The Gloster Aircraft Company developed the Gloster Grebe in 1923 and its origins lie within the design layout of the Gloster Grouse II.
Chief Designer Henry Folland had earlier demonstrated the new concept of a thick, high-lift upper wing combined with a thinner, medium-lift lower wing in the Gloster Sparrowhawk and then the Gloster Grouse. After the Gloster Grouse also demonstrated the success of the configuration, the British Air Ministry ordered 3 prototypes.
The prototypes ordered were in essence, a Gloster Grouse II fitted with the much more powerful Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar III 350 hp engine. They were styled as the Gloster Grebe I, despite being initially known as the Nighthawk (thick-winged). During performance testing at Martlesham Heath however, these were re-christened as the Gloster Grebe. With the trials going much better than had been anticipated, the Air Ministry ordered the type into production as the Gloster Grebe II, following the adoption of the more powerful 400 hp Jaguar IV engine.
The first prototype (J6969) was flown for the first time during May 1923.
Three RAF Gloster Grebe prototypes, together with a company demonstrator were built. These were followed by 108 Grebe II single-seat fighters as well as 21 two-seat dual-control trainers for the RAF of which three were also acquired by New Zealand.
2 aircraft were specially adapted for suspension under the R33 Airship, via a trapeze arrangement where they carried out what were delightfully named 'Parasite Trials'.
The type demonstrated excellent all-round performance and superb handling in the official trials. It entered RAF service as Gloster Grebe II in October 1923, replacing the Sopwith Snipe. Serving with 111 Squadron, the Gloster Grebe proved popular with pilots, being much faster than their previous Sopwith Snipes and far more agile.
The type suffered from a tendency to wing flutter, resulting in in-service modifications to the ailerons and additional V-struts, designed to brace the overhung wing tips. This problem was to re-emerge later with the Gloster Gamecock.
The Grebe finally retired from the RAF in 1929 when they were replaced by the Gloster Gamecock which in itself was a development from the Grebe.
Variants & Numbers built
|Grebe I||4 prototypes with 350 hp Jaguar III|
|Grebe II||108 production aircraft with Jaguar IV|
|Grebe (Dual)||21 two-seat trainers|
|Powerplant||One 400 hp Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar IV radial engine|
|Span||29 ft 4 in|
|Maximum Weight||2,538 lb|
|Capacity & Armament||Single pilot (fighter); instructor plus trainee (trainer variant). Two 0.303 Vickers machine guns. Four 20 lb bombs under each wing.|
|Maximum Speed||162 mph|
No examples survive