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The Avro Anson was a Britishmarker twin-engine, multi-role aircraft that served with the Royal Air Force, Fleet Air Arm and numerous other air forces during the Second World War and afterwards. Named for Britishmarker admiral George Anson, it was originally designed for maritime reconnaissance, but was soon rendered obsolete. However it was rescued from obscurity by its suitability as a multi-engine air crew trainer, becoming the mainstay of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By the end of its production life in 1952, the Anson spanned nine variants and a total of 8,138 had been built in Britain by Avro and, from 1941, a further 2,882 by the Canadianmarker Federal Aircraft Ltd.

Design and development

Avro Anson T20
The Anson was derived from the commercial six-seat 652 and 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 Anson 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 less than 140 turns of the hand crank by the pilot. To forgo this laborious process, early model Ansons often made short flights with the landing gear extended at the expense of 30 mph (50 km/h) of cruise speed.

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-engine aircraft of the war.

Operational history

At the start of the Second World War, there were 26 RAF squadrons operating the Anson I; ten with Coastal Command and 16 with Bomber Command. However, by this time, the Anson was obsolete in the roles of bombing and coastal patrol and in the process of being superseded by the Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Lockheed Hudson.

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, the Ansons downed two German aircraft "and damaging a third before the 'dogfight' ended" , without losing any of their own. The aircraft's true role, however, was to train pilots for flying multi-engine bombers such as the Avro Lancaster. The Anson was also used to train the other members of a bomber's air crew, such as navigators, wireless operators, bomb aimers and air gunners. Postwar, the Anson continued in the training role and light transport roles. The last Ansons were withdrawn from RAF service with communications units on 28 June 1968.

The Royal Australian Air Force operated 1,028 Ansons, mainly Mk Is, until 1955. The Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy operated Ansons until 1952. The USAAF employed 50 Canadian-built Ansons, designated as the AT-20.

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 Egyptian Air Force operated Ansons in communications and VIP duties. A specially outfitted Anson was gifted 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 through 1972.

Postwar civil use

After the war, Ansons continued in civilian use as light transports for small charter airlines and as executive aircraft for industrial companies. Countries which saw civilian operations with Ansons included Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Denmark. Railway Air Services operated Ansons on scheduled services from London via Manchester to Belfast during 1946-1947.

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

Avro Ansons continued to be used by the RAF in the role of Station Communications Aircraft, well into the 1960's.


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.

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.
Mk II: 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.
Mk III: Powered by two 330 hp (250 kW) L-6MB R-915 engines; British-built.
Mk IV: 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.
Mk VI: One aircraft was built in Canada for bombing and gunnery training; powered by two 450 hp (340 kW) Wasp Junior engines.
Mk X: 104 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk Xs
Mk 11: 90 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk 11s
Mk 12: 20 Anson Mk Is were converted into Mk 12s, plus 221 new Mk 12 aircraft were built.
Mk XIII: Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XI or XIX engines; never built.
Mk XIV: Gunnery trainer powered by two Cheetah XV engines; never built.
Mk XVI: Navigation trainer; never built.
Mk XV: Bombing trainer; never built.
C 19: 264 were built for the RAF; used as communications and transport aircraft.
T 20: 60 aircraft were built for the RAF; used for bombing and navigation training in Southern Rhodesiamarker.
T 21: Navigation trainers for the RAF; 252 aircraft were built.
T 22: Radio trainers for the RAF; 54 aircraft were 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.
AT-20:United States military designation for Canadian-built Anson IIs used by the United States Army Air Force, 50 built.


: 13 Anson 18 aircraft were delivered to the Afghan Air Force from 1948 and retired by 1972
: At least one, LV-FBR, in use in 1960.
: 1,028 Ansons were operated by the Royal Australian Air Force, retiring in 1955
: Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy Ansons were retired in 1952
: three Canadian-built Ansons were transported to Cuba, operated by ANSA-Aerolineas del Norte S.A., a regional airline from 1947 through the mid-1950s
: Egyptian Air Force
: Estonian Air Force
: Finnish Air Force
: Hellenic Royal Air Force
: Irish Air Corps
: Royal New Zealand Air Force
: Paraguayan Air Arm 1 Mk.V bought in Argentina in 1947.
: Royal Rhodesian Air Force
: South African Air Forcemarker
: Royal Air Force, Royal Navy
: 50 Canadian built Ansons were delivered to the United States Air Force as the AT-20.

Specifications (Mk I)

See also




  • Donald, David and Jon Lake, eds. Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: AIRtime Publishing, 1996. ISBN 1-880588-24-2.
  • 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. ISBN 0-0530-9999-X.
  • 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 0-752417-38-X.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press. 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  • Sturtivant, Ray C. The Anson File. London: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1988. ISBN 0-85130-156-8.

External links

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