The naked Gladiator pilot

This is a colourised version of a famous original black and white Bureau of Information photograph called “The naked Gladiator pilot” with a caption which reads;

“South African Contingent in East Africa. a SAAF fighter pilot in Kenya preparing to take off to meet enemy raiders. He has removed his shirt because of heat.”

The Gloster Gladiator (or Gloster SS.37) was a British-built biplane fighter. It was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF) , the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm (FAA) (known as the Sea Gladiator variant) and the South African Air Force (SAAF).

It was the RAF’s last biplane fighter aircraft and was rendered obsolete by newer monoplane designs even as it was being introduced. Though often pitted against more formidable foes during the early days of the Second World War, it acquitted itself reasonably well in combat due to high degrees of manoeuvrability.

Photograph obtained from the SAAF museum. The colourised photo copyright belongs to Tinus Le Roux, and my deep thanks to him for sharing it.

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