effect on the heroic population of that beleaguered island.
The Gloster Gladiator Airfix model kit you get standard RAF decals but I would have liked Finnish decals to make the Winter War Lysander which has a Finnish air force Decal set. The model is rated as skill level 2 by Airfix. It can be tricky probably due to it being a biplane and having a rigging diagram.
Remember to let the struts set solid before affixing the upper wing. Also let the under carriage set for about an hour before resting the plane on it. Then let it set and enjoy painting it. Perhaps you could do it in white for the Finnish version – you’d have to obtain Finnish decals from another kit though.