Gloster Gladiator Mk I (J8)

The Winter War

World War II started on September 1, 1939 when Germany attacked Poland.  Yet there were other wars, even involving combatants in the world war, that seem to fall through the cracks in most histories.  One such, was when the Soviet Union invaded Finland on November 30, 1939.

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Join me for a brief look at a lesser known conflict, its impact on the world at war, and one weapon of that war.

At the start of World War II, Germany and the Soviet Union had a non-aggression treaty with each other.  This may have been a major factor in leading Joseph Stalin to conclude that the rest of Europe being at war with each other, was a good time for him to expand territory into Finland.  The Finns resisted.  The resulting “Winter War” lasted from November of 1939 until March of 1940.  Although Finland is tiny, its military was well led and trained to a high standard.  They plainly exposed Soviet weakness in nearly every phase of fighting.  Ultimately Finland couldn’t win, and the peace treaty signed in March left them pretty badly weakened.

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This did impact the on going world war in several ways.  The first thing accomplished was it led to some serious rebuilding and re-equiping of the Red Army that had been weakened by Stalin’s purges over the proceeding years.  The most obvious impact may have been that the Soviets looked so bad, it emboldened Hitler into attacking the Soviet Union the summer of 1941.  Next, it drove the Finns into the German camp when that next war started, as they were eager to reclaim what they lost.  Finland would prove to be one of Germany’s more competent allies, although they were always hesitant to attack Russia outside of the territories lost in the Winter War.

I made a mistake here!  I applied a dirty white as the disruptive winter color.  But on further review...   I think it was aluminum dope, so I should have used a dull silver color.

I made a mistake here! I applied a dirty white as the disruptive winter color. But on further review… I think it was aluminum dope, so I should have used a dull silver color.

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But an odd impact of the Winter War was that it led to the Finns getting military aid from Britain, France, Sweden and the US.  This would come to an abrupt end once they threw in with Nazi Germany; but they wound up with an interesting assortment of weapons from both sides in the greater war.  Even more interesting, neutral Sweden actively engaged in defensive operations on behalf of Finland.  The Gladiator Mk I (J8 in Swedish service) seen here is in Finnish markings, but it belongs to a Swedish volunteer group that defended the northern approaches of Finland.  The unit had 12 Gladiators that scored eight kills for two losses.

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Which leads to the aircraft itself.  The Gloster Gladiator entered service with the Royal Air Force in 1937 as their first fighter with an enclosed cockpit, and their last bi-plane. The Hawker Hurricane was already entering production at this time, and the Supermarine Spitfire was in testing; so the Gladiator was obsolete even as it entered service.  This led to it being posted to numerous distant stations, and sold off to minor friendly and neutral nations all around the globe.  It would acquit itself well with many users, on many fronts, even if it was never anyone’s first choice of weapon.

The I-16 looks better on paper.  But Gladiators fared well against the little Russian.

The I-16 looks better on paper. But Gladiators fared well against the little Russian.

This example is from the Lindberg kit with Aeromaster decals and an Aero Club propeller to backdate the kit to a Mk I.  This is really an old kit!  It has practically no interior detail, and even much of the exterior is soft and poorly defined.  But it fit quite well for a kit of its age.  Future Gladiators I build will be from the newer Roden kit; which looks much better in the box (much crisper detail).  It will be fun to see how that builds up…

Up Next: Brewster F2A-2 Buffalo   

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About atcDave

I'm 53 years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I've been an air traffic controller for 30 years; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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11 Responses to Gloster Gladiator Mk I (J8)

  1. Did you have any fit issues with the Lindberg? I’m having a hell of time with the quality of the one I’m working on right now.

    • atcDave says:

      Mine fit pretty well, better than a lot of Monogram kits I’ve built from that era! But one of the things with such an old kit is that newer issues may show a lot more wear in the molds. The kit I built was from a ’70s boxing.
      I’m really looking forward to trying the Roden Kit, it looks better in almost every way.

      By the way, thanks from dropping by! It’s always great to hear from a new reader.

  2. Theresa says:

    Another curiosity of the War a biplane.

  3. Sartenada says:

    InJyväskylä, Finland we have Brewster BW 372. Have You seen it? It is in that condition when it was shot down! Shocking, I can say.

    • atcDave says:

      I’ve seen the pictures! That is a pretty amazing recovery.

      Funny the way these things work out, since I decided to do a Buffalo next, I had just been doing some reading up on the subject last night. Eventually I have to do a Buffalo (or two) in Finnish markings. You’re the only ones who figured out how to use that plane effectively!

      Thanks for commenting Sartenda, it was good to hear from another reader.

  4. Sartenada says:

    Here is another Finnish page to be translated. Photo is gorgeous.

    http://www.moottori.fi/matkailu/jutut/ilmailumuseo/

    • atcDave says:

      The Buffalo is in amazing shape, even the glass is mostly intact. I’ve seen a few wrecks pulled out of the Great Lakes, and they’re never in that good a condition.
      That looks like a really nice museum too. I haven’t seen too many Blenheims before, that’s another rarity.

  5. Ernie Davis says:

    Have any plans to do a Swordfish? It was operational for far too long, but it also has an interesting history.

    • atcDave says:

      Yeah, I’ve got one done, and a couple more in the box. Definitely a long and interesting story for the Swordfish!

      On my aircraft index pages you can always see what I’ve got. Every type listed I have at least one of. If there’s a specific entry under the type it represents a complete model, and obviously links mean I’ve already posted it.

  6. Pingback: Brewster Buffalo, Part II | Plane Dave

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