Roden 1/48th Gloster Gladiator Mk. I/Mk. II/J-8 (Meteo Reconnaissance & Foreign Service)

By Vic Mattes

Introduction

The Gloster Gladiator was the last biplane operated by Britain’s Royal Air Force. Obsolete, it was forced into combat duty until late 1941 when sufficient quantities of Spitfires and Hurricanes were delivered to the fighter squadrons. The British relegated the Gladiators to weather reconnaissance which they performed for the rest of the war until again replaced by the Spitfires and Hurricanes. The .303 machine guns were removed and a thermometer, a head lamp for illumination and air humidity measurement instruments were installed. The last British Gladiator flew on January 7th, 1945.

The Gladiator was also exported by Gloster in the late 1930’s. Lithuania and Latvia bought the planes which, upon their annexation by the Soviet Union in 1939, were taken into the Soviet Air Force. After the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, these same fighters were taken over by the Luftwaffe and used as training aircraft.

The Gladiator was also used by Ireland, Egypt, Sweden, Norway, Portugal and the Free French air forces. Belgium also obtained 22 Gladiators in 1938. This is the version that I chose to model. Sadly, the Gladiator performed as one would expect when facing the then-modern Luftwaffe in 1940. The Belgium Gladiators valiantly fought on the opening days of the 1940 German blitzkrieg in defending their base at Shaffen-Diest on 10 May and in escorting a flight of Fairey Battles attacking the Albert Canal bridges. Most of the Gladiators were lost fighting against the greatly superior Bf-109s.

The Kit

Roden presents their version of the Gloster Gladiator in 1:48 scale in a strong box with a very representative painting of the British version of the aircraft on the cover. The kit contains three sprues: 2 tan sprues containing 95 pieces and 1 clear one with 6 pieces. In general; the sprues are thick and can require significant effort to remove pieces from them. The larger tan sprue contains the major pieces of the fuselage, wings and flight surfaces. A good portion of the flight surfaces require cleanup of flash. The fuselage exterior is nicely detailed. The flight surfaces lack the same degree of detail but have very minimal pour marks. The smaller tan sprue consists of three sub-sprues. These consist of the engine, cockpit and ancillary pieces. Compared to the other sprues, the pieces on this sprue were relatively flash free. At most one or two pieces required clean-up. The clear pieces had significant flash which was easily cleaned.

The instructions were contained in a 12-page booklet. The cover page contains a nice description of the Gloster from which most of the above was taken. It also contains a well laid out diagram of the sprues with part numbers. Assembly is completed in 12 steps on a page-and-a-half. There is very good use of expanded illustrations to show piece placement. The bulk of the booklet is devoted to the paint schemas for 9 aircraft (2 British, Lithuanian, Soviet, Norwegian, Swedish, Latvian, Belgian, German) and large drawings showing decal placement and rigging.

Decals for all 9 aircraft are closely packed on single sheet. The decals are tightly trimmed and do not require any trimming prior to use. The colors are sharp.

Assembly

The instructions begin with the cowling. The fit is generally ok, requiring some sanding to tweak. Some decision as to which version of the Gladiator you wish to build must be made here with the installation or not of a blank for the air intake. I chose to go with the intake, reducing to 5 the versions I could build. The next discrimination isn’t until Step 8 with the choice of the front windshield and of the guns.

The engine is the most complicated assembly of the model. It is a good fit but care must be taken to watch orientation of pieces, in particular that of the cylinders (piece 50C). I will give fair warning that I had significant trouble with the engine firewall (piece 56B) and ended up leaving it off to fit the engine to the fuselage. Even with sanding, I could not get it to fit neatly within the fuselage.

The next several steps assemble the air intake, the instrument panel, both main landing gear as well as the cockpit. There were no significant issues except for significant sinkholes in the main struts. These were filled with Squadron White Putty.

The most significant assembly is accomplished in step 8 with the assembly of the fuselage. This step requires the trapping of three sets of pieces between the fuselage parts: the cockpit, the instrument box behind the cockpit and the instrument panel. It can be frustrating and requires patience as there are no guides to hold the pieces in their appropriate place. Ensure the guns are well attached so they don’t come loose in later steps as they did for me. While the instructions call for installing the canopy pieces at this point, I left them off until after the body was painted.

The flight surfaces are the center of attention for the next couple steps. I have to say I was impressed with the quality of the fit between the various pieces. Nice and tight. Just because I could, I offset the rudder and put the ailerons of both main wings as well as the tail in a dropped position. As with the canopy, I left the upper wing off to make the painting easier.

The final two steps involve the installation of assorted elements of the plane. The major assembly is the attachment of the main landing gear. These gave me great fits as both gear required a degree of effort to fit into their slots. In the end, sanding of the gear root was necessary to get it in and some White Putty to fill gaps. When in place, they do fit beautifully… just be careful how many times you crack the fuselage seams doing it!

As I indicated above, I chose to build the Gladiator as it would appear in Belgian use in 1940. While not an all-over paint scheme, it’s easier than the British camouflage scheme. The Belgian scheme consists of silver on the fuselage and wing/tail undersides with green upper surfaces. The forward half of the cowling called for bronze but I used burnt metal which looks like a heated bronze anyway (and I like the color).

I airbrushed Future Floor Polish on the model to aid decal installation. With the assemblies painted and decaled, I set to attaching the upper wing to the body. With some frustration, I ended up attaching one main strut at a time to the upper wing, moving to the next when the prior was secure. This took time but resulted in a strong and solid assembly.

Painting and Decaling

I wanted to install the rigging to give the plane a realistic look. As the wings were solid (not two pieces glued together), I didn’t want to drill holes in them. I obtained music wire at my local hobby shop (0.15”) and cut it to size for the various rigging elements. This took significant time and patience to install the multiple riggings on the tail and main wings but, in the end, looks nice. I have included a photo from the Gloster Gladiator website that I used to help with the rigging.

Conclusion

I have to say I enjoyed this model. It wasn’t overly complicated, requiring substantial coordination and dexterity to assemble minuscule pieces. It’s a solid model that well represents its subject. I started building it as a weekend project but, as with all good intentions, my plans were redirected. I do believe it can be done in a weekend. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for an enjoyable build; especially those tread heads looking for a simple aircraft to broaden their perspectives with. Enjoy!

Thanks to Roden for the review kit.

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