Skip to main content

I am an avid reader of allohistory, the realm of ‘what if'? Or, as the character of Holly (played by British actor, Norman Lovett) in the BBC TV sci-fi series ‘Red Dwarf’, said “ Well, for instance, in this universe, it could be that Hitler won the Second World War. It could be something even more incredible, like perhaps Ringo was a really good drummer.” (ED. Sorry, Ringo!)

Let’s assume that the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Neville Chamberlain, flies back to Croydon Airport from Munich on the morning of 30th September 1938, aboard British Airways Lockheed 14F-62, G-AFGN, without his famous ‘piece of paper’ signed by Adolf Hitler. Further, let’s assume that the Second World War starts a year EARLY…..

What did the RAF have by way of fighter aircraft to defend Britain in October 1938? Answer..SIX squadrons of modern fighters (Hurricane Mk1, Spitfire Mk1) and a mix of  Hawker Furies, Gloster Gauntlets and Gloster Gladiators – the Gladiator being virtually a ‘cleaned up’ and modernised Gauntlet. Admittedly, the Luftwaffe were not at their 1940 levels, but it would have been a nasty scrap.

The Gladiator was really a stop-gap fighter. The Air Ministry was pinning its hopes on the Supermarine Spitfire, but they had made a real mess of that at the start, by insisting on the use of the truly terrible steam-cooled Rolls-Royce Goshawk engine, then a poor cylinder-head design of the original Merlin 1. Whilst the ‘new’ Merlin-engined version of the Spitfire was being created Hurricane production was being ramped up, but in these days of peace Hurricanes didn’t so much flow, as drip, from the production line.

The Gladiator I was built to Specification F.14/35, with the first production machines entering service with No. 3 and No. 72 Squadrons in January 1937. A strange mixture of old and new (enclosed cockpit, yet biplane layout), the power was supplied by a nine-cylinder Bristol Mercury IX radial of 840 hp driving a wooden, two-bladed Watts propeller (although later Gladiator II aircraft had a Fairey-Reed, fixed-pitch, three-bladed unit). Armament was 4 x .303 Browning machineguns. Despite the need for more and more aircraft the British Government allowed the export of Gladiators (and also gifted, outright, other aircraft); the list of recipients includes Sweden, Eire, Finland, Iraq, Latvia, Norway, Lithuania, Belgium, Portugal, Greece and China. The Chinese Gladiators were very successful against attempted Japanese raids on the aircraft factory at Siuchow. The Gladiator Mk II was followed by the Sea Gladiator for the Royal Navy (first at sea in HMS Courageous in May 1939), and four of these (with engines and variable-pitch props intended for Bristol Blenheim bombers) were the sole fighter defence of the island of Malta against the Regia Aeronautica for a number of weeks – the Sea Gladiators were named Faith, Hope and Charity, plus a spare –  until reinforced by Hurricanes. The RAF’s ‘ace of aces’, Sqn. Ldr. Marmaduke ’Pat’ Pattle, with at least 51 kills, flew the Gladiator at the start of his career in North Africa (many of his kills are still unconfirmed due to the fact that he lost his life during the fighting retreat of British forces in Greece in 1941).

The Gladiator you can see here, G-GLAD, ’N5903′ in the pre-war markings of 72 Squadron,  is operated by The Fighter Collection and based at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield. Two Gladiators, N5903 and L8032 (now with the Shuttleworth Collection), were formerly owned by the eccentric (and brilliant) pilot Viv Bellamy.

Oh, yes, and the Gladiator actually fought during the Battle of Britain, after all! The RAF needed fighter defence for the important Devonport Naval Dockyard near Plymouth in Devon. No 247 (China British) Squadron, RAF, was re-formed in August 1940 and equipped with the fast-climbing Gladiator. Flying from the grass airfield at Roborough, to the north of the city of Plymouth, the Gladiators held the line until No. 247  Squadron was re-equipped with Hurricanes in December 1940.

http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

http://shortfinals.wordpress.com

Originally posted to Kossack Air Force on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 04:00 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and World War Two Aircraft.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  I really love the 'might have beens' of aviation (4+ / 0-)

    Sometimes you find a real pearl, sometimes a turd - but so many of them are so fascinating. And as the saying goes, even from failure progress is made.

    "Marco Rubio es un pañuelo Rosa!" - Montgomery Burns

    by Fordmandalay on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 04:17:33 PM PST

    •  They are interesting..... (4+ / 0-)

      .......Gladiators were sent France with the British Forces in 1939; the Belgian Air Force examples were overwhelmed in the Blitzkreig'; they fought with great tenacity during the doomed campaign in Norway (both Norwegian A.F. and RAF), and played a significant part in the early fighting between Finland and Russia.....

      Their dogfights against Italian aircraft in the Western Desert were legendary, but perhaps the most famous fight of all was over the tiny island of Malta!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 04:35:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Italian Fighter Design (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe

        What truly surprises a reader is the dominance the pilots possessed in the Italian air force in the design of the new fighters in the late 1930s.  The pilots were used to the nimbleness of the biplanes and that feel of the open cockpit, so that's what got incorporated in the new monoplane fighter designs like the Fiat G.50 and Macchi C.200.  They also didn't take into account the robustness of the new aircraft models using monocoque designs and tougher materials like aluminum rather than doped fabric and included many few and lighter weapons than would be needed to be effective.  At least the British interceptors like the Spitfire and Hurricane were designed to be bomber killers from inception, sporting a a whole arsenal of machine guns in each wing.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 07:18:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not all of the "might-have-beens" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

      are very cheerful - I'm quite convinced that the B-36 program (the RFP was let in April 1941) was predicated on the assumption that Britain would surrender, and we would need a bomber with the range and payload to conduct a successful strategic bombing campaign on Continental Europe from the US.

      •  You are correct... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe, PeterHug

        ...and the seminal book, 'Victory Through Air Power' by Alexander P. de Seversky (1942; later a Disney film) assumed that, also

        "The rapid expansion of the range and striking power of military aviation makes it certain that the United States will be as exposed to destruction from the air, within a predictable period, as are the British Isles today"

        The film is very striking, and huge bomber fleets are shown defending themselves using massed machinegun and cannon fire against defending fighters, as they reduce targets to dust. There was NO mention of a P-51 surrogate!

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 03:44:27 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Good Stuff SF (3+ / 0-)

    Lessons of war, early in 1940 the Hurricane, Spitfire, Bf -109, Zero and P-40 were considered near equals.  What a difference 2 years of actual A-A combat made.

    BTW, my English to American filter isn't working so well: what's "allohistory"?

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 04:42:02 PM PST

    •  Allohistory.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, markdd, IARXPHD

      ... is one of the terms given to speculative fiction based on alternate realties, such as 'what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War?'

      A speculative novel, using the premise that England had remained Catholic and had been subjected to the Inquistion, etc. is 'Pavane'

      http://io9.com/...

      Enjoy!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:28:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "The Man in the High Castle" by PK Dick (4+ / 0-)

        is one of my favorites. In the book, the Germans and Japanese win WWII; the Germans conquer the east coast of the U.S., while Japan has the west coast (with some  American holdouts in the Rocky Mountains). If I remember the explanation, FDR was assassinated in the 1930s and his VP took over and didn't do enough to win the war.

        In real history, there was an assassination attempt -- the guy shot at FDR and missed, but his bullets hit and killed the mayor of Chicago (Anton Cermak).

        “If you misspell some words, it’s not plagiarism.” – Some Writer

        by Dbug on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 08:07:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm outlining an allo in which (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

        at the surrender ceremony at Appomattox a confederate regiment turns their guns on the Union Army, and the result is a wholesale decimation of the Army of Northern VA and a very different "reconstruction".
        The next 150 yrs are quite different due to the results of the repercussions of that bend in history.

        Let's just say that we are a much better country for it. Kind of like chemotherapy, tough cure but better in the end.

        WTF!?!?!?! When did I move to the Republic of Gilead?!

        by IARXPHD on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 08:17:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Tactical Organization (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shortfinals, Otteray Scribe, markdd

      Much of the effectiveness of early WW2 fighter combat depended on tactical organization and pilot experience.  In 1939, the German and Japanese pilots had many more hours of combat experience than the Allied pilots because of the Spanish Civil War for the Germans (that nasty Condor Legion) and the Sino-Japanese War raging on mainland Asia.  The Germans had also adopted a radically different fighter formation, now known as the finger four, which allowed for a much looser but effective cooperation in the sky than the tight "vics" the British and French flew.  The American naval aviators were still learning the details of the finger four arrangement when they went up against the Japanese Zeroes in 1942 with their Wildcats.

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 06:47:38 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are correct... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe, markdd

        ...plus the fact that the Wildcat weighed around 8,000lbs, and was a brute in a dogfight against the Zero in the vertical plane. It DID have 'combat persistence' however, in that it could absorb incredible amounts of punishment, and, if you could get your gunsight ON a Zero, evrn the shortest burst from those .50 cal  would shred your opponent!

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 07:12:59 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  ..and Fighter Command taught their truly.. (0+ / 0-)

        ...terrible Fighting Area Attacks the pilots of Spitfires and Hurricanes, which were utterly useless.

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 12:28:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Vertical Fighter vs Horizonatl Fighter (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shortfinals, Otteray Scribe, markdd

      Incidentally, the Zero is the odd fighter out in that list.  The Japanese designed the Zero to offer characteristics similar to the biplanes of the time.  That's why engaging in turning combat against a Zero by the American fighters (P39, P40, F4F Wildcat, and especially the F2B Buffalo) usually resulted in bad outcomes unless countered by specific tactical maneuvers.  What's really amazing is just how the ranking of the relative capabilities of these planes depended on the altitude at which the combat was taking place.  Often, one design would hold ascendancy at high altitude, only to see its opponent, slip ahead at medium altitude, and yet a third design be best at low altitude combat.  

      "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

      by PrahaPartizan on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 06:54:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Its all about energy.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe, markdd

        ..the original Allison-engined Mustang (as used by the RAF) was an absolute disaster above 10,000 ft when it came to combat, but RAF Army Co-operation Command loved the 'plane when it was making low-level sorties as far as the German border.

        Similarly, the Brewster B.239 , as used by the Finns, was an absolute winner against the Russians for the first half of the war (lighter, and more heavily armed than the Buffalo 1 used by the RAF and RAAF in Malaysia).

        'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

        by shortfinals on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 07:41:30 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  You might want to consider pruning your tags… (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals



    Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? . . . and respect the dignity of every human being.

    by Wee Mama on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:12:25 PM PST

    •  I will, of course, consider your request.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      ....however, in a fact-heavy, technology-based diary, the need to say, mention a Rolls-Royce Merlin rather than say, a Browning .303 machinegun can take longer than writing the thing......

      I WILL try....it will slow the process.......

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:34:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  The idea of taking one of these into combat (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shortfinals, Wreck Smurfy, Azazello

    against German front line fighters of the day is chilling.  It would have been really ugly.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:30:17 PM PST

    •  True! You were out-gunned, and much slower.. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      ....the ONLY thing you had going for you was manoeverability. Strangely enough, when up against its biplane contemporaries (Fiat CR.42, Polikarpov I-15bis, etc) it did rather well, and even managed kills against the slower Axis bombers (Fiat BR.20, He III, Tupolev SB.2)

      It is pretty though, isn't it?

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:42:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  One of the advantages of flying a stringbag (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, PrahaPartizan

        is that most rounds will go through like a hole punch unless something important gets in the way.  As for being slow, a lot of speed differential sometimes plays into the hand of the slower plane, but overall it is advantage BF-109.

        I recall the Bismarck had trouble hitting the slow Swordfish torpedo planes because their gun tracking could not be set for the slow speed of the Swordfish.  

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:47:25 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perfectly correct, the gallant crews of the.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe

          Swordfish who went up against the Bismark obtained the one hit that was vital - a topedo seriously damaged the rudders and steering mechanism, meaning that all the Bismark could do was circle and await its fate at the hands of the approaching British capital ships.

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:03:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Finnish Gloster Gladiators (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, Otteray Scribe

        As I recall, the Finns had Gladiators which they used with some effect against the single-wing Russian fighters during their littlel contretemps in the winter of 1940.

        Anyone interested in the rise of the Luftwaffe could do much worse than to find a copy of Williamson Murray's history of the Luftwaffe.  Airpower, while powerful, is also a fragile military force, whose capabilities depend on many elements.  Murray pointed out in his class on military history, that the Luftwaffe might have been less effective in 1938 than in 1939 because it was introducing those faster fighters at that time.  Similarly, the RAF and French Air Force were hobbled by the new fighters coming into service in 1939.  It seems that trained ground crews able to keep up the sortie rate and similar factors greatly affect the effective strength of air forces.  It takes time to work out the bugs.  By 1939, the Germans had finely honed their nice new fighters, whereas the Allies were only really starting.

        From a defense of Britain standpoint, one could likely make a better argument that the radar system and integrated command structure played a more important role.  The German fighters couldn't stay more than a few minutes over Britain during the battle of Britain anyway and German bombers were notoriously deficient in defensive firepower.  Being able to effectively direct the available fighter wings during the battle proved the decisive element.

        "Love the Truth, defend the Truth, speak the Truth, and hear the Truth" - Jan Hus, d.1415 CE

        by PrahaPartizan on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 06:39:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I have been very fortunate in some of the jobs I . (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe

          ...have held. Working out of the Battle of Britain Airshow Office at RAF Finningley and then RAF Waddington was an absolute joy (I still can't believe I got PAID to do that!)

          I saw evidence of the many ways in which, in 1940,  a fully integrated air defence system, (Observer Corps, Balloon Command, Fighter Command and its Chain Home & Chain Home Low - and later GCA, and the guns under General Pyle in Anti-aircraft Command) acted as a force multiplier. Without this, the RAF would have been forced to mount standing patrols, and the resources in manpower were just NOT there.

          What many people do not realize is that by the middle of the Battle, volunteers from the Fairey Battle squadrons of Bomber Command, and the fighter squadrons of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm, were being hurled into the fray as replacements...........

          It was THAT close!

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Tue Dec 11, 2012 at 07:50:05 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  well i thought i had the perfect question (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals, sphealey

    In the 1995 film Richard III, starring Ian Gandalf McKellen, the Shakespeare tale is relocated to an alternate 1930s England that is fascist chic. Brilliant idea, and a fantastic film, too.

    Anyway, there's a cool and stylish plane in one scene and so i thought i'd ask if anyone could identify it. But, in searching for a screenshot online, i've discovered that it was the de Havilland Dragon Rapide. Quite possibly the very one in the first photo, if memory serves.

    All things in the sky are pure to those who have no telescopes. – Charles Fort

    by subtropolis on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 05:33:06 PM PST

    •  A fabulous film..and Sir Ian McKellan is ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      ...on top form. However, it is not really allohistory, as such, rather a play performed in modern dress (even if the 'dress' doesn't go all the way to the present day). The Bard's dialogue remains, essentially the same.

      The Dragon Rapide is a great aircraft for added 'period chic'. I remember that one was used during an episode of the BBC sci-fi series 'Torchwood' (which was shot not too far from my brother's house in South Glamorgan!)

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 06:08:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am indebted for your continuing history! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

    SF - I'm a history buff (and have a diploma in it as well), but I have learned something with each new diary. While I am but a simple airplane nut that knows a lot about them, you sir, are a treasure trove!

    I haven't been able to comment on each one, but I'm trying to read them all.

    Allohistory has been some of my favorite reading these last few years, and I can't seem to get enough.

    Many thanks, and drink a pint for me!

    •  Why, thank you! I have omitted anything to do... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe

      ....with the Roman Empire, 12th century church architecture, Viking Britain and the Danelaw, invasive species, marine landscapes, the Industrial Revolution (U.K. and U.S.), Neolithic through Late Bronze Age cultures, riverine trade, textile technology, chemical engineering, the development of the walled fortification, or a dozen other things.

      Jack of all trades - master of none!

      It comes from have at least four distinct career arcs (some of which were almost succesful), and having held a wide variety of posts (including several of a curatorial nature). The result? A sort of polymath...although my elder brother is the genuine genius! (I know, I know...I used to call him Mycroft...)

      Sadly, my nephrologist would KILL you if he could hear you offering me a pint. (Although I could murder one, right now). My screen name is shortfinals, for a very good reason....which is why I am writing furiously!

      If you want to find out WHY the aviation knowledge, please go to the People's Mosquito website, click on The People, and look under Engineering Lead and Airframe Compliance :) It's a short bio, and I didn't write it!

      http://peoplesmosquito.org.uk

      If you have any aircraft you wish to see in a diary, just make a suggestion, and we will do what we can..

      Cheers!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 08:35:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Split Flaps on Both Wings ... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

    is a relatively unusual configuration, I believe (watch landing and taxi portion.)

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:06:40 PM PST

  •  Tipped and Recced (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

    for Mention of anything related to "Red Dwarf".

    Totally Bonkers with a Large side Order of Extreme Silliness.

    SMEG !!!

    On Giving Advice: Smart People Don't Need It and Stupid People Don't Listen

    by Brian76239 on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 07:30:08 PM PST

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site