All is not what it seems at the Swedish Air Force Museum (Flygvapenmuseum) in Malmslätt a little outside of Linköping. Amongst the treasure trove of aircraft sporting Swedish markings are two notable exceptions, a biplane Gloster Gladiator fighter and a Hawker Hart two-seat dive bomber, which both sport World War Two Finnish winter camo and markings (a blue swastika on a white roundel)!
These aircraft are actually a Swede in disguise! They were Swedish owned aircraft flown by Swedes on the side of the Finns during the Winter War fought between Finland and the Soviet Union from November 30th, 1939 to March 13th, 1940 (ending with the Moscow Peace Treaty. The Continuation War between the two nations commenced in 1941 and continued until 1944). I love the look of the ski landing gear and tail skid on the Gloster Gladiator (very useful for landing on ice and snow)!
Gloster Gladiator in Swedish Service
Designated the J 8 in the Swedish Air Force, 55 Gloster Gladiator Mk. I & II fighters (J 8 and J 8A) were ordered from Great Britain and although an obsolete biplane design before it even entered service the type was amazingly in service for 10 years from 1937 to 1947! Interestingly the Gladiator was the first fighter in Swedish service to have an enclosed cockpit (handy in the winter).
Maneuverable and tight turning, in the hands of a skilled pilot, the Gladiator could still be a worthy adversary but with a maximum speed of only 390 km/h the Gladiator really was no match performance wise for modern monoplane fighter aircraft of the time and lacked firepower as it was only armed with 4 x .303 machine guns (2 synchronized guns on the fuselage sides and 2 mounted underwing). It could also carry 4 x 12 kg bombs.
The F 8 Fighter Wing at Barkaby near Stockholm was first equipped with the Gladiator to defend the city and they would later operate with other units such as F 5, F 10 and F 20 in other parts of Sweden. From 1943 onwards the Gloster Gladiator assumed a fighter trainer role in Sweden until retired in 1947.
Hawker Hart in Swedish Service
The British designed Hawker Hart was originally acquired for the Swedish Air Force as a reconnaissance aircraft (designated as S 7) but was more needed as a light bomber and were predominately used as dive bombers (re-designated B 4), a role that came into favour in the 1930’s and 1940’s. 4 were purchased and delivered by Hawker in 1934 with a Bristol Pegasus IM2 radial engine rather than the standard Rolls Royce Kestrel (a block engine with a pressurised cooling system). A further 41 Hawker Hart aircraft were licence built in Sweden with NOHAB Pegasus IU2 radial engines.
Like the Gladiator, Hawker Harts were fitted with skis for winter operations. Armament consisted of 2 fixed .303 machine guns, one rear movable .303 machine gun and 200 kg of bombs. They were replaced by more modern combat aircraft in the 1940’s and saw out their final years in target tug towing and liaison roles before being retired in 1947.
Swede Aviators in the Winter War
12 Swedish Gladiators (Mk.II / J 8A variants) along with 5 Hawker Harts and a small number of support aircraft were assigned to the Swedish Voluntary Wing F 19 (Flygflottilj 19) commanded by Major Hugo Beckhammar for combat in Finland from January 10th, 1940. F 19 conducted air defence and ground attack missions from northern Finland – over 62 days the wing completed 464 sorties, destroying 8 to 12 Soviet aircraft, for the loss of 5 aircraft in combat and 1 more in an accident (with 2 of the lost aircraft reported to be Gladiators). The Swedish volunteers enabled the Finns, who had limited aircraft assets at the time, to concentrate on their air defence in other regions of Finland.
The Gladiator on display in the museum today, Number 278 was delivered in 1938 and was one of the aircraft operated during the Winter War with F 19 until it returned to Sweden in March 1940. It wears the same markings today as it did then. The aircraft was retired in 1945 after 699 flying hours and became part of the Swedish flight historical collection.
The Hawker Hart in the museum, Number 714 did not serve in the Winter War but sports the same markings and livery as those B 4 bombers that served in the conflict. It was a licence built example from 1937 that was produced nearby to its current location in Linköping. It first served with F 1 until 1938, transferred to F 4 and again in 1940 to F 6 before serving out its days with F 7 and F9 squadrons. It was retired and became part of the historic collection in 1947.