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Les Fitzpatrick recalls oft-forgotten details of 3 Squadron’s involvement with the...

Gloster Gauntlet aircraft.

[AWM 043192]

A Short History of the Gauntlet…

The production specification for the Gauntlet was issued in 1926.  It called for an aircraft capable of achieving 250 mph, but it was 1932 before an engine of reasonable power was developed.  However, this model (J9125) could only deliver 212 mph at 14,500 feet using a Mercury VIS.  The Mercury VIS2 was substituted in 1933, but the weight penalty incurred by the bigger engine (plus twin Vickers guns, 1,200 rounds, radio, oxygen, night flying equipment with a take-off fuel load of 81 gallons and 6 gallons of oil) meant only a few extra mph could be achieved… But it was still about 40mph faster than the aircraft it was to replace - the Bristol Bulldog.

The Gauntlet II evolved during the next four years until, by 1938, fourteen home-based RAF squadrons were equipped with Gauntlets, which by then had a far better power-plant and armaments.  By the time WW2 began on 3 September 1939, Gauntlets were being phased-out by the RAF, in lieu of the newly-produced Gloster Gladiator.

Interestingly, the last known use of Gauntlets by the RAF was in 1943 when, due to a shortage of replacement Gladiators in East Africa, four Gauntlets were delivered to 1414 Met. Flight at Eastleigh.

Beggars Can't be Choosers - Enter 3 Squadron RAAF…

Shortly after 3 Squadron arrived in the Middle East, some ‘left-over’ Gauntlets were made available to the new RAAF arrivals and thus the deployment flight was formed. 

The Squadron received six Gloster Gauntlets on 19 September 1940.  They were to be used for dive-bombing and strafing ground-attack missions, and it was in this role that a flight of four Gloster Gauntlets was formed by 3 Squadron. 

The ground crew consisted of the following personnel:

bullet Sgt. Max Quinton
bullet Sgt. Mort Kieley
bullet L.A.C. Jock Thom
bullet L.A.C. Les Fitzpatrick
bullet L.A.C. Ted Bainbridge
bullet L.A.C. Ken Carrera
bullet A.C. Harry Sadler
bullet A.C. Griffiths
bullet AC1 John Doderico

This flight was attached to No.208 R.A.F. Squadron at Qasaba and from 9 December they moved forward and were engaged in dive-bombing and ground strafing of Italian troops.  [For a detailed analysis of training and combat operations, see our Gauntlet Data page.]

The Gauntlets we used were withdrawn on 14 December, 1940, due to unavailability of spare parts.  The personnel returned to 3 Squadron at Gerawla, where the Squadron was then engaged in action with Gloster Gladiators.

A colour-profile of Gloster Gauntlet Mk.II K7843, which flew with 3 SQN at Helwan, Egypt. 
- This aircraft is also prominent in the header photo above. 
[Profile by John WEAL, Air International magazine.]

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