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Gloster Gladiator Mk. I

by Pablo Calcaterra


Gloster Gladiator Mk I





Some years ago I bumped into someone who was reading a book about a British pilot I had never heard of before. It turned out that this pilot was the unofficial top scorer of the Western Allies in World War II -  Marmaduke Thomas St. John Pattle.  

Born in South Africa in 1914, Pattle entered the South African Air Force some years before the outbreak of WWII. In 1936 he was transferred to the Royal Air Force and by 1938 he was in Egypt with 80 Sqn, as a Flying Officer.  

In June 1940 Italy declared war to the allies and the Western Air Force squads soon became entagled with the Reggia Aeronáutica. On August 4th, Flight commander Pattle shot down his two first enemy planes, but was shot down himself in the same combat.  

A fine pilot with excellent sight and tactical management of the combats, he devised a system to shoot down the italian Savoias SM 79 that were faster than the Gladiators. His score mounted steadily. In December 1940 80 Sqn. was transferred to Greece.  



With Pat's score at 15 confirmed and several more probables, 80 Sqn. traded his battle worn Gladiators for Hurricanes I. With the aid of this superior aircraft, his claims increased at an even faster rate. In April, Germany invaded the Balcans, to rescue the Italians from a desperate position and protect the "Southern front" before the invasion of the USSR.  

The Luftwaffe pilots were better qualified and equipped foes. This didn't deterred Pat, who was transferred as Squadron Leader to 33 Sqn, with a DFC and bar. Mentally and physically very tired due to 9 months of continuos fight in ever worsening conditions, Pattle was shot down and killed by Me110s of 5/ZG26 over Athens on April 20th, 1940 while leading the last 12 Hurricanes (from 3 squadrons) available in Greece against a hundred of German planes.  

33 Sqn. official records were lost during the retreat, but based on his fitters diary and testimony of his fellow pilots his score was 51 at the time of his death (depending on the sources and authors, this figure varies from 41 to 65 - officially, he accounted for 23 enemy planes). 

A couple of years after first seeing the book by ECR Baker, I was able to get hold of a copy in the UK. The search for a Gladiator in 1/48 scale to build one of Pat's Gladiator began in earnest. This year I found the elusive (at least in Argentina) Lindberg kit in a toyshop far away from downtown, and started to gather more details about Pat’s aircraft. The Internet and e-mail were invaluable tools, and I managed to get some very important information (see credits).



Lindberg's 1/48 Scale Gladiator


Lindberg's 1/48 scake  kit is a Gladiator II, with a top wing antenna mast and a three bladed propeller. Several modifications must be made to turn it into Pattle's plane. 

To improve the kit, I purchased the following aftermarket products: two bladed propeller by Aeroclub P419, Airwaves photoetched interior AC 48087 (I didn't use the flaps supplied with this set) and Aeromaster decals 48-187. 

Lindberg kit has some flash and ejector pins marks are quite evident, specially in the undersides of wings and tail planes.  These need to be filled and sanded, thus spoiling in some degree the plastic and the excellent fabric effect achieved.





Both doors were cut out from the fuselage sides, as the photoetched ones are much better and can be placed  opened or closed. The etched ones were marked over the fuselage, and then the cutting took place. 

As usual, I started with the cockpit. From the original kit, the only usable part is the stick. The rest (seat, floor and instrument panel) are quite simple and much better replaced by the photoetched parts. Also included in the Airwaves set are the seat harnesses, knobs, compass and the structure of the sidewalls. The seat, floor and some of the levers must be backed with plasticard (1 mm).  The seat lever was made from  stretched sprue that came from a price tag! 

All the interior was painted interior green and drybrushed silver. The photoetched horizontal compass  needs the adition of a base made of the body of a missile that came from the spare parts box and a longer and thinner missile made the support of the compass, which was superglued to the floor.  The black instruments panel, compass, stick, and floor were drybrushed silver to highlight the details. The instruments and compass where given a drop of clear barnish to resemble the glass. The stick was glued placed to the left and forward, as I planned to give some movement to the tail of the Glad.  

Very visible from the cockpit are the two Brownings 303. I scratch build them with plastic card, painted them black and drybrushed them (although there are aftermarket products to avoid this job). They were placed inside each fuselage half.  

To be able to place the photoechted instrument panel, a piece of plastic guide inside the left side fuselage half must be scrapped away, like the floor guides which are a couple of milimiters shorter that the photoetched replacement. 

Next, the structure behind the seat was glued with cyano. The straps were placed from this part, through a whole in the headrest, until they fall on the seat. With everything dry and in place, the fuselage halves are carefully glued. Fit is not very good, specially in the undersides, which must be very carefully filled and sanded with wet and dry paper, to avoid erasing the panels (nevertheless, some rescribing had to be made).  

Both doors need to be bended gently against the discarded plastic ones, to match the correct curvature. The handles were assembled and adhered to the  doors. Everything was painted interior green, with some weathering with silver and black knobs.The elevators were cut from the tailplanes and hinges were made from plasticard and left aside. The rudder received the same treatment and left aside till later. The tailplanes and fin where glued carefully, and the photoetched supports for the last one were fitted with cyano. The 4 photoetched fuselage handles (two for each side, close to the tail) were glued in place. 

The little engines consists of only 2 pieces (front and back), which I painted black and drybrushed aluminium. 

The radiator was glued to its place, on the top right side of the nose.  The lower wings were assembled to the fuselage. Care must be taken so they keep the right angle though the fit is tight and this is achieved easily. 

Next, the three-part top wing is glued. Before the glue dries, the struts are fitted to the lower wings. Then the top wing is placed on top of the struts and aligned properly. I left it overnight this way, to avoid the pieces from moving. When dry, the top wing was taken aside. Filling and sanding is needed to cover the joints of the three parts. As Pat's Glad was a Mark I, the radio antenna had no mast. This implies that the hole for the mast must be covered with putty and sanded (again spoiling the fabric effect). The fuselage struts need some putty and sanding to melt them with the surface.

Before adding the underwing machine guns the rectangular ejection hole for the empty cartidges was opened in each of them using a cutter blade. 

The legs were fitted with the internal hubs. The rectangular pin of the legs needed a lot of sanding and filling to receive the hubs. 

I preferred to used the foot step supplied by Lindberg, instead of the photoetched which was not round (like the stick). 

A demanding task was the research for the tropical air filter fitted to the Gladiators. Thanks to pictures of desert Glads supplied generously by Rick Kent and Alex Crawford and the ones I had of Blenheims (that used the same Mercury engine), I was able to scratch build the filter. The main body is made of a couple of plasticard pieces glued together and shaped to resemble the non rectangular filter (it's found in one of the pictures of a 80 Sqn. Glad and I think it gives this piece a little more appeal than the more commonly found rectangular one). Then the air intake was made from the plastic tray of modified atmosphere packed pasta bended to shape, and the cover attachments were made from tiny pieces of copper wire.  



Now the elevators were fitted slightly dropped, and the rudder was glued to the fin, swinged to the left. 

The propeller was sanded heavily to take away all the surface imperfections and flash. A nail cut to the proper length was glued with cyano to the hole in the back of the two bladed propeller.





With everything dry, and the cockpit covered with pieces of wet tissue, painting could  begin. 

Matt black was airbrushed along the panel lines and moveable parts. The interior of the cowling and all 4 machine guns were painted  this colour as well. The area around the engine was also painted black, for it to look darkened when the camouflage paints were applied. Wheels and propeller blades were given a black coat as well. 

Prior to painting the undersides (RAF sky - Humbrol HB5), the ejector holes were covered with Maskol. Long thin strips of masking tape were used to protect the four machine guns and the guide for the ones on the side of the fuselage. 

A very gentle and smooth application of RAF sky was given to the undersides, trying to let some of the black "stain" the camouflage. This gives the plane a battered look. The sand filter and wheel hubs were painted unattached. The air intake was painted silver. 

The propeller blades were masked with tape, exposing only the hub (painted dark grey as per the doubtful Aeromaster instructions) and the tips (painted yellow). 

As it had taken so much work to build the interior, I decided to use the opened hood parts. Regretfully, the sliding part is molded as one with the rear part. All the parts were covered with masking tape, and then the frames were carefully exposed cuting out the masking tape using a scalpel. The interior of the cowling was masked with tape. 

Research for the topside colors was difficult, as the different sources differ about the layout of the fuselage. Based on the picture in Pat's biography, I agreed with the scheme supplied by Aeromaster up till the tail. I consider that the design they give for the tail is wrong, taking into account Rick Kent's drawings at Internet and the cover of the book, plus the scheme given to all the other fighters in RAF use. So here I have  deviated from the instructions given by the decals producer. 



Something else that the Aeromaster instructions lack of is the lower wing paint scheme. Here I used the drawing of the cover of the book as a reference, plus a part of a picture of a Glad that can be found inside the book that confirms the "chart" of the cover. Paints chosen were Humbrol 29 and 30. 

Again, in the black pre painted places, airbrushing was thinner to let some of the base color show through. 



With the paint dry, I very gently and smoothly airbrushed the heat black lines of the 9 cylinders to the front of the fuselage of the plane. To paint them in the correct place, I dry fitted the engine, and marked with a pencil the place of the cylinders. I also retouched the stains of the machine guns. The cowling was masked with tape, to expose only the front part, which was given a coat of copper. When this was dry, it was drybrushed with Humbrol 133 to represent the weathering effect of the heat. The exhausts were painted with this same color, using a a brush. 

The ailerons and flaps lines were marked with a very thin black pencil, as were the grids of the radiator.





All the surfaces were given a coat of gloss varnish. The Aeromaster set depicts K7971 in which, on August 8th, 1940, Pattle shot down his victims #3 and 4, two Fiats CR42 of 9º and 10º Gruppo C.T. 



No stencils are supplied  by Lindberg or by Aeromaster. The lower wing and fuselage roundels have the red spot as another decal, to be centered properly by the modeller. They adhered very well, and Set solution was only used for the fuselage roundels in some tricky places like the zone close to the cockpit and the rectangular inspection panel. Some silvering was still evident. The decals were difficult to stick to the etched support structure of the tail. The little details of the step formed by these became too much for the decals,  that couln't follow the whole of it, even with the use of Set solution. I think that the family badge (behind the cockpit) is a little bit  oversized. 

When the decals were dry, matt varnish was sprayed on all surfaces to seal them. Here's when the silvering showed mainly around the fuselage roundel. The carrier film beside the blue strip of the tail decals was cut away carefully with a scalpel, as it exceeded the surface of the fin because the swinged rudder didn't leave place for it  to be sticked.



Construction Continues...


With everything ready for the final stages (which turned out to be more time consuming than thought), the final assembly begun. 

The navigation lamps were painted: red and green (Humbrol 2 and 19) for the wings and silver for the one in the tail. The upper wing was glued to the struts. There was no problem here, as the previous alignment worked fine. 

The wheels and outer wheel hubs were attached. No glue was needed for the "rubber" piece, as it is very well supported by the hubs. This gives them freedom of movement and they turn freely. 

As no gunsight is supplied, it had to be scratchbuilted using pieces of plastic cut to shape. An unused missile was used to make the calibration device which goes below the main body of the gunsight. The glass rectangle was made using the pasta tray again. The light was painted silver, and the leather pad was given a coat of brown. 

There are some more pieces missing in the Lindberg kit, that must be scratchbuilt to make a good engine: the 3 struts that support the collector ring of the cowling, and the two air intakes. The first ones were made from stretched sprue and painted silver, while the second ones were made from a glass capilar I was given in a Surgery shop, painted black and weathered with silver. Again, pictures gave me the help I needed, as to where to place them. The cowling was fitted to the engine, and the glass tubes were glued with cyano. The lower part of the air intake (kit piece # 41) was cut to the proper length to receive the sand filter, and  placed inside the cowling, With everything ready, the complete engine/cowling set was attached to the front fuselage. Exhaust pipes were glued in place carefully. The small supports that link them to the fuselage where made with  tiny lenghts of copper wire, glued with cyano to the exhaust pipes and painted Humbrol 133. 



Some little extra supports for the sand filter were made of copper wire, painted black. The air filter was glued in place. Two "L" bended pieces of wire make the attaching arms below the filter (when writing the article, after taking the pictures, I discovered they should have been placed much more separated). 

Aluminium drybrushing was given to all the panel and bolts of the fuselage, wings, machine guns and engine cowling.





The rigging supplied by Lindberg consists of a very long piece of elastic wire.  

To make the bracing wires, the supplied one must be cut with a blade to the length needed for each part. The instructions given by Lindberg are incomplete, as some rigging (specially the one close to the fuselage) is missing in  the drawing. No length for each one is given by the manufacturer. The picture of the box and the photos I got via Internet helped me a lot to get this straight. Measuring the length for each place was tricky but I managed not to loose any bit of wire. The wire was glued with cyano.

Regretfully, my fears became true when I discovered the length  of the wire supplied by Lindberg was not enough. The 4 top tailplanes and the rudder cables were made with copper wire, handled very carefully to avoid bending it. Once in place and glued with a tiny drop of cyano, the copper wire was painted aluminium with a small brush. Two pieces of thicker wire were glued at the cross of the main wing rigging (also missing in the instructions). 

The antenna in the Glad I was made of 2 lengths that went from the wings to a  supporting wire behind the cockpit (middle of the fuselage). From this, a single wire went to the tail mast. I glued the short wire of the fuselage first, to use it as a support. Then the tail to fuselage one was stucked with cyano, and finally the wing ones joined the middle fuselage support. More cyano was given to this critical place  where 3 wires meet, to strenghen the join. I placed a paper between the wings and the wire, to be able to paint the copper wire easily with a brush soaked with aluminium color. All the arrays were painted this same color.



Finishing Touches


The two piece cockpit was secured with white glue. While I was waiting for the vacform Falcon canopy to arrive via mail, I took the opportunity to improve this part of the kit. The windshield is shorter than needed, and does not get to the doors. 

Both doors were glued. The door was left open to be able to see the rich details of the leftside of the cockpit easily. The left hand door was glued closed.

And to finish it all, I left the propeller, which was glued with cyano gel to give me time to align it properly.





Lindberg has produced a kit that, with some work and aftermarket products, can be turned into a very attractive representation of the Gladiator. I was sad that this project had ended, as I had enjoyed so very much the almost three months I spent building the plane of the true ace of aces, Pat Pattle.





To Rick Kent, Alex Crawford, Richard Caruana and Brian Nicklas (at the Smithsonian) for their disinterested help. To Juan Carlos Ostolaza who took the pictures.





1.      Pat Pattle, Ace of Aces - ECR Baker

2.      Gloster Gladiator home page - Alex Crawford

3.      Military History Journal Vol 1, No3 - The South African Military History Society - Douglas Tidy

4.      Aces high volume 2 - Christopher Shores

5.      Commonwealth biplane fighter aces - Intenet (www.dalnet.se)

6.      IPMS Stockholm web site (for Rick Kent's profiles and detailed pictures of a Finnish Glad)

7.      www.1000pictures.com (yet another aces list)

8.      Going solo - Roald Dahl

9.      Pictorial History of the Mediterranean Air War Volume One, RAF 1940-1943 - Christopher Shores

10.  Met.open.ac.uk/group/jwl/glad.htm (detailed picture of the engine)

11.  Hurricane aces 1939-40 - Chris Holmes

12.  Bristol Blenheim - Theo Boiten

13.  Me 110 Aces of WWII - John Weal

14.  Spitfire - J.A. Guerrero


Model and Text Copyright © 2000 by Pablo Calcaterra
Images Copyright © 2000 by Myriam Gurbanov & Fabián Gentiletti
Page Created 23 January, 2001
Last Updated 26 July, 2007

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