Aircraft of the Month
In July 1924, Gloucestershire Aircraft (later the Gloster Aircraft Company) began work on a fighter based on the Grebe but fitted with the newly developed and relatively light and simple Jupiter IV radial engine. The first prototype was delivered to Martlesham Heath on 20th February 1925 and, following successful trials by service pilots, an order was placed in September of that year for 30 machines to be known as the Gamecock Mk1. Powered by the Jupiter VI, the aircraft entered service with No 23 Squadron at RAF Henlow in May 1926. A further 42 were ordered in July 1926 and 18 more shortly thereafter.
Given a total of only 90 aircraft, the accident rate for Gamecocks was somewhat high with 4 lost in 1926 and a further 18 in 1927, the majority as a result of landing or spinning accidents. Spins to the right were easily entered, particularly at low speed, owing to high engine torque and fuselage blanking. The conventional spin recovery action was seldom successful and, if moving the control column forward failed to unstall the wings, the pilot’s only recourse was to abandon the aircraft before the spin went flat and became irrecoverable. For this reason, intentional right-hand spins were forbidden. Despite this major shortcoming, the machine was popular with its pilots. With sensible handling, it was a delightful aerobatic mount and proved an excellent gun platform for its 2 x .303 Vickers machine guns.
Just 6 RAF squadrons were equipped with the Gamecock and it had a fairly short service life with No 23 Squadron the last operational unit to relinquish its machines in July 1931. A company-sponsored Mk2 version constituted an improvement in terms of spin characteristics, but was overtaken by the Bulldog as a replacement. The Finnish Air Force operated 15 Gamecock Mk2s as front line aircraft until 1935, however, and a modified variant known as the Gambet was built under licence in Japan for the Imperial Japanese Navy. In terms of survivors, the remains of a Gamecock fuselage are on display at a museum in Helsinki and there is rumour of an aircraft being restored at Sywell.
No 43 (Fighter) Squadron was equipped with Gamecocks at RAF Tangmere during the period 1926-28 and thus the inspiration for the Squadron’s badge and renowned nickname “The Fighting Cocks”.