Gloster
Grebe

A popular fighter aircraft which replaced the Sopwith Snipe in RAF service.

Gloster Grebe prototype J6969 Gloster Grebe prototype J6969 '14' prior to display in the New Types park at Hendon in June 1923.
 
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.
 
Gloster Grebe I G-EBHA Gloster Grebe I G-EBHA with Gamecock type tail and undercarriage.
 
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'.
 
Gloster Grebe II J7283 A production Gloster Grebe II J7283.
 
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.
 
Gloster Grebe II pair taking off 25 sqdrn A pair of RAF Gloster Grebe II from 25 Sqn taking off.
 
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
Total 133 aircraft

 

Specification


  Grebe II
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
Endurance 3.0 hr

 

Survivors


No examples survive
 

Other information