Gloster Gladiator....useful or Useless?

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Senior Airman
Feb 19, 2004
The Gloster Gladiator was the last biplane fighter built for use in the RAF but it served on many different war fronts until 1943 (it finished out the war as a trainer) It fought in many campaigns including Norway, Finland, Russia, Malta, North Africa, Greece, Eygpt and France and even had a version designed for use by the Fleet air arm called the 'Sea Gladiator' my question is...should it have been removed from service the moment the war began as an obsolete design or did it prove itself during these campaigns?
You must be kidding! the Swordfish was a fantastic plane but it was very limited in what it could do because it was slow, unmanouverable and had virtually no armour - also, it was only used by the Royal Navy to torpedo enemy ships - the Gladiator was such a versatile aircraft it was able to take on lots of different roles all over the world - it was faster, more manouverable, it looked better (lets face it, the Swordfish is just about the ugliest plane you've ever seen) and it had better weapons aboard - all in all - it was one serious Biplane (Voted best Biplane in the world) :bootyshake:
I think the only thing that the Gladiator was well known for during the war was the defense of Malta when at the begining of the seige the only servicable aircraft where Faith,Hope Charity. other than that it was not a particully special plane. as for looks I always thought the pre war Hawker Hart was one of the nicest looking bi planes.

Ok bronzewhaler82, I agree the string bag (Fairy Swordfish) was no looker, had no armour and was very slow (Stall speed was 70+mph when carrying a torpedo) it was only a fabric covered plane. but I have to disagree with you when you say lacked versitility.
It carried bombs,rockets, and depth charges as well as torpedoes.
In the first week of service when it was fitted with antisubmarine rockets it got a kill, and this was the start of a very successful campaign.
As a bi plane it undoubtedly was the most successful of the war and infact had a record that many mono planes envied with the highest tonnage of shipping sunk by a single design of aircraft in the whole war.

The Japanese where most impressed when 21 Swordfish put pay to the Italian fleet in Taranto Harbour in fact one of Yamamotos aids(who was visiting At the time) went to the port the next day to make notes these he took back to Japan and many of the lessons learned where used in the planning of the Pearl Habour raid.
Its lack of speed was in some instances its protection as for instance when they attacked the Bismark. being a modern warship the Bismarks anti- aircraft control system was not calibrate for speeds of less than 150mph, so when the string bags came in all the ack ack (apart from lightflak) past short of target.

Conversely however I have to conceed that in air to air combat the poor old Swordfish got shot too hell. no more so than when the Sharnhost Genisnau made the now famous channel dash and the Lufwaffa put up the biggest air umbrella of the entire war and shot every swordfish down without loss.
Its obvious you're a Swordfish enthusiast :lol: but however i am a Gladiator enthusiast and although i do appreciate the information you've shared about the Swordfish you are mistaken on many points regarding the Gladiator - i hope you will learn from what i will tell you about the Gladiator the same as i've appreciated what you've corrected me on the Swordfish

Firstly though you are correct about the Gladiators triumphant duty on Malta you are incorrect to say that it was the only thing the Gladiator was well known would be the same as me saying all the Swordfish is known for is the attack at Taranto bay - 18 Gladiators were sent to Norway to help the Norwegians during the occupation and though 14 of these gladiators were destroyed on the ground, those that did get airbourne held the Germans at bay for 3 days before they were overwhealmed (And that isnt the first time a handful of Gladiators have held off a force much larger and better than themselves)
Gladiators were also on the front line fighting the Italian airforce in Africa and Greece with barely a handful of old Hurricanes to assist them.

And to state that the Gladiator is not a special plane is another mistake - it held the record for overseas sales and they were bought by lots of smaller countries that needed a tough, reliable, sturdy plane to defend their homelands - Lithuania, Latvia, Egypt, Iraq, China (to name a few) the Finns used them against the Russians during the winter war of 1939 and the Russians were so impressed by the Gladiators performance that they used captured Gladiators against the invading Germans at the beginning of operation 'Barbarrosa'

When talking about armour, you will find that the Gladiator was merely fabric covered too. and although to my knowledge the Gladiator never sank any ships it certainly shot down more planes than the Swordfish!
Both the Swordfish and the Gladiator were popular with pilots and many prefered the old Glad' rather than some of the newer monoplanes - in fact the highest scoring allied ace of the War 'Lieutenant J.Pattle' started his career fighting in Africa in a Gladiator! Even foreign squadrons like the Australians used them!

I do wish to stress that i myself am a fan of the Swordfish, i am well aware of its important role - i am a fan of all biplanes and i hope i didn't cause you to think otherwise

Besides this entire discussion is rather flawed...after all we are talking about two completely different planes here, a fighter and a Naval torpedo bomber - i must say if i was entering a dogfight and i had to choose a plane it would be a Gladiator but if i was attacking a Destroyer i might have to think again! :lol:

The Gladiator was indeed a good biplane but the Fiat CR 42 was better.


The BIG problem with Italian aircraft was that Italy did not have the petroleum reserves to support them in daily flights. Fighters on the ground due to shortage of fuel are about as useful as teats on a bull. <pardon my euphemism>

While the Fiat CR 42 was 10MPH faster than the Gladiator it had two guns to the Gladitator's four guns. My dad was in Malta during WWII and saw The Gladiators in action over the island. A local conversion called the 'Bleraiator'. was fitted with a Blenheim's Mercury engine and a three bladed prop, which gave it equal performance to the CR 42.

If I can figure out how, I will post a Pic.

Yup that was the problem with most of the Italian aircraft, they were underarmed but damn manoeuverable!

Its the old question, which is better the ability to get out of the way of the plane behind you or to shoot it down before it can damage yours?

Kiwi, i would argue that its no good getting behind your enemy if you don't have the weapons to shoot them down...the Cr.42's two machine guns simply couldn't punch through modern armour and do enough damage, the only chance it really had against more modern fighters was to try and aim for the pilot
In your educated opinion do you think theres any reason behind the Italians reluctance to give their planes decent weapons?


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