|KIT:||Frog/Remus 1/72 Gloster Gladiator|
|PRICE:||Around $1.60 in a shop in Malta|
|DECALS:||Two options (Norway & RAF)|
|REVIEWER:||Carmel J. Attard|
|NOTES:||Both are Frog molds|
In the Mediterranean area during the early days of the war the only fighter protection for the British Navy on board the carrier HMS Eagle, was the Sea Gladiator. This carrier borne fighter biplane was used to good effect downing large numbers of Italian aircraft as the DM 79s. Sea Gladiators were hastily modified from standard Sea Gladiators Mk IIs, pending delivery of full spec. Sea Gladiators. The naval modification consisted of externally mounted arrestor hook, inclusion of a Naval RT radio and recalibration of the airspeed indicator from miles per hour to knots, the addition of Dinghy pack between the undercarriage legs and mounting catapult points. The Sea Gladiator was to fill a gap as an interim replacement between the Hawker Nimrod biplane and the new more advanced Blackburn Skua and Fairey Fulmar. The Gladiator was then still in production and the best solution was to proceed with the required modifications to produce the Sea Gladiator. The admiralty also wanted that the new MkII standard have the wooden 2-bladed Watts propeller instead of the metal 3-bladed Fairey Reed as a shorter distance achieved with the former was preferred over greater flight performance provided by the latter. Eventually minor changes to the pitch of the 3-bladed type gave improved performance as well and the Fairey Reed unit was chosen as standard. Several modified Sea Gladiators were stored in a number of large packing cases at Kalafrana just before the war started.
Sea Gladiator N5517 was one of four Sea Gladiators that were withdrawn from storage in Malta, assembled and taken aboard the carrier HMS Eagle on the 16th of June 1940. The Fighter Flight was commanded by CDR Charles Keighley Peach. One afternoon on the 11th of July 1940 Keighley Peach was on patrol over the fleet in N5517 in company with Lt.Kenneth Keith in N5513 when spotted five SM79 heading towards the fleet. K.P as the men called him dived vertically over the Sparviero formation and aimed at the leading bomber. After three passes the Italian leading aircraft caught fire and dropped back and dived in a spin to impact the sea with no sign of survivors. Another successful Sea Gladiator encounter was that involving N5567 6-C of 813 NAS Fighter Flight, flown by Lt AN Young, also from HMS Eagle. On the 17 th of August 1940, Lt Young shot down an SM.79 near Bardia. Same aircraft was also used By Lt.RH Oliphant to probably destroy another SM79 on the 13 of October same year.
The 1/72-scale models of the Gladiator by Frog and later by Remus that were released over 20 years ago are both injection moulded and basically comes from the same moulds. The Frog box art depicts two loitering Gladiators in an otherwise empty sky while the Rimus box depicts a Gladiator in action, about to jump a Dornier Do-115 German sea plane flying at a lower altitude.
The Frog kit comes in grey injection moulded plastic while the Rimus kit has the same parts but is moulded in dark blue plastic. The Frog instructions are in numbered steps while the Rimus differ in that stages are in letters form of sequence. The main wheel legs are a solid piece while in the Rimus kit each of the wheel struts has a hole bored at the end to take the wheel with a separate tiny clip on shaft, possibly to produce rotating wheels. In the Frog kit the tail wheel comes as a separate item while in the Rimus kit the tail wheel comes integrally cast to the port fuselage half.
The following needs to apply to both kits. There is requirement to add a cockpit floor or base made from plastic card measuring 24x11mm, and an instrument panel complete with detail gauges needs to be added. Also the guide piece insert at the tailplane needs to be shortened as it is too long and if left as is will foul with the opposing insert of the tailplane on the other side of the fuselage slots. Pilot seat is discarded as it is of the wrong shape and was rebuilt to conform to the Pavla kit seat. Add control column and rudder pedals. Both wing struts are grouped in pairs held by a print that fits in a recess on the wings and fuselage side. When these struts are fitted in place the oversize print is filed flush with the wing and fuselage.
As both these kits were turned into Sea Gladiators these had the rear of cockpit armour plate bulkhead added and arrestor hook also added. One of the sea Gladiators N5567 had a two bladed spinner fitted with a blunt spinner at the front which was filed flat. This was acquired from the surplus one found with the Pavla kit. In addition a Dinghy pack was added to the underside. This was in the shape of a semi oval shaped belly tank.
Making these kits of the Gladiator and turning them into a navalised version was time consuming but fun at the same time as these come out to represent yet two more Sea Gladiators that fought so bravely in the Mediterranean and Maltese skies during the last war. These were completed to represent N55177 and N5567, both of which scored victories as mentioned earlier. Decals for N5517 came from the spares box while those for N5567 were the spare ones that came with the Pavla Sea Gladiator kit.
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