Airfix 1/72 Gauntlet II conversion

KIT #: ?
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Carmel J. Attard
NOTES: Conversion using Aeroclub parts and decals.


When Hawker Aircraft took over Gloster’s Works in 1934 studies were to integrate production techniques and was then decided that Gloster should adopt Hawker systems of construction. Air ministry placed a second production order for 104 Gauntlets in April 1935 with a further contract for 100 in September.

  Designated Gauntlet IIs these follow-on aircraft employed the Hawker structure in the rear fuselage consisting of two warren trusses built up with lengths of steel and aluminium tube swaged to square section and bolted together with fish plates. Also included in Gauntlet IIs were Hawker’s wing spars. These employed pairs of steel strips rolled to form flanged octagonal tubes and connected together  with a steel strip web.

 May 1936 saw the first Gauntlet IIs deliveries. 24 aircraft were delivered to Northolt,UK, for equal distribution between No56 and 111 Fighter Squadrons replacing the Bristol Bulldogs. Engine failures and fires gave rise to a number of accidents, faults being traced to breakdown of valve gear lubrication that was to re-occur several times both on the Gauntlet and the Gladiator during the period 1936-40.


In July the next Gauntlet squadron was formed, this was No 66 Fighter squadron forming at Duxford with a nucleus provided by No 19 Squadron commanded by Sq.Ldr.Victor Croome. Working up on this unit continued smoothly throughout the remainder of 1936. The following year a number of mishaps hit the squadron, five of the aircraft being destroyed in mid-air collisions.


No 151 Squadron was another unit reformed on August 4th 1936. The squadron flew an assortment of replacement Gauntlets and seldom possessed a strength of more than half a dozen aircraft, and did not receive its full quota until March 1938.


Several other squadrons received the Gauntlet and the last to receive them during 1937 was No74 ‘Tiger’ squadron. These Gauntlets were conspicuous in co traversing current Air Staff instructions by extending their famous black and yellow “tiger’s teeth” markings to the tailplane leading edge thereby excluding or re-positioning the serial number normally placed at the rear of fuselage sides.


The Hornchurch based 74 squadron received its Gauntlets after having discarded Gladiators in June 1937, an anomaly that had never been explained authoritatively. Among its pilots who won the Air Firing Challenge Trophy in Gauntlets in 1938 was Flying Officer A.G. (Sailor) Malan.


In 1937 no less than 14 first-line RAF squadrons were equipped with Gauntlets but by the end of that year Gladiators began to replace the older aircraft, while monoplane fighters-Hurricanes- started to arrive at Northolt before Christmas 1937. By May 1938 all Gauntlet 1s were gone from front line squadrons in UK, and three-bladed metal Fairey propellers were introduced on most Mk IIs. So unprepared for war Britain was at the time of Munich crisis was shown by the fact that not one Gauntlet and Gladiator squadron was available in combat readiness. All Gauntlet squadrons being on leave. Within 4 days all had been recalled, most of the aircraft being hurriedly and inconsistently daub with various camouflage schemes. Some aircraft were painted dark brown and green while others black overall in the role as night-fighters.


Odd among my long time ago bought models were that of the old Airfix Gladiator kit. There have since been better kits of the type from Frog, Heller, and more recently Airfix new tooling.  Even so why throw it away I asked myself. So it was decided to make best use of the kit by modifying it into a Gauntlet with parts borrowed from Aeroclub of Nottingham, including decals for it.



    From Aeroclub I got one 640HP Bristol Mercury VIS2 nine-cylinder air-cooled radial engine driving a 2-blade wooden Watts propeller and also an engine cowling both in white metal.  This I have picked from the long list of metal accessories this cottage industry had on offer.

With a good set of scale plans I scratch built a new undercarriage strut and exhaust pipe work. These were shaped from Contrail struts and stretch sprue. Main planes were extended in accordance to plans.  Fin and rudder and tail planes needed slight reshaping.  The cockpit area was altered from that of a closed type to an open cockpit and reshaping and building around the cockpit to form the new Gauntlet style of an open type. A windshield was shaped and cut from clear acetate and fixed in place. The Gauntlet also called for additional struts to each side owing to a bigger wingspan. The assembly followed the standard sequence of assembling first the lower wings, adding the struts and slowly positioning the upper wing span on top. Careful alignment of the wings looking from front and side and these were all glued together and allowed to set overnight. Some filler was needed at the extended wing pieces and also the wing roots to fuselage. Final detail as cockpit climb step, wing tip lights and cockpit interior was left for final stage. By now the kit was strong enough to stand handling for applying string rigging in same way I did on previous biplanes.



Apart from the bronze nose ring on cowling front and the yellow wheel hubs, the rest was overall silver dope. Decals came from Aeroclub decal sheet issued for their Gauntlet, which had a choice of a 74 Tiger squadron or a 19Sq livery. My choice fell on the decorative Tiger scheme.


I must admit I enjoyed making this little kit modification if only for nostalgia of the early RAF fighter aircraft from which the famous Gloster Gladiator has evolved. It is not to be attempted by the raw beginner but should not deter anyone who has made several kits and loves rigging too. As for flying the Gauntlet just keep I mind that visibility in the air was very good but taxiing on the ground it was necessary to weave on the ground to see ahead.

Carmel J. Attard

October 2013

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