by: Rowan Baylis [ ]
Originally published on:
Airframe Album 12 - The Gloster GladiatorAuthor Richard Franks has produced another excellent addition to the highly regarded Airframe Album seies with a detailed and well-balanced study of the Gloster Gladiator. The 130 pages softbound book also combines the talents of artists Richard Caruana, Chris Sandham-Bailey and Seweryn Fleischer, with a great model build by Steve Evans, plus that all-important element these days - a comprehensive walkaround.
Things kick off with the Introduction which, as usual in this series, goes way beyond what you’d expect from its name. In fact it’s a very nicely detailed 43-page look at the development of the Gladiator and Sea Gladiator (including plenty of useful information on their predecessor, the Gauntlet), followed by an operational history with British units and a look at the type’s service with foreign air arms.
There then follows a personal highlight for me - a 33-page Walkaround. These highly detailed and well organised walkarounds are undoubtedly one of the principal attractions of the Airframe Album series and this section will probably be the reason many modellers buy this book. It certainly doesn’t disappoint, containing masses of material I’ve never found elsewhere. As usual, Valiant Wings have combined modern colour photos with vintage shots and illustrations from original manuals. The result is the Gladiator shown in the kind of detail I’ve not seen before. Some of the modern shots were beautifully timed to catch The Fighter Collection’s Sea Gladiator while it was under restoration, presenting an almost unique opportunity to explore areas that are normally hidden.
The section breaks down into the following broad sections:
Engine & Propeller
Wings & Controls
Fuel, Oil, Air & Electrics
Most of the above are then sub-divided. So, for instance, the Fuselage section includes:
Cockpit, Canopy and Mid-Fuselage
There’s an index at the start which ties into clear headings at the top outer corner of each page, so you can quickly find the relevant sub-section.
In the Evolutionsection, Chris Sandham-Bailey provides handy isometric views of each Gladiator variant. As you’d probably expect, there aren’t any radical surprises here, but the section is especially useful in how it treats every foreign air force version individually, with the detailed changed specific to it pointed out. It makes for an easy quick reference to get things right on a given build.
Camouflage & Markings does “just what is says on the tin” and gives a very useful overview of Gladiator colours throughout the type’s varied service. The Gladiator makes a great modelling subject, because it lies just on transition point as the RAF hurriedly applied camouflage in the build-up to WW2. So, you have the last of the pre- Munich Crisis aircraft sporting spectacular squadron colours, followed by the hasty “lash-up” camouflage (according to the late Gordon Olive, DFC in his excellent memoir "Spitfire Ace - My Life As a Battle of Britain Fighter Pilot", pilots had to muck in and help paint their own aircraft - such was the urgency) and then the development of official schemes for service at home and abroad.
Add to this the Gladiator’s widespread service with foreign air forces (you’ve even got the Luftwaffe and VVS if you include captured machines), and you certainly shouldn’t be short of inspiration for builds.
The various schemes are illustrated with plentiful high quality colour artwork by Richard Caruana and backed up by useful period photos with informative captions.
Perhaps the only slight disappointment this time is the Model section. This isn’t intended as a criticism of the content, but simply because it features just one build instead of the usual multiple kits in a range of scales. True, the subject is Silver Wings’ gorgeous 1:32 resin kit, and Steve Evans (whose work I always admire) does a beautiful job on it - but I can’t help but wonder whether it wouldn’t have been far more useful to most readers to have covered some of the readily available (and more affordable) 1:72 and 1:48 injection moulded kits, with the Silver Wings model saved as the icing on the proverbial cake.
Still, it is an excellent build, and well-illustrated with high quality colour shots to inspire you, whichever Gladiator kit you build.
Rounding everything off is a useful set of Appendices that list the many Gladiator kits that have been released over the year, the wide range of accessories and decals produced to go with them and, finally, provide a comprehensive bibliography for further reading on the iconic aircraft.
ConclusionValiant Wings' new study could well prove to be the definitive “go-to” modeller’s reference for the Gladiator, combining a comprehensive walkaround with detailed notes on each variant and the camouflage and markings to provide everything you need within its covers. Recommended.
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