Kit: Aeroclub 1/48 scale Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II, short run injection moulded plastic kit for the skilled modeller.
Price: £24.99 purchased at the IPMS Nationals UK. The kit is now out of production, however limited stocks exist.
Decals: One option, K5315, No.46 Squadron RAF, September 1936 – March 1939.
Notes: I chose Gloster Gauntlet GT-408 of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), Tampere Toukokuu 1940. Decals used: Techmod 1/48 Finnish Air Force Swastikas and Serials 1934 – 44. 0.2mm copper wire was used for the rigging.
First flown in January 1929, the Gloster Gauntlet Mk.I was a development of the S.S. 19B design which originally mounted six machine guns, two in the fuselage and four in the wings. Initially powered by the Bristol Mercury VIS engine, the Air Ministry placed an order for 24 aircraft in 1933 following successful testing of the type.
The Mk.II followed using more modern construction techniques used by Hawker, following Hawker’s takeover of Gloster. A total of 204 Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II’s were produced in the United Kingdom. Changes included the installation of the more powerful 1 × Bristol Mercury VI S2 9-cylinder radial engine, 645 hp (481 kW), Two x 0.303 in Vickers machine guns, and the Hawker steel tube and fabric construction in place of Gloster’s welded steel tube design.
Gloster Gauntlet II in Finnish Service
After the outbreak of the Winter War, the Union of South Africa sympathized with Finland by donating 29 examples of this obsolete fighter. 24 of these aircraft were brought to an airworthy condition. The “Gotlets” were received in February 1940 during the Winter War and saw intensive training use throughout the Continuation War. Ten aircraft were written off, and practically every airframe was involved in a mishap of some degree. Due to the large number and usefulness of the aircraft, the Gauntlet turned out to be an important advanced trainer. New Finnish pilots were trained to an extremely high standard first on the V.L. Pyry and then on the Gauntlet. The Air Force operated 24 aircraft in 1940–45.The Gauntlet had a wing span of 9.99 m, length 8.00 m, operating weight 1,800 kg, and maximum speed 370 km/h.
No. 35 Supplement Squadron
(Finnish: Täydennyslentolaivue 35 or T-LLv.35, or later T-Le.Lv.35) was the advanced flying training squadron operating the Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II of the Finnish Air Force during World War II. The unit was first subordinated to Flying Regiment 3. No. 35 Squadron was initially stationed in Vaasa and later in Parola.
Gloster Gauntlet II GT-400
Restored from virtual scrap in the period 1976 to 1981, Gauntlet II GT-400 flew for the first time since the war during the summer of 1984. Built for the RAF in mid-1936 as K5271 it was used for trials at Boscombe Down and by Gloster until being transferred to Finland on December 22, 1939, along with K5270. The colour scheme is as authentic to the 1941 Continuation War period. The test series civil registration OH-XGT is carried for legal purposes in yellow on the rudder. A Mercury VI radial eluded the restoration team and in its place an Alvis Leonides 127 was installed which involved some changes in length and shape to the cowling. The aircraft is kept at Lentomuseo Kymi, previously at Hallinportti Ilmailumuseo, Halli.
The kit comes in an attractive flip-top opening box. First impressions are of a well packaged product with white metal, resin and injection moulded parts contained within re-sealable plastic bags.
An initial inspection of the fuselage halves and the wings reveal a beautifully detailed, well-proportioned aircraft. There was no flash present and the injection moulded parts come in a pleasant cream soft plastic.
The white metal parts are also very well moulded with some fine detail. Likewise, the resin cowling is well produced. The vacuformed canopy is crisp and clear. The kit contains; 1 sprue of two fuselage halves, a one piece upper wing, a one piece lower wing, tail fin, horizontal tail surfaces, Pilot’s seat, cockpit floor, rear bulkhead, front bulkhead with instrument panel, wheels with a choice of early and late wheel hubs and a cooler radiator in injection moulded plastic.
1 bag contains the the resin cowling, 1 bag the vacuformed canopy and various bags containing the white metal parts which include: 1 Propeller, 3 piece undercarriage, 10 main wing struts (2 spare), 4 cabane or centre section struts, rudder pedals, control column, gun breeches, trim wheel, throttle unit, engine, gearbox, inlet pipes, tailwheel, gunsight and footstep. 2 x 16mm plastic rods are included for the structural tubes either side of the pilot’s seat and presumably the gun-barrels.
The instructions consist of two-sides of A4 Paper. One side consists of a well detailed step-by-step guide to the construction process and the other provides 8 pictures in full colour detailing each stage of the build. An additional piece of A4 contains the aircraft markings, strut and rigging location diagram.
I started the construction by washing the parts in a warm-soapy solution to remove any mould release. Minor amounts of flash were removed from some of the white metal parts and the entire kit was primed using grey auto-primer from a rattlecan.
The fuselage halves were carefully removed from the sprue-frame, and rubbed-down on a sheet of wet 600 grit wet and dry paper, test-fitting the halves periodically until I was happy with the fit.
It is advisable to use Cyano glue for the white metal parts and the resin cowling. Standard liquid cement can be used with the injection moulded parts.
I airbrushed all of the interior parts with Humbrol H78, a good approximation for RAF Interior green. Once dry, the rear seat support bulkhead was fitted followed by the forward bulkhead which includes the control panel, this I painted with citadel colours scorched brown and picked out the instruments with Humbrol matt white using a cocktail stick.
Next, the rudder pedals were assembled and mounted onto the floorboards, along with the pre-painted control column. The structural tubes were constructed using the 16mm plastic rod, once this had been allowed to dry; the seat was fitter, followed by the throttle unit and trim wheel. It is recommended in the instructions that you drill holes for the cabane struts and undercarriage at this stage. I elected to drill the undercarriage only as the cabane struts, not supporting the structure would fit adequately using Cyano glue. Before the fuselage halves were joined, the holes for the main struts were drilled to a depth of 1mm to ensure a snug fit.
The fuselage halves were glued together using liquid cement and taped together. The assembly was then left overnight to dry. The lower-wing was fitted next. This required some minor removal of plastic with a scalpel blade to fit; once a ‘clean’ fit had been achieved it was glued into position. The fin and tailplane were then glued into place and the Gauntlet was put to one side for several hours to dry.
Once dry, any apparent gaps in the kit were filled using green putty. The area immediately behind the cockpit and fuselage spine, the fuselage join forward of the cockpit along the nose, the underside fuselage join and front and rear sections of the lower-wing join received small amounts of putty. After several hours the putty was sanded flush using a combination of a coarse sanding stick and 600 grit wet and dry paper.
Camouflage and Markings:
The Gauntlet would be finished as GT-408 of the Suomen Ilmavoimat (Finnish Air Force), Tampere Toukokuu 1940. With the sanding complete, it was now ready for a second coat of primer before being prepared for airbrushing. I elected to use Humbrol 34 white under the right-hand side of the aircraft as you look at it from the underside. The upper-wing was similarly sprayed.
Once dry, the left side of the lower-fuselage and upper-wing were masked off before Humbrol 33 matt black was applied. This identification scheme was used by the RAF in late 1939, in order for ground forces to identify ‘friendly’ aircraft. Once again, the aircraft was left to dry overnight before the upper-surface colours could be applied.
After masking all of the necessary areas of the Gauntlet, Humbrol 29 RAF Dark Earth was airbrushed onto the upper and lower wings and upper fuselage. This was allowed to dry before the aircraft was masked again using thin ‘sausages’ of Blu-Tac to differentiate the camouflage demarcation lines. The areas that needed to remain Dark Earth were masked and the remaining spaces were sprayed with Humbrol 30, RAF Dark Green. The cowling was similarly sprayed with RAF Dark Green and given a bronze/brass mix which was hand-painted onto the outer cowl. Finally, the canopy was cut out, masked using Tamiya tape and painted RAF Dark Green.
The final construction was not as straight-forward as my usual monoplane fighters. The engine and cylinders were fitted inside the cowling which was attached to the forward fuselage. I constructed a jig using a pencil and ruler out of cardboard and fitted the upper-wing. The main struts were then individually ‘sprung’ into place using cyano glue as were the cabane struts.
The undercarriage “vees” and cross axle were then fitted and the wheels glued and left to dry. The 0.2mm wires took approximately a day using the rigging diagram supplied by Aeroclub. The 0.2mm wires were primed with grey primer, sprayed with dark aluminium and each piece was measured and fitted using thick, slow-drying Cyano glue.
Finally the aerial wires were added before decaling began. Thankfully this was a straight-forward process thanks to Techmod’s excellent decals. I gave the aircraft a wash using burnt umber and ivory black oils before finally giving the entire aircraft a coat of Johnson’s Klear floor wax.
Although this kit is not for beginners and I had my moments of frustration, I was happy with the end result. It isn’t often that you come across an unusual but important subject for your collection. I would recommend this kit to all modellers interested in 1930’s biplanes and heartily encourage anyone willing to have a go to build one of these beautiful aircraft. Thanks to John Adams of Aeroclub for giving me his time and invaluable advice at the IPMS Nationals in Telford this year.