A development of the Gloster Grebe fighter, the Gamecock was initially to Specification 37/23, a re-engined variant of the Grebe using the new 398hp Bristol Jupiter IV radial engine. Of wooden construction with fabric skinning and retaining the then standard armament of two synchronised 7.7mm Vickers guns. Ordered originally as the Grebe II in August 1924, the prototype Gamecock 1 (as it became titled) was delivered to Martlesham Heath for service tests on 20 February 1925. Trial reports were enthusiastic, resulting in an initial order for 30 production Gamecock Is machines in September 1925 powered by the 425hp Jupiter VI.
First to take delivery of the production Gamecocks was 23 Squadron RAF, at Henlow, in May 1926; followed by 3, 17, 32 and 43 Squadrons. Although designed for day fighting, the Gamecocks issued to 3 and 17 Squadrons were specially modified for night interception duties. During the next five years, Gamecocks were prominent in the many public displays organized by the RAF, and demonstrated the type's manoeuvrability in many superb aerobatic exhibitions.
A further 60 Gamecock Is were built for the RAF (1925-27), one of these (unofficially known as the Gamecock III) at one time flying with a lengthened fuselage, new and enlarged fin and rudder assembly and narrow-chord ailerons.
The Gamecock recorded a relatively high accident rate in service use; 22 having crashed within 19 months of its introduction to the RAF, and killing eight pilots. A variety of modifications were embodied progressively to eliminate the Gamecocks' tendencies to spin abruptly and give wing flutter at high speed. Despite such characteristics, service Gamecocks quickly demonstrated their fast performance by taking the first three places in the 1927 Sassoon Cup Race for RAF fighter squadrons.
A developed version, the Gamecock II, with a steel-tube upper wing centre section, narrow-chord ailerons and a larger rudder, appeared in 1928. This was adopted by Finland, two pattern aircraft and a manufacturing licence being acquired. Fifteen Gamecock IIs were built for the Finnish air arm 1929-30 by the State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonenetehdas), these having the lengthened fuselage tested earlier in the UK by the so-called Gamecock III and being powered initially by the 420hp Gnome-Rhone Jupiter (IV) 9Ab or 9Ak and later by the 480hp Jupiter (IV) 9Ag. By 1929 licensed production of the design (renamed Kukko) began at Helsinki. One unit, Fighter Squad-ron 24, continued to fly this variant from 1929 until 1935; while one Finnish Gamecock (GA-46) remained in service until late 1944.
Though development of the basic Gamecock was undertaken, resulting in the Gamecock II and III, the latter saw no service use. In 1928 the Finnish government, having been much impressed by various displays of the Gamecock's versatility, placed an order for the type.
Last of the all-wood construction fighters in RAF use, the Gamecock achieved fame in perpetuity when the reformed 43 Squadron adopted a fighting cock as its chosen official badge motif; the unit being known ever since as 'The Fighting Cocks'.
The last Gamecock Is were withdrawn from first-line RAF service mid-1931, Gamecock IIs remaining first-line Finnish equipment until 1935.
Gamecock Mk I
Engine: 1 x Bristol Jupiter VI, 317kW
Max take-off weight: 1299 kg / 2864 lb
Empty weight: 875 kg / 1929 lb
Span: (upper) 9.07 m (29 ft 9.5 in)
Spun (lower) 7.89 m (25 ft 11 in)
Length: 5.99 m / 19 ft 8 in
Height: 3.06 m / 10 ft 0 in
Wing area: 34.63 sq.m / 372.75 sq ft
Max. speed: 249 km/h / 155 mph
Ceiling: 6736 m / 22100 ft
Armament: 2 x 0.303-in (7.7-mm) Vickers Mk 1, 1200 rounds.
Endurance: 2.5 hr at 4572 m (15000 ft)