Norwegian Gloster Gladiators
The Norwegian Government ordered six Gladiator MkIs in late 1937 at a cost of £6,850 each. They were delivered to the Haerens Flyvapen, Norwegian Air Force, at Kjeller outside Oslo on the 15 July 1938. The aircraft flew to Norway via Heston, Schipol, Hamburg and Kastrup.
At about this time Sweden was negotiating with Britain to build the Gladiator under licence. Norway tried to buy a further twenty-five Gladiators from Sweden but this venture failed. In the end six more Gladiators were purchased from Britain, these were MkIIs, serial numbers N5919-N5924 and went by ship to Norway in late 1939. Oddly enough these aeroplanes had two bladed wooden MkI propellers fitted. These received the serial numbers 425, 427, 429, 431, 433 and 435. In December 1939 the Gladiators were transferred to Fornebu airport outside Oslo and at the same time were referred to as Jagevingen, The Fighter Flight.
To combat winter conditions the Gladiators were equipped with skis. The fitting of the skis lead to two accidents, the first was on 3 January 1940 when Gladiator 431, piloted by Lt. O.Bull, lost its skis in a dive, the resulting landing caused the Gladiator to somersault and extensive damage was inflicted on the machine. The second incident happened on the 15 March 1940. Lt. R.Tradin was doing aerobatics in 417 when the skis came loose after he pulled out from a dive. One of the skis hit the aft spar of the underwing causing the wings to collapse. Tradin was thrown clear out of the cockpit and was able to parachute to safety.
When the Germans launched their invasion of Norway on 9th April, 1940, there were nine Gladiators available for the defence of Norway. Seven of the Gladiators were serviceable for operations, these being three MkIs 413, 419 and 421 and four MkIIs 425, 427, 429 and 433.
9/4/40
At 0500hrs on the morning of the 9th 2/Lt Finn Thorsager, 433, and Lt Arve Braathen, 425, were sent off to intercept an unidentified aircraft. Thorsager spotted an aircraft with twin fins, which he thought was Dornier Do 17 but was almost certainly a Bf 110. He attacked this about four or five times before it managed to escape into the clouds. Lt. Braathen also spotted a large aircraft but was unable to catch up with it. Both pilots returned to Fornebu. About one hour later Lt. Dag Krohn,421, and Sgts Kristian Fredrick, 427, and Per Waaler, 429, were sent up to investigate further aircraft reports but failed to find anything and returned to base after fifty minutes in the air. Just after 0700hrs five Gladiators took off as Luftwaffe aircraft began approaching in force. Lt. Rolf Tradin, 429, led the followed by Lt. Krohn, 421, 2/Lt Thorsager, 433 and Sgts Waaler, 425, and Schye,427. Passing over the fjord that led up to Oslo they were ordered by their commander, Capt. Dahl, to patrol over Nesodden. As they were flying over Steilene at 6,000ft Tradin spotted a large formation of bombers and transports some 2,000ft below them.
The aircraft he had spotted were the leading elements of II/KGzBV I, followed by those of KGRzB V 103. At this time two more Gladiators had taken off, these being flown by Lt. Braathen, 413, and Sgt Oskar Lutken, 419.
Tradin led his flight into the attack, coming in behind a JU52/3m from 5 Staffle, KGzBV I he opened fire. Hits were seen on the starboard wing and engine, pouring smoke the transport rolled onto its back and spun down to crash at Torgskar near Hovik. Fw Albert Meier, his crew and twelve members of 2/Fallschirmjager 1 being killed in the crash. This aircraft may also have been attacked by 2/Lt Thorsager. Tradin attacked a second transport but this escaped into cloud. During these attacks his guns jammed one by one and he had no option but to return to Fornebu. As he came in to land he could see two Gladiator sitting on the airfield. Over the radio Capt Dahl informed him that a raid was in progress so he departed to find an alternative landing site.
Sgt Waaler had attacked an aircraft, which he identified as a He 111 and lost sight of it as it started to go down in a spin. Capt Dahl reported that this bomber crashed near the airfield. Having run out of ammo Waaler headed for home, as he came into land his engine cut out but he was able to land all right. Sgt Lutkens Gladiator was also on the ground having suffered engine trouble on take off. Rearming of Waalers aircraft began at once. At this point Bf 110s of I/ZG76 came roaring over the treetops and proceeded to shoot up the airfield. Leaping from his cockpit Waaler took cover in a slit trench. After the raiders had departed Waaler looked out of the trench and saw both his Gladiator and that of Lutkens were on fire. Oblt Hansen was credited with the destruction of both Gladiators.
Sgt Schye attacked what he thought to be a bomber but was forced to break of combat due to ice forming on his windscreen. He then saw what he thought was a Do17 but was actual a Bf 110 belonging to Uffz Mutscherle of ZG76. Giving chase he was able to knock out both engines causing the big twin engined fighter to crash-land at Voyen. He was then attacked by, what he claimed, three 111s but were probably Bf 110s. Schye avoided two of them but the third latched onto his tail and he was hit in the left arm. Having finally evaded the Bf110 Schye attempted to land his damaged aircraft on Lake Dielivannet east of Kolsas, but could not get his flaps down and overshot, hitting a high voltage cable. Schye was extracted from the wreckage and taken by car to hospital. Lt. Helmut Wick of ZG76 was the probable victor as he was credited with a Gladiator on this date.
2/Lt Thorsager had followed Lt Tradin down in the first pass and had become separated from the rest of the flight. Having fired at many aircraft and run out of ammo as well as running low on fuel he managed to lank on a lake at Lyseren, 12 miles north east of Oslo. Taxiing his Gladiator on to firm ground he was taken by car to Oslo. The Gladiator was left where it stood subsequently falling to German hands.
Lt Krohn had slightly better luck than the rest of the flight. He was able to get in behind a He 111 and shoot it down near Fornebu. After that he intercepted a Do 17 over Nesodden and shot this one down as well. After running out of ammo Krohn proceeded back to Fornebu to rearm and refuel. As he reached the airfield he met up with Lt. Tradin who had just been warned about the attack by Bf 110s on the airfield. Both pilots headed away from Fornebu and eventually landed at Asaa on the frozen Steins Fjord. After refuelling the two pilots headed off towards Lake Mjosa which was frozen over. As Tradin came in to land the wheels of his Gladiator broke through the surface of the ice and the aircraft had to be abandoned. Krohn flew on up to Brumundall where he landed safely.
Lt. Braathen, despite a faulty engine, attacked a bomber and forced it to jettison its bomb load into the sea. He attacked other aircraft but without any visible effect. After hearing about the raid on Fornebu he decided to divert to Lake Bogstad. Like Lake Mjosa the ice provided to be to thin to hold the weight of the Gladiator and it broke through the ice as well.
Later in April the remnants of the Norwegian Army Air Force formed a single flight at Vangsmojsa in the north. It consisted of Tiger Moths, Fokker C.Vs and Lt Krohns Gladiator, 421.
21/4/40
Sergeant Waaler took off in the last serviceable Gladiator, 421, to undertake a recce off the airfield at Gardermoen. It was whilst over Gardermoen that the Gladiators Mercury engine failed. Waaler managed to restart it but not before the Gladiator had brushed through the tops of some trees. Upon landing back at Vangsmjosa it was found that a branch had jammed between the propeller and engine and that one wing tip was missing. The aircraft was subsequently declared unserviceable.
Thus ended the short career of the Gladiator in Norwegian service. During that hectic first day of operations the Gladiators had acquitted themselves quite well considering that they were opposed by a more modern equipped enemy. Of the nine aircraft that were available on the 8th of April, only seven were ready on time to meet the threat on the 9th. Six of the biplanes were lost on that day but no pilots were lost. On the debit side the Norwegian pilots claimed five enemy aircraft destroyed and several more damaged.
Although there would be no more Norwegian Gladiators to fly over the skies of Norway the Gladiator would be back. Four days later on the 25th April 263 Squadron would land on the frozen surface of Lake Lesjaskog with eighteen Gladiators to support the Allied forces in Norway.
Norwegian Air Force Claims
PILOT SERIAL CLAIM DATE
Lt R Tradin 429 JU 52/3m destroyed over         Torgskjaer. 9/4/40
Sgt P Waaler 425 He 111 destroyed over         Oslo/Fornebu 9/4/40
2/Lt F Thorsager 433 Bf 110 damaged over Fornebu 9/4/40
Sgt P Schye 427 Bf 110 destroyed over Voyen 9/4/40
He 111 destroyed over         Nesodden
Lt D Krohn 421 9/4/40
Lt D Krohn 421 Do 17 destroyed over Fornebu 9/4/40
Norwegian Gladiators
Mark I
SERIAL COMMENTS
Abandoned at Lake Bogstad, 9/4/40
413
Aircraft unservicable  and destroyed on the ground at Fornebu, 9/4/40
415
Lost skis during  aerobatics and crashed near Fornebu. Lt Rolf Tradin baled out, 15/3/40
417
Destroyed on the ground at Fornebu by Bf110`s of ZG 76, 9/4/40
419
Aircraft sufferred engine failure and crashed on landing near Vangsmjösa,  21/4/40.
421
Unservicable and destroyed on the ground at Fornebu, 9/4/40.
423
Mark II
SERIAL COMMENTS
Destroyed on the ground at  Fornebu by Bf110`s from ZG 76, 9/4/40.
425
Damaged by Bf110 flown by Lt Helmut Lent, ZG 76, and crash landed at Braatenfjordet. Sgt Kristen Schye injured, 9/4/40
427
Abandoned at Lake Mjösa, 9/4/40
429
Skis came off in a dive and aircraft sufferred severe damage, Lt Odde Bull okay, 3/2/40. Under  repair at Fornebu,9/4/40
431
Abandoned at Lake Lyseren, east of Oslo, 9/4/40.
433
Aircraft was under repair at Kjeller, 9/4/40.
435
Camouflage and Markings
The Norwegian Gladiators were silver doped overall. National markings consisted of red, white and blue stripes above and below the wings and on the rudder. Aircraft serials were in black on the fuselage, aft of the cockpit. One aircraft, 433, was given a crude brown honeycomb camouflage pattern.
Of the Norwegian Gladiators the only known remains are the tail and wings halves from 421, which were recovered from Lake Vangsmjosa. A rudder is known to exist in a German Museum.
References:
Avions issue 72, March 1990
Monografie Lotnicze No 24- B Belcarz and R Peczkowski, A J Press
Norwegian Gladiators- authors unknown.
Additional Information:
Yuri M Svoyski
Ketil Lunde, Bodo Historical Aviation Society.
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