Avro Anson

The Avro Type 652 Anson was designed in August 1933 to meet an Imperial Airways requirement for a light transport with accommodation for four passengers. The A. V. Roe design team, led by Roy Chadwick soon produced a plan for a sleek low wing monoplane with retractable undercarriage and powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah V radial engines. Imperial Airways placed an order for two machines in April 1934 and the first of these flew on the 7th January 1935. The two aircraft were delivered to Imperial Airways on the 11th March of that year.

Meanwhile the Air Ministry had notified the company of their requirement for a new twin engine land-based plane for the Coastal Reconnaissance role. Rather than create a new design, the Avro design team based their proposal on a military version of the Imperial Airways aircraft. This was given the designation Type 652A and differed from the Civilian machines in having a revised tail unit, larger cabin window area, a dorsal turret, Cheetah IX engines, and full Military equipment. This flew for the first time on the 24th March 1935.

After service trials, series production began on the 31st December 1935 with initial RAF deliveries commencing on the 6th March 1936. No.38 Squadron RAF based at Manton becoming the first (and ultimately the last to employ the Anson on Front Line Service) began receiving the Anson Is (later Anson GR.I) on the 6th March 1936. Further RAF orders followed, culminating in some twenty-one Coastal Command Squadrons being equipped with the Anson I, primarily in the Coastal Reconnaissance and Search and Rescue role. Foreign orders for the type were also received from Australia, Egypt, Estonoia, Finland, Greece and Ireland.

By the outbreak of World War II over 1,000 machines had been manufactured, equipping 10 Coastal Command and 16 Bomber Command Squadrons. The Anson was right in the front line at the time. On September 5, 1939, an Anson of No.500 Squadron made the first attack of the war on an enemy U-boat, and in June 1940 three Ansons, attacked over the Channel by nine Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf.109s succeeed in shooting down two and damaged a third. Others were employed as Training aircraft (which would eventually become the Ansons major contribution to the War effort) in which almost all and Commonwealth navigators, air gunners and wireless operators would be trained under the Commonwealth Air Training Plan of 1939.

In Janury 1942 the Coastal Command Ansons began to be replaced with the Lockheed Hudson. Many of the replaced aircraft being later converted for training, ambulance and transport duties.

The five seat trainer with dual controls and different equipment was selected to be one of the standard training aircraft under the Commonwealth Air Training plan (18 Decmber 1939) and was soon equipping OTU training units, navigation, army co-operation and air gunnery schools.

Whilst the Mark I was the most numerous Anson (6,742 built) before and during the Second World War, other notable variants included:

  • Anson Mk II Canadian built Anson with 330hp Jacobs L-6MB radial engines (1,050 Aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk III Engineless British built airframes shipped to Canada where they were fitted with 330hp Jacobs L-6MB radial engines (559 Aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk IV Engineless British built airframes shipped to Canada where they were fitted with 300hp Wright R-760-EI/E3 Whirlwind engines (223 aircraft produced)
  • Anson Mk V Canadian built Anson with the fuselage constructed of molded plywood and powered by 450hp Pratt and Whitney R-985-AN-12B/14B Wasp Junior Engines (1,080 Navigation Trainers and one Gunner Trainer-with Bristol BI Mark VI dorsal turret built)
  • Anson X British built Anson Mk.1s converted as Transport aircraft with a strengthened floor (103 aircraft produced)
  • Anson XI British built Transport aircraft with raised cabin roof for passenger comfort, and powered by 395hp Cheetah XIX engines. (91 aircraft produced)
  • Anson XII British built Transport aircraft with raised cabin roof, metal wings, and 420hp Cheetah XV engines (254 aircraft produced).
  • Fifty Anson IIs (which made its first flight in the 21st August 1941) were also supplied to the USAAF as AT-20 crew trainers.

The Anson remained in production for both civilian and military customers world wide following the end of the war, and by the end of its production life in May 1952, the Anson spanned nine variants with a total of 8,138 built in Britain by Avro and, from 1941, a further 2,882 by the Canadian Federal Aircraft Ltd. After some 32 years service the RAF officially ended its association with the Anson on the 28th June 1968 when the last six Ansons on the Southern Communications Squadron were withdrawn. A handful of Ansons are still flying with two currently known to be operating in the United Kingdom.

Sources

  • Aircraft of World War II (Chris Chant, Dempsey-Parr, 1999)
  • Airlife's World Aircraft (Airlife Publishing, 2001)
  • The World Encyclopedia of Bombers (Francis Crosby, Anness Publications, 2004)
  • World Aircraft Information Files (Aerospace Publishing Periodical).

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