Gloster Sea Gladiator N5519/G6A, No,802 Naval Air Squadron, HMS Glorious, June 1939
The beautiful Gloster Gladiator represented the absolute pinnacle of biplane fighter design, but entered service just as the first of the fast monoplane fighters were already dictating the future of aerial warfare. A thoroughbred aircraft in every sense of the word, the Gladiator was the last biplane fighter to enter RAF service and the first to feature a fully enclosed cockpit. Highly manoeuvrable and extremely fast by biplane standards, the Gladiator also served with the Royal Navy, with aircraft modified for operations at sea by the inclusion of a strengthened fuselage, arrester hook and catapult spools, as well as provision for the stowage of an inflatable dinghy. Sea Gladiator N5519 wears the attractive pre-war colours of No.802 NAS, serving on board HMS Glorious, with the black fin marking this aircraft as the Squadron Commander’s mount. All twelve of the 802 NAS Sea Gladiators based on HMS Glorious were lost during operations in the defence of Norway in June 1940, when the carrier was sunk by the German Battleship Scharnhorst.
Former 802 NAS Gloster Sea Gladiator N5519 was not on board HMS Glorious when the ship tragically went down in the Norwegian Sea and was actually one of the most famous of all the 747 Gloster Gladiators produced. Left behind on the Island of Malta when the rest of No.802 NAS returned to the UK, N5519 was one of the celebrated ‘Defenders of Malta’ – a handful of Gladiators who provided air cover for the Island against significantly superior numbers of Italian Air Force aircraft. Based at RAF Hal Far, these Gladiators fought valiantly and took on almost mythical status when they were later christened ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ by a Maltese newspaper – N5519 was the aircraft referred to as ‘Charity’.
This famous Sea Gladiator claimed a number of aerial victories during the battles that raged in the skies over Malta, but was to eventually fall victim to a fighter of the Regia Aeronautica. In late July 1940, N5519 ‘Charity’ was being flown by F/O Peter Hartley during heavy fighting above Grand Harbour when his aircraft was hit in the fuel tank by an Italian Fiat CR.42 Falco. The Gladiator burst into flames and crashed into the sea just off the south-east coast of the Island – although badly burned, the pilot parachuted into the sea and following a lengthy period of treatment and recuperation, returned to flying duties. Gloster Sea Gladiator N5519 ‘Charity’ was the only Malta Sea Gladiator to be shot down during aerial combat over the Island.
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