Gloster Gladiator (Sea Gladiator)
Fleet Air Arm Sea Gladiator 6C


The Gloster Gladiator was the last British biplane fighter, a development of the Gauntlet with an enclosed single seat cockpit, cantilever landing gear and with increased armament, and a 2 blade fixed pitch propeller. First flown in 1935, the Gladiator went into service with the RAF in 1936. The Mark I had a 840 hp Bristol Mercury IX air-cooled engine and the Mark II a Bristol Mercury VIIIA engine.

The Sea Gladiator was the variant adopted by the Fleet Air Arm. It was fitted with a deck arrestor, catapult points, and carried a collapsible dinghy.

Numbers built totalled a minimum of 756 (480 RAF, 60 RN; 216 export into 13 countries). Gladiators were also sold to Belgium, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, China, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Egypt, Iraq, and South Africa.

 Mk I                  Initial production model
 Mk II                 Modified Mk I; Mercury VIIIA or VIII AS; tropicalised (inc 38 converted to interim Sea
 Sea Gladiator    Carrier-borne fighter version; Arrester hook, catapult points, fairing for dinghy
 Swedish Gladiator (J 8A)
                            Modified Mk II; Nohab mercury VIIIS.3

Gladiator II 263 sqdn  Lesjaskog Norway1940     Sea GladiatorMkI 802sqdn HMS Glorious1939

At the beginning of the war the Gloster Gladiators serving with the Fleet Air Arm were primarily used as carrier-borne fighters. Howver, with their replacement by faster and more modern fighters such as the seafire, sea hurrixane , wil;cdat and corsair they were relegated to other duties. Subsequently the type was in use until 1944 in secondary roles as communications, liaison and meterological reconnaissance aircraft.
Fleet Air Arm history
    Total FAA 1939-1945:        60
    First delivered to RN:         1938
    First squadron 1939-1945:   1939 769 sqdn
    Operational squadron:          804 sdqn 11.1939
    Last served with RN           1945

Four Gloster Gladiator I transferred from RAF charge
K6129 – FAA Pool at Gosport 14.6.38 - it undertook aircraft carrier trials with 800 squadron and on 12 July 1938 joined HMS Furious (same aircraft used for the development of the Sea Gladiator 27 January 1939-February 1939).

50 Gloster Gladiator II ordered under Contract No 704393/37 from Gloster, Hucclecote
Serial Numbers: N2265-N2314. 22 supplied as Sea Gladiators (interim)

Delivered to RN    12.38 (N2265)
First sqdn             769 sqdn at Donistristle 5.5.39 (N2266)
Firstr op sqdn        804 sqdn on 11.39 (N2265)
Last in RN            771 sqdn in 7.43 (N2265), 771 sqdn Met Flt in 8.44 (N2282), and N2296 at Crail 6.44-7.44. paid off Oct 1945

60 GLOSTER SEA GLADIATOR ordered under contract No 952950/38 from Gloster, Hucclecote and numbered N5500 – N5574

First deld RN        N5500 deld 801 sdqn 2.39 –3.39 (17 delivered to 801), thence to Malta and 802 sqdn on 4.39 (18 aircraft including
                           'Charity' (N5518), 'Faith' (N5520), and 'Hope' (N5531)

Gladiator MkI K7965 of 73Sqdn RAF 1938

Aircraft Type:
Gloster Sea Gladiator 
Primary Role:
Carrier-borne fighter, reconnaissance
First Flight: 
September 1934 (prototype)
Date operating with FAA squadrons:
Entered Service:  3.37
Gloster, Hucclecote 
One 840 hp Bristol Mercury VIIIA engine
 Wing Span: Length: Height: Wing Area: 
Wingspan:  32.3 ft  (9.85 m) 
Length:  27.5 ft (8.38 m) 
Height: 10.4 ft (3.17 m)
Wingarea: 323 sq ft  (30.01 sq m)
Empty Weight: Max.Weight:
Empty weight
Gladiator 3,450 lb (1,565 kg) 
Sea Gladiator 3,730 lb (1,692 kg) 
Max. Weight
Gladiator 4,863 lb (2,206 kg)
Sea Gladiator 5,400 lb (2,449 kg)



Gladiator 253 mph (407 km/h)
Sea Gladiator 244 mph  (392 km/h) 
Ceiling: 9700 m
Gladiator 440 mi (708 km)
Sea Gladiator 423 mi (680 km)
Four forward-firing .303in machine guns 
800,801,802,804,805,806, HMS Eagle Fighter Flight
Battle honours:
Norway, Mediterranean, Malta, Crete
Additional references and notes:
Gloster Gladiator MkII statistics in The Art of War Annual

Battle Honours and Operational History

The Gladiator was used during WWII in theatres where the RAF or FAA could not afford better equipment. The Gladiator took part in the Norwegian campaign in 1940, and triumphed during the first campiagns in the Mediterranean in 1940-1941, where it claimed shooting down numerous enemy aircraft. The Gladiator became well known in the campaigns in the defence of Crete in May 1941.

Air Ace Keighly-Peach after landing on flight-deck in Sea Gladiator N5517, HMS Eagle, 1940

In the defence of Malta the Gladiator also became famous. From a stock of 18 aircraft of 802 squadron remaining at Malta after HMS Glorious was sunk in 1940, three Sea Gladiators became international legends, "Faith", "Hope" and "Charity". They were part of the Hal Far Fighter Flight, composed of mixed RAF and FAA personnel.

"Faith". Sea Gladiator N5520 of 802 squadron from June to November 1939, she joined the Hal Far Fighter Flight in April 1940. She was quick to defend Malta, and whilst piloted by Flt Lt JL Waters RAF shot down and destroyed an Italian S.79 on 11 June 1940, and the next day on 12 June 1940 destroyed another S.79. She was renamed "Faith" between October 1941 and January 1942. Fuselage preserved Malta.

"Hope". Sea Gladiator N5531 of 802 squadron from June 1939 to January 1940, joined the Hal Far Flight, and was renamed "Hope on 19 April 1940. She was destroyed in an air raid on 4 February 1941

"Charity".  Sea Gladiator N5519 ‘G6A’ of 802  squadron from June-September 1939, she joined the Hal Far Fighter Flight and renamed 'Charity' on 19 April 1940. She was involved in defending Malta over the critical 1940 period but was shot down on 29 July 1940 and her pilot F/O PW Hartley RAF was badly burned.

This is FAITH, one of three legendary Gladiators said to have saved the island of Malta in June, 1940. Gloster Gladiator by ROBERT KARR

There are a number of websites dealing with the combat history of the FAA Gladiator and Sea Gladiator. See Gloster Gladitor website by A Crawford. and the Biplane Fighters from the Second World War which includes details of each unit and fate of aircraft and biographies of the aces.

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Fleet Air Arm Sea Gladiator in flight 

Surviving aircraft and relics

Even though the aircraft was relegated at an early stage in the war a number of Gladiator aircraft have survived including the last two airworthy examples in the world.

Preserved examples exist at the Shuttleworth Collection (UK), Gloucestershire Aviation Collection (UK), National War Museum (Malta), and the RAF Museum (UK). A Gladiator mocked up as a Sea Gladiator was loaned by the Shuttleworth Collection to the FAA Museum between 1971 and 1994 and marked in Sea Gladiator colours. This Gladiator has since been restored and now resides with The Fighter Collection (UK).

The example at the National War Museum in Malta is the only surviving Sea Gladiator in the world, and the Fleet Air Arm Museum no longer has any examples of the Gladiator mark.

One of only 2 airworthy Gladiator Gladiator I L8032 G-AMRK is preserved at the Shuttleworth collection (UK)

Sea Gladiator I N5520 "Charity" in June 1940 (Fauconberg graphics)       Sea Gladiator I N5520 "Charity" as she looks today in Malta.

Gloster Sea Gladiator Mk.I (N5519)(“Charity”) of Hal Far Fighter Flight operating from Hal Far, Malta, in June 1940, survives in the National War Museum in Malta.

Gladiator L8032 G-AMRK of the Shuttleworth Collection one of only two airworthy Gladiators in the World

RAF Museum: Gladiator MkII N5628 preserved after recovered from a Fjord in Norway

Associations and reunions
No information
Gloster Gladitor website by A Crawford Gloster Gladitor website by and pages on FLEET AIR ARM: details for: 
    801 Squadron
    802 Squadron 
    804 Squadron
    805 Squadron
    806 Squadron
    HMS Eagle Fighter Flight
History and development of the Gloster Gladiator History and development of the Gloster Gladiator and Gladiator production for the RAF and FAA
Flightline and the Gloster Gladiator History and specifications about the Gladiator with profiles of different squadron aircraft
Gloster Gladiator in Commonwealth squadron service in Biplane Fighters from the Second World war (Håkans Aviation page) The Gladiator and the Biplane Fighter aces. Includes details of the Gladiator in Commonwealth and overseas service, both with the RAF and FAA. Also includes details of each unit and fate of aircraft and biographies of the aces.
Sea Gladiators of Malta A detailed history of the HMS Glorious's Sea Gladiators of Malta.
Gloster Gladiator MkII statistics in The Art of War Annual Statistics including Aircraft performance chart, fire power chart, Power Versus Speed chart, gun attack factors.
Canadian Air Aces and the Gladiator General information profiles of the aircraft. 
FAUCONBERG AEROGRAPHICS An A-Z of Aircraft Profiles including:
Rick Kent's Profiles Camouflage and markings of Gloster Gladiator Part 1 Camouflage and markings of Gloster Gladiator Part 1  Gloster Gladiator in Profile.
Gloster Gladiator- Francis K Mason Gloster Gladiator- Francis K Mason, MacDonald Aircraft Monographs.
Sturtivant, R. & Burrow, M (1995) 'Fleet Air Arm Aircraft 1939 to 1945'  Published by Air Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1995 ISBN: 085130 232 7 
Created 3-4-1999, Modified 3-4-2000


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