Gremlin is an English folkloric creature, commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft. Although their origin is found in myths among airmen, claiming that the gremlins were responsible for sabotaging aircraft, John W. Hazen states that "some people" derive the name from the Old English word gremian, "to vex". Since World War II, different fantastical creatures have been referred to as gremlins, bearing varying degrees of resemblance to the originals.
The term "gremlin" was derived from the Old English word greme, which means to vex and annoy, commonly depicted as mischievous and mechanically oriented, with a specific interest in aircraft. The word "gremlin" originated in Royal Air Force (RAF) aviators' slang in Malta, the Middle East and India, with the earliest recorded printed use being in a poem published in the journal Aeroplane, in Malta on April 10, 1929. The concept of gremlins responsible for sabotaging aircraft was popularised during World War II among airmen of the UK's RAF, in particular the men of the high-altitude Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) of RAF Benson, RAF Wick and RAF St Eval. The creatures were responsible for otherwise inexplicable accidents which sometimes occurred during their flights. Gremlins were also thought at one point to have enemy sympathies, but investigations revealed that enemy planes had similar and equally inexplicable mechanical problems. And that is certainly what the gremlins did to the pilots and their aircraft in World War II (1939–45) when the pesky entities were routinely blamed for engine troubles, electronic failures, and any other thing that might go wrong with an airplane.
An early reference to the Gremlin is in an article by Hubert Griffith in the servicemen's fortnightly Royal Air Force Journal dated April 18, 1942 although that article states the stories had been in existence for several years, and there are later recollections of it having been told by Battle of Britain Spitfire pilots as early as 1940. Later sources have sometimes claimed that the concept goes back to World War I, but there is no print evidence of this. Dave Stern, an aerospace, aviation, and history writer, says that the legend began in 1923 when a British navy pilot crashed into the sea. Once he was rescued, he blamed the accident on some little people who had jumped out of a beer bottle and had tormented him all night. It was these wee troublemakers who had followed him into the airplane, entered into the engine, messed with the flight controls, and caused him to crash. Not long after this reported gremlin attack, some pilots and mechanics stationed at an overseas RAF aerodrome complained of being bothered by the annoying entities, and by 1925, British pilots were cussing the little monsters and blaming gremlins for almost anything that might possibly go wrong with their aircraft.
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