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Avro Anson

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Avro Anson

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First flight

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Primary users

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Number built

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The Avro Anson was a British twin-engined, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm, Royal Canadian Air Force and numerous other air forces before, during, and after the Second World War. Developed from the Avro 652 airliner, the Anson, named after British Admiral George Anson, was developed for maritime reconnaissance, but found to be obsolete in this role. It was then found to be suitable as a multi-engined aircrew trainer, becoming the mainstay of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By the end of production in 1952, a total of 8,138 had been built by Avro in nine variants, with a further 2,882 built by Federal Aircraft Ltd in Canada from 1941.

Design and development

The Anson was derived from the commercial six-seat 652 model; the militarised version, which first flew on 24 March 1935, was built to Air Ministry Specification 18/35. It was the first RAF monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. Avro allotted the type number 652A to the Anson. The first production run resulted in 174 Mk I aircraft for service with Coastal Command. No. 48 Squadron RAF was the first to be equipped in March 1936.

A distinctive feature of the Anson I was its landing gear retraction mechanism which required no fewer than 140 turns of the hand crank by the pilot. To forgo this laborious process, early model aircraft often made short flights with the landing gear extended at the expense of 30 mph (50 km/h) of cruising speed.[1]

A total of 11,020 Ansons were built by the end of production in 1952, making it the second most numerous (after the Vickers Wellington), British multi-engined aircraft of the war.[1]

Operational history

File:Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945. CH1079.jpg
An Avro Anson of No. 320 (Netherlands) Squadron, Coastal Command, about to take off on a patrol (1940-1941)

The Anson entered service on 6 March 1936 with 48 Squadron equipped with the Anson. At the start of the Second World War, the RAF had received 824 Ansons and there were 26 RAF squadrons operating the Anson I: 10 with Coastal Command and 16 with Bomber Command.[2] All of the squadrons in Bomber Command in 1939 with Anson Is were operational training squadrons that prepared crews for frontline service. 12 of the squadrons were in No. 6 (Operational Training) Group. Newly formed crews having completed individual flying and technical training were first trained as bomber crews in Ansons and then advanced to the various frontline aircraft types, which were also in the same squadrons with the Ansons. After training in the frontline aircraft type, crews would advance to the frontline bomber squadrons with those aircraft types (Fairey Battle, Bristol Blenheim, Vickers Wellington, Armstrong Whitworth Whitley, and Handley-Page Hampden). At the start of the war, the Lockheed Hudson was beginning to replace the Ansons in Coastal Command with one squadron of Hudsons and one with both Ansons and Hudsons.

Limited numbers of Ansons continued to serve in operational roles such as coastal patrols and air/sea rescue. Early in the war, an Anson scored a probable hit on a German U-boat. In June 1940, a flight of three Ansons was attacked by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109s. Remarkably, before the dogfight ended, without losing any of their own, one of the Ansons destroyed two German aircraft and damaged a third.[3]

The aircraft's true role, however, was to train pilots for flying multi-engined bombers such as the Avro Lancaster. The Anson was also used to train the other members of a bomber's aircrew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training and light transport roles. The last Ansons were withdrawn from RAF service with communications units on 28 June 1968.[1]

The Royal Australian Air Force operated 1,028 Ansons, mainly Mk Is, until 1955.

The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy operated the aircraft until 1952. Although the Canadian Anson's were used throughout the training schools of the British Commonwealth Air Training plan for training aircrew some were pressed into operational service with the RCAF's Eastern Air Command. A good example of the training schools involvement in combat operations with the EAC during the emergency of the battle is illustrated in an article dated the 1st of March, 2006 of the Royal Canadian Legion magazine entitled Eastern Air Command: Air Force, Part 14 the author Hugh A. Haliday wrote: "The need for Atlantic patrols was undiminished, yet the Battle of the St. Lawrence stretched EAC resources. Based at Charlottetown, 31 General Reconnaissance School was mobilized to fly patrols using Avro Ansons, each carrying two, 250-pound bombs. At the very outset of the war the Anson and its ordnance had failed in RAF anti-submarine work. Now in Canada it was remobilized as an aerial scarecrow. German views varied as to Canadian countermeasures. The captain of U-517 found his operations increasingly restricted by strengthened air patrols. In October 1942, U-69 reported “strong sea patrol and constant patrol by aircraft with radar.”

The Royal Indian Air Force operated several Ansons as part of the No.1 Service Flying Training School (India) for Pilot and Navigation training. These Ansons continued this role post independence and were retired at an unknown date.[4]

The Royal New Zealand Air Force operated 23 Ansons as navigation trainers in the Second World War, (alongside the more numerous Airspeed Oxford), and acquired more Ansons as communication aircraft immediately after the war. A preserved navigation trainer is in the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum at Wigram.

The United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), employed 50 Canadian-built Ansons, designated the AT-20.

The Egyptian Air Force operated Ansons in communications and VIP duties. A specially outfitted Anson was given to the then King by the Royal Air Force. The Royal Afghan Air Force obtained 13 Anson 18 aircraft for various duties from 1948. These aircraft survived until 1972.

During the 1939-45 war years the British Air Transport Auxiliary used the Avro Anson as its standard taxi aircraft, carrying groups of ferry pilots to and from aircraft collection points. There was no fatal mechanical failure of an Anson in ATA service, and it was very well regarded.[5]

Postwar civil use

File:Avro Anson 11 G-ALIH Ecko Electronics Blackbushe 1955.jpg
Avro Anson 11 G-ALIH of Ekco Electronics at Blackbushe, Hants, in September 1955

After the war, Ansons continued in production with Avro at Woodford for civilian use as light transports with small charter airlines and as executive aircraft for industrial companies. Countries which saw civilian operations with Ansons included the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Denmark.

File:Avro 652A XIX.2 G-AHIC Kemps SGT 06.10.66 edited-2.jpg
Avro Anson XIX operated for aerial survey work in the United Kingdom up to 1973

Railway Air Services operated Ansons on scheduled services from London's Croydon Airport via Manchester to Belfast (Nutts Corner) in 1946 and 1947. Sivewright Airways operated three Mk XIX aircraft from their Manchester Airport base on charter flights as far as Johannesburg and on scheduled flights to Ronaldsway Airport in the Isle of Man until 1951. Finglands Airways operated an ex-RAF Anson I on inclusive tour flights and on scheduled flights from Manchester Airport to Newquay Airport between 1949 and 1952. Kemps Aerial Surveys operated several Anson XIXs on survey work within the UK until their retirement in 1973.[6]

India ordered 12 new Anson 18Cs in 1948 for use by the Directorate of Civil Aviation as trainers and communications aircraft, these were delivered from Woodford in the spring of 1949.

Ansons continued to be built by Avro at Woodford for the RAF until March 1952 and were used as trainers and served in the role of Station communications aircraft until 1968.

The wooden wings of Ansons flying in Australia were found to fail at a high rate. The phenolic glue bonds parted, and it was speculated that the problem was due to the high humidity. The Commonwealth Government grounded most wooden-winged aircraft types in 1962, in particular, Ansons and Mosquitos. No aircraft were re-registered as the government mandated a test that essentially destroyed the wings, requiring new wings to be fitted. Most owners had voluntarily scrapped their aircraft well before this time.

Although Ansons have mainly been retired from flying, a 1943 Avro Anson Mk.I was recently made airworthy, fitted with later metal wings and returned to the air on 18 July 2012 in Nelson, New Zealand.[7]

Accidents and incidents

The interlocked Ansons lying in a paddock
Engines and forward sections of the two aircraft
  • On 28 April 1939, Avro Anson A4-32 of 6 Squadron RAAF crashes near Riverstone, New South Wales when on the return leg of an air navigation exercise, killing all four crew members.[8]
  • On 16 May 1940 Avro Anson A4-4 of No. 14 Squadron RAAF crashed 200 ft from the summit of Mount Torbreck Victoria killing all 4 crew on board. The wreck and the crew's bodies - Flying Officer Anthony Daniel, Corporals Frances Hyland, Fred Sass & Ivan Stowdor were found 9 months later in January 1941 by 2 bushmen mustering cattle.
  • On 29 September 1940, Avro Ansons L9162 and N4876 of No. 2 Service Flying Training School RAAF collided in mid-air and became locked together in flight. A successful emergency landing was made at Brocklesby, New South Wales. L9162 became a ground instructional airframe, whilst N4876 was repaired and returned to service (see 1940 Brocklesby mid-air collision).
  • On 3 August 1942, Avro Anson "5082" of No1 AOS collided with Lysander 1/2 mile from Isle of Whithorn and crashed into the sea. Pilot, Sgt G.T. Irwin and 4 cadets, LAC K.J. Garmston, LAC P.S. Glover, LAC S.D. Turner, LAC G.K. Cameron were all killed. The Lysander returned safely with slight damage - source [9]
  • On 9 October 1942, four Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) airmen were killed when their Avro Anson aircraft crashed near Clackline, Western Australia (see Avro Anson Memorial).
  • On Oct. 30, 1942 an Avro Anson took off from Sidney airport on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, with Royal Canadian Air Force Sgt. William Baird and British air force Pilot Officer Charles Fox, Pilot Officer Anthony Lawrence and Sgt. Robert Luckock aboard. The aircraft crashed, killing all aboard, Script error: No such module "convert". from takeoff, on a remote mountainside near Port Renfrew. The wreckage and remains of the crew were found by loggers in October 2013 and recovered in May 2014.[10]
  • On 14 January 1944 on the McKinnon farm in Hibbert Township, Ontario, LAC A. M. Difilippo of Hamilton, student pilot and his instructor, Pilot Officer J. F. Enning of Atlin, British Columbia, lost their lives. They were flying a twin-engined Anson trainer and were on a routine flight from No 13 Service Training School at Centralia. According to reports emanating about town the plane struck a chimney on the farm of Stanley Dow and then crashed on the Donald McKinnon property. The accident, which occurred at Staffa was some ten miles from Centralia and within the training area. Article from the Mitchell Advocate January 20, 1944.
  • On 16 February 1944 Avro Anson Mark I No: N5130 was flying over Llandudno on a training exercise from Mona field, Anglesey, when a part of the wing ripped off at 5,000 ft and the plane plummeted to the ground at Marl Farm, killing all five on board.
  • On 19 December 1945, a Companhia Meridional de Transportes Avro Anson Mk. II registration PP-MTA crashed in the neighborhood of Itaipu, Niterói, Brazil killing all passengers and crew, including the pilot and owner of the airline, Álvaro Araújo.[11]
  • On 11 June 1948, Avro XIX G-AGNI of Lancashire Aircraft Corporation ditched off Bradda Head, Isle of Man due to fuel exhaustion. The aircraft was operating a scheduled passenger flight from Squires Gate Airport, Blackpool to Ronaldsway Airport, Isle of Man via RAF Walney Island, Lancashire. All nine people on board were rescued by a trawler from Port Erin and the MV Silkthorn.[12]


The main Anson variant was the Mk I, of which 6,704 were built in Britain. The other variants were mainly distinguished by their powerplant with Canadian-built Ansons using local engines. To overcome steel shortages, the 1,051 Canadian-built Mk V Ansons featured a plywood fuselage.

G-VROE, an Anson C.21 operated by the Air Atlantique Classic Flight (2005)
Mk I
6,688 Mk Is were built. Powered by two 350 hp (261 kW) Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX or 395 hp (295 kW) XIX engines.
1,822 Mk IIs were built in Canada; powered by two 330 hp (246 kW) Jacobs L-6MB R-915 engines and fitted with hydraulic landing gear retraction rather than the manual system used on the Anson I.
Powered by two 330 hp (250 kW) L-6MB R-915 engines; British-built.
Powered by two Wright Whirlwind engines; British-built.
Mk V
1,069 Mk Vs were built in Canada for navigator training; powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985 engines and given a new locally developed wood monocoque fuselage.
One aircraft was built in Canada for bombing and gunnery training; it was powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Wasp Junior engines.
Mk X
104 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk Xs.
90 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk XIs.
20 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk XIIs, plus 221 new Mk XII aircraft built.
Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XI or XIX engines; never built.
Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XV engines; never built.
Navigation trainer; never built.
Bombing trainer; never built.
C 19
264 were built for the RAF; used as communications and transport aircraft.
T 20
Navigation trainer for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.24/46 for an overseas navigation trainer, one pilot two wireless operators (one trainee and one instructor) and five navigator positions (three trainees and two instructors). Used for bombing and navigation training in Southern Rhodesia, 60 built.
T 21
Navigation trainers for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.25/46 for a home navigation trainer, one pilot two wireless operators (one trainee and one instructor) and five navigator positions (three trainees and two instructors). A prototype was flown in May 1948, 252 were built.
Modification of T.21s for communications and transport duties.
T 22
Radio trainers for the RAF, a variant of the Mk XIX to meet Air Ministry Specification T.26/46, one pilot and four wireless operator stations (three for trainees and one for an instructor), a prototype was flown in June 1948, 54 built.
Anson 18
Developed from the Avro Nineteen; 12 aircraft were sold to the Royal Afghan Air Force for use as communications, police patrol and aerial survey aircraft.
Anson 18C
13 aircraft were built for the Indian government; used for training civil aircrews.
Avro Nineteen
(Also known as the Anson XIX): Civil transport version; 56 aircraft were built in two series.
United States military designation for Canadian-built Anson IIs used by the United States Army Air Forces, 50 built.


File:World operators of the Anson.png
Military Anson operators
23x15px Afghanistan
Royal Afghan Air Force - 13 Anson 18 aircraft were delivered to the Afghan Air Force from 1948 and retired by 1972
23x15px Argentina
At least one, LV-FBR, in use in 1960
23x15px Australia
Royal Australian Air Force - 1,028 Ansons were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, retired in 1955
  • Brain & Brown Airfreighters (one Anson until at least 1977)
  • East-West Airlines, one preserved (non-flying), at Tamworth Airport
23x15px Bahrain
23x15px Belgium
23x15px Brazil
Companhia Meridional de Transportes (three Avro Anson Mk. IIs operated between 1945 and 1946)
23x15px Canada
Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy Ansons were retired in 1952
23x15px Cuba
three Canadian-built Ansons were transported to Cuba, operated by ANSA-Aerolíneas del Norte S.A., a regional airline from 1947 until the mid-1950s
23x15px Czechoslovakia
Czechoslovakian Air Force three aircraft, in service from 1945 to 1948
23x15px Egypt
Egyptian Air Force
23x15px Estonia
Estonian Air Force
23x15px Ethiopia
Ethiopian Air Force
23x15px Finland
Finnish Air Force
23x15px France
French Air Force and Aeronavale
23x15px Greece
Hellenic Royal Air Force
Template:Country data India
Royal Indian Air Force [4]
Template:Country data India
Directorate of Civil Aviation
Indian Air Force
Template:Country data Iran
Imperial Iranian Air Force
Template:Country data Iraq
Royal Iraqi Air Force
23x15px Ireland
Irish Air Corps
Template:Country data Israel
Israeli Air Force
23x15px Netherlands
Royal Netherlands Air Force and Dutch Naval Aviation Service
23x15px New Zealand
Royal New Zealand Air Force
23x15px Norway
Royal Norwegian Air Force
23x15px Paraguay
Paraguayan Air Arm one Mk.V bought in Argentina in 1947.
23x15px Portugal
Portuguese Air Force
23x15px Rhodesia
Royal Rhodesian Air Force
23x15px Saudi Arabia
Royal Saudi Air Force
23x15px South Africa
South African Air Force
23x15px Southern Rhodesia
Southern Rhodesian Air Force
23x15px Syria
Syrian Air Force
23x15px Turkey
Turkish Air Force
23x15px United Kingdom
Royal Air Force and Royal Navy
23x15px United States
50 Canadian built Ansons were delivered to the USAAF as the AT-20.
23x15px Yugoslavia
SFR Yugoslav Air Force

Surviving aircraft




  • Irish Air Corps -

New Zealand

File:Avro Anson, Shuttleworth Flying Day - June 2013.jpg
Avro Anson, Shuttleworth Collection, 2013
  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum, Christchurch - composite of several examples, static display marked as NZ406
  • Reid Family, Nelson - composite Mk I with Mk XIX wings, airworthy as MH120/ZK-RRA

United Arab Emirates

United Kingdom

Specifications (Mk I)

Data from , David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II[15]

General characteristics



See also

Related development
  • Avro 652
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists



  1. ^ a b c Gunston, Bill. Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
  2. ^ March 1985, pp. 262–263.
  3. ^ Franks 1983, pp. 125, 181.
  4. ^ a b "No.1 Service Flying Training School (India)". 
  5. ^ Cheesman, E. C. Brief Glory: the story of the ATA Harborough Publishing 1946 pp66-7
  6. ^ Sturtivant, 1988, p. 294.
  7. ^ Neal, Tracy. "Restored-bomber-returns-to-the-skies." Nelson Mail, 18 July 2912. Retrieved: 19 July 2012.
  8. ^ Dunn, Peter. "Crash of an Avro Anson near Riverstone, NSW on 28 April 1939". Retrieved 8 September 2014. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "B.C. lumberjacks find bodies of Second World War airmen 72 years after Vancouver Island plane crash". National Post. 30 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  11. ^ Pereira, Aldo. Breve História da Aviação Comercial Brasileira (in Portuguese). Europa, (Rio de Janeiro), 1987, p. 290.
  12. ^ Poole 1999, pp. 123-24.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Mondey 1994, p. 26.


  • Donald, David and Jon Lake, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • Franks, Norman. The Air Battle of Dunkirk. London: William Kimber, 1983. ISBN 0-7183-0349-0.
  • Gunston, Bill. Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways. London: Osprey, 1995. ISBN 1-85532-526-8.
  • Jackson, A.J. Avro Aircraft since 1908, 2nd edition. London: Putnam Aeronautical Books, 1990. ISBN 0-85177-834-8.
  • Hall, Alan W. Avro Anson Mks. 1-22 (Warpaint Series No. 53). Blechley, Buckinghamshire, UK: Warpaint Books Ltd., 2006.
  • Hall, Alan W. and Eric Taylor. Avro Anson Marks I, III, IV & X. London: Almark Publishing Co. Ltd., 1972. ISBN 0-85524-064-4.
  • Holmes, Harry. Avro Anson (Images of Aviation). London: Tempus Publishing Ltd., 2000. ISBN 0-7524-1738-X.
  • March, Peter R. "Anson's 50th Birthday". Air Pictorial, Vol. 47, No. 7, July 1985. pp. 260–264.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press. 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  • Poole, Stephen. Rough Landing or Fatal Flight. Douglas, Isle of Mann, UK: Amulree Publications, 1999. ISBN 1-901508-03-X. 
  • Sturtivant, Ray C. The Anson File. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-156-8.

External links

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