Saturday, March 22, 2014

Gloster Gladiator Mk. II

Gloster Gladiator Mk. II

The Finnish Winter War and Continuation War


During the Winter War, the Finnish Air Force (FAF) obtained 30 Mk II fighters from the UK. Ten of the aircraft were donated while the other 20 were bought by the FAF; all were delivered between 18 January and 16 February 1940, the first entering service on 2 February 1940. The Finnish Gladiators served until 1945, but they were outclassed by the more modern Soviet fighters during the Continuation War. The aircraft was mostly used for reconnaissance from 1941 onwards. The Finnish Air Force obtained 45 aerial victories by 22 pilots with the aircraft type during the Winter War and one victory during the Continuation War. Twelve Gladiators were lost in combat during the Winter War and three during the Continuation War.Two pilots became aces with this aircraft: Oiva Tuominen (6.5 victories with Gladiators) and Paavo Berg (five victories).
Besides the FAF Gladiators, the Swedish Voluntary Air Force, responsible for the air defence of northernmost Finland during the later part of the Winter War, was also equipped with Gladiator fighters, designated as J8s (Mk Is) and J8As (Mk IIs) by the Swedes. The Flying Regiment F 19 arrived in Finnish Lapland on 10 January 1940, and remained there until the end of the hostilities. It fielded 12 Gladiator Mk II fighters, two of which were lost during the fighting, and five Hawker Hart dive bombers, plus a Raab-Katzenstein RK-26 liaison aircraft and a Junkers F.13 transport aircraft. The aircraft belonged to and were crewed by the Swedish Air Force, but flew with Finnish nationality markings. The Swedish Gladiators scored eight aerial victories and destroyed a further four aircraft on the ground. One concern was expressed when F 19's executive officer Captain Björn Bjuggren wrote in his memoirs that the tracer rounds of the Gladiator's machine guns would not ignite the gasoline when penetrating the fuel tanks of Soviet bombers.