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Tom Cleaver
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Silver Wings 1/32 Sea Gladiator

September 1, 2013 · in Aviation · · 12 · 2.3K

The has been one of my favorite models since first reading about the Sea Gladiators of Malta in a wartime British propaganda publication, "The Malta Campaign" (which kinda/sorta sticks to the facts, maybe) when I was a kid. When I discovered Airfix kits when they were first introduced into the U.S. in 1958-59, the Gladiator was one of the first kits I bought and assembled. I have done many others over the years.

This is the resin kit of the Sea Gladiator. Silver Wings kits are among the best resin kits available, are highly accurate, and well worth their pricey cost. Their Gladiator and Sea Gladiator kits are the best kits of this famous airplane in any scale.

The actual story of the Sea Gladiators of Malta differs considerably (surprise surprise!) from the wartime propaganda and later mythology:

Fortunately for later events, 18 Sea Gladiators (serial numbers N5518 ‑ N5535) from 802 Squadron were left at Malta in February, 1940, by HMS Glorious. In March, although Malta was not facing attack, it was decided six Sea Gladiators should be assembled, to form an air defense unit that became known as the Hal Far Fighter Flight, which eventually included both FAA and RAF personnel. Five Gladiators were eventually assembled: N5525, N5527, N5530 and N5533, but were then dismantled a few days later for reasons unstated.

In April, N5519, N5520, N5522 and N5531 were assembled and test‑flown. In May, two more Gladiators - N5524 and N5529 - were assembled, with the other crated aircraft to be used as spares. The first Italian air raid came on June 11, 1940.

After suffering engine damage in combat, N5520 was fitted with a Mercury engine and Hamilton propeller salvaged from a Bristol Blenheim bomber, which also used the Mercury engine. While top speed dropped several miles per hour, climb and overall performance other than speed was improved with the constant speed propeller. N5519 was also fitted with a Blenheim engine and propeller.

The myth about the Hal Far fighter Flight is that only three aircraft named “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity,” constituted the entire fighter cover of the island. In fact, the names “Faith,” “Hope” and “Charity” were applied to the aircraft many months later by a Maltese newspaper, with the story being propagated further as part of British wartime propaganda. Four Hawker Hurricanes joined the Sea Gladiators at the end of June and the Hal Far Flight became part of 261 Squadron RAF. Only the Sea Gladiator later named “Faith” survived the war, and can now be seen in the Malta War Museum in Valetta.

The kit is as superb as all the previous Silver Wings 1/32 kits, with surface detail that is sharper than many injection-molded kits, a fully-complete cockpit and a very accurate Mercury engine. All control surfaces are cast separately. The cabane and interplane struts, and the landing gear, are cast with wire cores, providing adequate strength for these important parts. A Fairey-Reed propeller and a Hamilton-Standard propeller are provided. The three piece canopy is in clear cast resin. A dingy pack and A-frame arrestor hook are included. A photoetch fret includes the seat belts and the fuselage radiator. Decals are provided for three Sea Gladiators: Sea Gladiator N5519/R, Gladiator Flight Hal Far, Malta, June 1940; Sea Gladiator Mk II N5519/G6A, 802 Squadron, HMS Glorious, 1939; Sea Gladiator N5524, No 261 Squadron, Luqa, Malta, January 1941.

The Fairey-Reed propeller is the one failed part in the kit, being overall too thin, and not cast with an airfoil cross section. When I tried to sand it to shape, I managed to break it. I was glad to discover in Squadron's “Sea Gladiator in Action” that N5519 had been re-equipped with a Blenheim engine and prop, so I used the very nice Hamilton prop. If you are building a Malta Sea Gladiator, you should leave off the A-frame arrestor hook, which these aircraft did not use.

The black/white identification colors were done with Tamiya paints and masked off. I used Gunze-Sangyo “Aircraft Grey” for the lower camouflage color (supposed to be "Light Sea Grey"), and Xtracrylix “Extra-Dark Sea Grey” and “Dark Slate Grey” for the upper camouflage colors, which I post-shaded with a bit of white in each color for second coats. When all was dry, I gave the model an overall coat of Future. The national insignia decals were not correct in dimensions, so I replaced them with decals from the dungeon and used the kit decals for the ID letter and serial.

The tailwheel is resin and in scale thickness, which means it will deform over time, given the weight of the model. I used an injection-molded tailwheel out of the spares box which looks "close enough" and has the necessary strength.

The model is now on display out at Planes of Fame.

Reader reactions:
6  Awesome

10 additional images. Click to enlarge.

12 responses

  1. Great model. I will the loss of Faith Hope and Charity valiantly fending off the fascist hordes against immeasurable odds.

    Oh well, at least the model is memorable.

  2. Yeah looks great. Got to get round to mine, maybe for the Nats 014. Did you use the kit supplied rigging?

  3. Up to your usual fine standards Tom.
    Great story to go with it.

  4. Beautiful ! Typical of what we've come to expect from you, Tom. 5 stars !

  5. Just lovely, and the background really sets it off.

  6. Just gorgeous Tom. I haven't seen one of these built before. Rigging scares the heck out of me but you've given me some inspiration!

  7. that's quite a beauty...heck i like the lindberg / impact

  8. Nice build Tom, I visited Malta last year it is a lovely place to visit and went to the museum in Valletta where you can see the Gladiator you mentioned, although it does not have any wings it does seem to be otherwise complete.The museum is not the most best and is basically just a series of adjoining rooms in old barracks overlooking the grand harbour, the aircraft is inside the building which may explain the wings being absent, you can also see a large collection of WW11 related items ,guns,uniforms, small vehicles etc and the George cross that was awarded to the whole island. There is also a separate aircraft museum on the island.


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