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Avro Anson

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The Anson would play a crucial role in preparing the aircrew needed to operate multi-engined aircraft. In service with the Royal Air Force for over 30 years, it wouldn't be until 1968 that the Avro Anson was retired. It would also be used by civilian airlines, as the Anson Nineteen, in a number of countries including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Quick Facts
Sorry, no image available
First flight
24th March 1935
Entered service
6th March 1936
Total built

Front view
Anson front view photo
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

The roots of the Anson were in commercial aviation, when during April 1933 Imperial Airways commissioned A.V. Roe to design an aircraft that had a range of over 420 miles, fly on one engine at 2,000 ft and carry four passengers. The design Roy Chadwick and his team came up with was the Type 652 which would be twin-engined with power supplied by the Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah V engine. After a couple of tweaks to the design, Imperial Airways ordered a pair of aircraft in April 1934.

Flying from Woodford, the first Type 652 made its maiden flight nine months later on the 7th January 1935. The 11th March 1935 saw Imperial Airways at Croydon Airport take delivery of the two aircraft, the only commercial aircraft examples produced, and both would be brought during 1938 for navigation training by Air Service Training Ltd.

The Air Ministry were looking for a twin-engined civilian aircraft that could be converted for military use for coastal reconnaissance and on the 7th May 1934 Avro were asked if they had any designs suitable. Avro submitted their design to the Air Ministry based on the Type 652, known as the Type 652A, which featured a single Lewis gun fitted in a dorsal turret. Alongside a military version of de Havilland's Dragon Rapide, known as the Dominie, a prototype was ordered.

With Bill Thorn at the controls, the prototype Type 652A made its maiden flight on the 24th March 1935 before undergoing trials with the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment at Martlesham Heath. The next phase for the aircraft was a competition against the Dominie at Gosport with the Coastal Defence Development Unit. It would come out on top due to its longer range.

Ordered into production under Specification 18/35 and designated the Anson Mk I, it would be powered by a pair of 335-hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX engines. This gave the aircraft a top speed of 188 mph, range of 660 miles and a service ceiling of 19,000 ft. Armament consisted of a pair of 0.303-in machine-guns, one forward firing on the port side and one in a dorsal turret, 360lb bombs could also be carried. The Anson would normally have a crew of three made up of the pilot, navigator/bomb-aimer and wireless operator/gunner, however a fourth crew member was added for maritime reconnaissance. The first production Anson Mk I flew on the 31st December 1935 and it would be No. 48 Squadron based at RAF Manston who would receive the first Ansons on the 6th March 1936.

The next production version, the Anson Mk II, would be built in Canada and featured a plywood nose and the dorsal turret was removed. Powered by a pair of 330-hp Jacobs L-6MB engines, it had a top speed of 188 mph, range of 790 miles with a service ceiling of 16,200 ft. There was no armament and the first example flew on the 21st August 1941.

With the introduction of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan on the 18th December 1939 the Anson would be used to train pilots, wireless operators, bomb-aimers and navigators and this would see airframes built in the UK sent to Canada, where upon delivery one of two engines would be installed. The 330-hp Jacobs L-6MB engined aircraft would be known as Anson Mk IIIs, whilst 420-hp Wright Whirlwind R-975-63 engined aircraft were Anson Mk IVs.

Also built in Canada was the Anson Mk V and this expanded on the plywood nose of the Anson Mk II with the whole fuselage built using this material. Powered by a pair of 450-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985-AN-12B engines, the aircraft had a top speed of 175 mph, range of 580 miles and a service ceiling of 21,400 ft, no armament was installed. A single Anson Mk VI was also built in Canada and powered by the same engines as its predecessor.

The Avro Anson Mk X and Anson Mk XI were both converted Anson Mk Is. The Anson Mk X was powered by the 335-hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX engine and used as a communications aircraft by the Air Transport Auxiliary. The Anson Mk IX had its roof raised and had the 395-hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah XIX engine installed.

Next was the Anson Mk XII, appearing in two different variants. The first would be powered by the 420-hp Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah XV engine. Its top speed was 190 mph, range 610 miles with a service ceiling of 15,000 ft, no armament was installed. This flew for the first time on the 30th July 1944. The second version had an all-metal wing, as opposed to the wooden construction normally used, and these were known as series 2 aircraft and this made its maiden flight three months later on the 27th October 1944. A small number of Anson Mk Is were also converted.

The types service with the Royal Air Force would see it serve with Coastal Command, Bomber Command and a number of different training units. Its time with Coastal Command saw the Anson perform patrols, attacking U-boats and E-boats and air-sea rescue. Its role in Bomber Command was to prepare crews for frontline service and when in training units it was used to get pilots accustomed to multi-engined aircraft and to train the aircrew needed for a bomber crew.

As the Second World War (1939 - 1945) drew to a close, the Anson would have a new lease of life as the Anson Nineteen. This aircraft was in response to Specification 19 issued by the Brabazon Committee, this was set up to assess post-war civil aviation needs. This saw an Anson Mk XI fitted with seats and the other necessities needed for a civil airliner during the early months of 1945. These would serve with the RAF under the designation C.19.

With the release of Specification T.24/46, which called for an aircraft to be used abroad as a trainer, the Anson T.20 appeared with a transparent nose and able to carry 16 practice bombs, and this bombing and navigation training variant prototype would make its maiden flight on the 5th August 1947. Followed 6 months later on the 6th February 1948 by the Avro T.21. This was solely a navigation trainer and would serve with Flying Training Command and the Anson T.20's transparent nose and practice bombs were absent. This was designed in response to Specification T.25/46 which called for a home based navigation trainer. The issuing of Specification T.26/46 saw the last Anson variant produced, the radio trainer Anson T.22 and on the 21st June 1948 the maiden flight of the prototype took place.

The types 32 year career with the Royal Air Force came to an end on the 28th June 1968 after the last of 10,996 built retired from service. As well as serving with the RAF a number of other countries brought the aircraft including Australia, Finland and Greece.

Technical Details

Click on the aircraft image to view a larger version.

Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Anson Mk I 188 mph 660 miles 19,000 ft two 0.303-in machine-guns
360lb bombs
Anson Mk II 188 mph 790 miles 16,200 ft none
Anson Mk III Training aircraft powered by a 330-hp Jacobs L-6mb engine.
Anson Mk IV Sole example powered by a 420-hp Wright Whirlwind R-975-E3 engine.
Anson Mk V 175 mph 580 miles 21,450 ft none
Anson Mk VI Sole example built in Canada and powered by the 450-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R-985-AN-12B engine.
Anson Mk X Converted Anson Mk I.
Anson Mk XI Converted Anson Mk I.
Anson Mk XII 190 mph 610 miles 15,000 ft none
Anson 18 Twelve civil crew trainers and thirteen aircraft based on the Anson C.19 exported abroad.
Anson Nineteen Civil aircraft.
Anson C.19 Civilian version used by the Royal Air Force.
AT-20 Anson Mk II built in Canada but used by the United States Army Air Force.
Anson T.20 Training aircraft used abroad.
Anson T.21 Training aircraft.
Anson T.22 Training aircraft.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Anson Mk I
Anson C.19 Anson Nineteen

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Anson Mk ? (C) Avro Heritage Museum
Anson C.19 Carew Cheriton Control Tower
Anson Mk I Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Anson C.19 National Museum of Flight, Scotland
Anson C.19 Newark Air Museum
Anson C.19 Norfolk & Suffolk Aviation Museum
Anson C.19 North East Land Sea & Air Museums
Anson Mk I (F) Royal Air Force Museum, London
Anson C.19 Royal Air Force Museum, Midlands
Anson Nineteen Shuttleworth
Anson C.19 (C) South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum
Anson T.21 Yorkshire Air Museum

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