- Published on Saturday, 24 December 2011 00:01 James Hatch
Orange Series No. 8112
Published by MMP Books for £17.99
ISBN 978-83-61421-17-7 Softback 208 Pages Illustrated 23.0 x 16.9 x 1.5 cm
The Grebe was the RAF's first new fighter introduced into service following WW1. Seeing service between 1928 and 1928, it was a manoeuvrable aircraft that unfortunately was not structurally stable; it suffered from "wing flutter" which lead to all operational aircraft having additional wing struts fitted to cure the problem. Powered by an Armstrong-Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine, developing 400hp, the Grebe's top speed was just over 150 mph and its service ceiling was 23,000 feet (7,000m). 20 dual seat trainers, the III DC, were built as well as 109 production aircraft, which fully equipped 5 RAF Squadrons and were used in smaller numbers by several others; 3 were also built for New Zealand. One of the most famous incidents involving the Grebe was the "parasite aircraft" trials, where two Grebes were launched from the airship R.33 on two occasions in 1926.
The Grebe was the basis of a number of experimental prototypes. From the Grebe III, the Gloster Gamecock was born. A more pugnacious-looking aircraft, it differed from the Grebe in its fuselage profile, internally-mounted machine guns, aileron profile and, most importantly of all, the more powerful and more reliable Bristol Jupiter engine (425 hp giving 155 mph). The Gamecock was the RAF's last wooden fighter; with production starting in 1925, however, it had been withdrawn from RAF service by the end of 1931. Very highly manoeuvrable, it was somewhat unforgiving of less-able pilots; of the 90 aircraft built for the RAF, no less than 22 were lost in landing or spinning accidents. Two famous pilots who flew the gamecock with 23 Squadron (one of 5 equipped with the plane) were the First World War ace Raymond Collishaw and the young pilot Douglas Bader, who would find much fame later in his life. A developmental airframe, the Mark II was shown to Finland and the Finns then manufactured some under licence, called the Kukko ('Cock'); these saw service until the end of the Winter War.
This latest book from MMP covers the development and operational service of both the Grebe and the Gamecock. There are also sections on developments from the two airframes, test pilots involved in the early stages of development and a major building project at Brockworth, Gloucestershire, where a reproduction Gamecock is being built. The book is liberally supplied with photographs and plans to support the excellent text and there are 36 pages of colour profiles. There are also fascinating pages covering what it was like to actually fly in a Gamecock all those years ago.
In my usual manner, I have chosen a few pages to illustrate the book. We have some interesting photos of Grebes that have come to grief (below);
some truly atmospheric photos of the Grebe production line, along with some structure details (above); some of the Finnish Kukko aircraft, including one with skis fitted (below);
side elevation drawings of the Gamecock (above); some construction photos of the Gamecock replica at Brockworth (below);
colour profiles of Grebes from 19, 25 and 56 Squadrons (above); and finally, similar profiles of Gamecocks from 23 and 32 Squadrons and the Gamecock II prototype (below).
The Gamecock has always been my favourite inter-war RAF fighter, ever since I saw a 1/6th scale model built by Gordon Whitehead fly at the Scale Nationals in 1975. The Grebe has always been a poorer elderly relation in comparison but this book covers both aircraft in a way that you cannot help liking them both equally. It offers great value for money and has easily become the definitive work on the subject, a feat that MMP seem to pull off with considerable regularity with their releases.
So What Do We Think?
Quite simply, the best book on any inter-war RAF fighters it has ever been my pleasure to read.
Very highly recommended
Our thanks to MMP Books for the review copy. To purchase directly, click THIS link.