The Gloucestershire Aircraft Company was a British aircraft manufacturer.
There is a separate entry showing the Gloster Aircraft Co Aircraft models.
The company produced a famous lineage of fighters for the Royal Air Force
(RAF); the Grebe, Gladiator, Meteor and Javelin. It also produced the Hawker
Hurricane and Typhoon for the parent company Hawker Siddeley. Gloster produced
the first British gas turbine-powered aircraft: the E.28/39 and the first
British (and only gas-turbine-powered Allied aircraft to see service in
World War II) production jet fighter in the Meteor. Gloster's test runway
became famous for the first flight of Sir Frank Whittle's turbojet in the
1916 Company founded.
The Gloucestershire Aircraft Company was formed in 1917. The company
acquired the aircraft business previously carried out by H. H. Martyn with
a 50% share, and the Aircraft Manufacturing Co the other 50%. The company
rented what was the Sunningend works of H. H. Martyn in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
As orders for aircraft increased, other companies in the Gloucester and
Cheltenham district were contracted with work. Where any flying was involved
the aircraft were moved to an Air Board aircraft acceptance park at Hucclecote
seven miles away by motor transport. Although Huccelcote aerodrome was
used by the company it had no hangars until 1921 when it rented part of
hangar from the Air Board.
In 1926, the name of the company was abbreviated to the Gloster Aircraft
Company because customers outside of the United Kingdom found the original
name too difficult to pronounce.
With the move to metal construction the Sunningend factory was no longer
suitable and in 1928 the company bought the aerodrome at Hucclecote with
all the hangars and office accommodation.
In 1934 the company was taken over by Hawker though it continued to produce
aircraft under its own name. In that same year the company produced the
famous Gladiator biplane. The 1935 merger of Hawker Aircraft and the interests
of John Davenport Siddeley (Armstrong Siddeley and Armstrong Whitworth
Aircraft) saw Gloster become a part of Hawker Siddeley.
The Gladiator was a biplane fighter, used by the RAF and the Royal Navy's
Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as the carrier-capable Sea Gladiator, as well as a
number of other air forces, during World War II. The aircraft had a top
speed of around 414 km/h. The Gladiator had an enclosed, single-seat cockpit,
cantilever landing gear and a two-blade, fixed-pitch propeller driven by
a Bristol Mercury air-cooled engine. A total of 756 airframes were built:
480 RAF, 60 FAA, 216 exported to 13 countries. Gladiators were sold to
Belgium, China, Egypt, Finland, Free French, Greece, Iraq, Ireland, Latvia,
Lithuania, Norway, Portugal, South Africa and Sweden.
Although serving valiantly in the first years of the Second World War,
the Gloster Gladiator was sorely outclassed by contemporary monoplane fighters
such as the Messerschmitt Bf-109, and destined to be the RAF's last biplane
Having no modern designs of its own in production, Gloster undertook manufacture
for the parent company Hawker. In 1939, the company built 1,000 Hawker
Hurricanes in the first 12 months of World War II and delivered its last
of 2,750 Hurricanes in 1942. Production was then switched to the Hawker
Typhoons for the Royal Air Force, 3,300 being built in total.
Frank Whittle's memorial showing a full-scale model of the Gloster E28/39On
8 April 1941, the first test flight of the Gloster E.28/39 with a turbo-jet
engine, invented by Sir Frank Whittle. took off from the company's airfield
at Hucclecote. This formed the basis for the Gloster Meteor, the only jet
to be used by the Allied Forces during World War II.
The Meteor was the first operational Allied jet fighter aircraft of World
War II. First flying with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1943, the
Meteor commenced operations in mid-1944, only some weeks later than the
world's first operational jet, the German Messerschmitt Me 262.
In 1945 a Meteor F Mk.4 prototype, stripped of armament, gained a World
Speed Record of 606 mph with Group Captain H. Wilson at the controls. In
early 1946, another F Mk.4 prototype was used to set a world air speed
record of 616 mph (991 km/h) true airspeed with Group Captain "Teddy" Donaldson
flying the highly modified Meteor, nicknamed "Yellow Peril." Meteors remained
in service with several air forces for many years and saw action with the
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in the Korean War. Eventually, Gloster
Meteors in fighter, trainer and night fighter versions were in operational
use by 12 nations.
During Gloster's "heyday," in 1947, S/L Janusz Zurakowski was employed
as an experimental pilot. In the following years, he became one of the
world's most famous experimental and aerobatics pilots. He developed a
new aerobatic manoeuvre, the "Zurabatic Cartwheel", which held the audience
captivated as he suspended the Gloster Meteor G-7-1 prototype he was flying,
in a vertical cartwheel at the 1951 Farnborough Air Show), a manoeuvre
the announcer declared to be "Impossible!" Serving for a brief period as
the chief test pilot, he tested the many experimental versions of the Gloster
Meteor, Javelin and E.1/44 fighters. During the Gloster years, "Zura" as
he came to be known, set an international speed record: London-Copenhagen-London,
4-5 April, 1950.
In 1952, the two seat, delta winged Gloster Javelin was developed as an
all weather fighter that could fly above 50,000 feet at almost the speed
of sound. This modern aircraft proved to be too heavy to take off from
the short airfield in Hucclecote, and was instead fitted out to the bare
minimum and given a very small fuel load. It was then flown in a short
hop to RAF Moreton Valence three miles to the south, where the aircraft
would be completed. It was this shortcoming of the facilities, along with
the rationalisation of the British aircraft industry, that would lead to
the demise of Gloster.
In 1961, the company was merged with Armstrong Whitworth to form Whitworth
Gloster Aircraft. Following another re-organisation, the firm became
part of the Avro Whitworth Division of Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1963,
and the name Gloster disappeared as Hawker Siddeley rebranded its product
line under its own name.
1961 Manufacturers of the delta wing Gloster Javelin jet fighter.
The site at Hucclecote was sold in 1964. The runway, while still visible
from the air, has been partially obstructed by buildings on what is now
the Gloucester Trading Estate. Many of the firms based on the estate are
housed in former hangars.
Unibus was a scooter, designed by Harold
Boultbee, built by Gloster Aircraft Co and produced from 1920
This machine was one of the best and most advanced designs of that era
and, unlike most others, had the modern-styled enclosure and a flat floor
behind the apron. The body sat on a channel-section frame with leaf-spring
suspension for both 16-inch pressed steel split-rim wheels.
It had a single-cylinder, 269cc two-stroke, air-cooled engine fitted
just behind the headstock, with the crankshaft on the machine axis. The
magneto went in front and a clutch and two-speed gearbox behind, this then
driving a shaft running back to an under-slung worm at the rear wheel.
The worm wheel housing incorporated two sets of brake shoes in the rear
It was advertised as 'the car on two wheels' and was marketed at 95
guineas (£95.75) - a whole year's wages for most working folk - and
as such did not attract many orders. This was a shame, because the Motorcycling
Magazine of 28 June 1920 said, " From whatever standpoint the Unibus
is viewed, it stands as an engineers job from start to finish. The design
marks a new era in the march of progress of the two wheeler." Gloster's
attempt to diversify from military aircraft even looked like a Vespa,
with a starting handle on the dashboard. Pressed aluminium panels hid the
mechanical portions and the steel frame even incorporated a parcels compartment
under the seat.
Although the Unibus was an advanced design, it proved to be too
expensive for its market and was short lived.