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The Gloster Gladiator – Airframe Album 12


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The Gloster Gladiator – Airframe Album 12

Valiant Wings Publishing

 

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The tagline "A detailed guide to the RAF's last biplane fighter" is a perfect summation of the Glad, which soldiered on long past its sell-by date due to the pressures of a war that it wasn't really designed to cope with.  It was always going to be a stop-gap aircraft, and was the winner of the competition for which the original Supermarine Type 224 was submitted.  Developed from Gloster's experience with previous biplane fighters, the Gladiator bore more than a passing resemblance to how I would imagine a biplane Hurricane would look, and was in many instances replaced by that very aircraft.  Quickly withdrawn from front-line service after some unsuccessful battles with the more capable Bf.109, it soldiered on in Africa, the Mediterranean and in other arenas and with other nations where the competition was also similarly outdated (at times).

 

The book is perfect-bound in a softback cover, and consists of 128 pages of writing, drawings, plans and contemporary photographs, some of which are in colour, which is nice to see, given the period of operation.  If you are familiar with the Airframe Album series, the format will be somewhat familiar, and is broken down as follows:

 

Introduction

  • A brief narrative history of the development and operational use of the Gladiator and Sea Gladiator by the RAF, FAA and other nations, as well as captured and evaluated examples

Technical Description

  • Detailed coverage of construction and equipment
  • Evolution – Prototype, Production and Projected Variants

3D-isometrics

  • illustrating differences between variants

Camouflage & Markings

  • Colour side profiles, notes and photographs

Model

  • A build of the Silver Wings 1:32 scale version by Steve A Evans

Appendices

  • Gloster Gladiator/Sea Gladiator Kit List
  • Gloster Gladiator/Sea Gladiator Accessory & Mask List
  • Gloster Gladiator/Sea Gladiator Decal List
  • Bibliography

 

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The pictures are split between contemporary photos, mainly in the introductory section where the aircraft's service is discussed, and modern photos that have been taken of either a restored airframe, or one undergoing deep restoration, which benefits from much of the surface being stripped away for access.  This gives the viewer a useful insight into what's under the skin, which is often the type of information that us modellers are looking for when upgrading details, or opening up some panels.  They're also of great interest to the general aircraft enthusiast, as is the accompanying text and the captions to each photo, drawing and diagram.

 

I find the 3D isometrics a useful quick-reference to see at a glance the differences in the airframe as it was developed, and this edition is no exception, even though there were technically only two marks.  Due to the development of the early airframes and overseas customer requirements, there are a lot more small changes to each batch of aircraft than one would initially expect.  In total there are 27 sets of drawings for the various land-based versions and the Sea Gladiator, which is included in the book's remit.  The drawings and diagrams are also particularly useful in giving an insight into the construction of the Glad, and some are culled directly from the manuals that accompanied the aircraft to their squadrons.

 

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There is only one build in this book, which is of the resin Silver Wings kit in 1:32.  Although the build is excellent as usual, I feel that an additional build using either the Roden kit in 1:48, or any of the available 1:72 kits to add a little wider appeal, but the editor explains in italics that it was due to lack of space.  The usual kit & bits listing is included to the rear, and gives a perishable recounting of what was available at the time of printing in kit, aftermarket, decals and of course reference material.

 

Conclusion

The Glad is the hero of Malta, fighting alongside its people, the brave soldiers and airmen that kept the island from falling into Axis hands during the height of WWII when it was threatened from all sides, enduring an extended onslaught that would have broken the spirit of many.  Faith, Hope and Charity as the three aircraft became known gave the Islanders hope, and it seems to have rooted itself in many a modeller's affections, perhaps because it was almost always the underdog.  This book is a great one-stop reference for modellers and aviation enthusiasts alike.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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