In early 1933, the British Air Ministry began their search for a relatively inexpensive land-plane to support their coastal maritime reconnaissance missions.
The aircraft would function as a supplement to the more capable, longer range and more expensive flying boats of Coastal Command.
A number of manufactures placed submissions but it was the Avro works that proved successful with their highly modified version of the earlier six-seat airliner, the Avro 642.
With rumours of war starting to circulate, Avro had already been anticipating the Air Ministry’s upcoming need for a range of combat aircraft having commenced preliminary design work on the 4 engine heavy bomber, the Avro Manchester - forerunner to the highly successful and icon RAF bomber, the Avro Lancaster.
The Air Ministry placed an initial order for 174 aircraft and on the 31 December 1935, the first production Anson took its maiden flight with the RAF receiving the first deliveries in March the following year.
It proved to be a lucrative contract for Avro with over 11,020 Ansons being produced up until 1952 and exported to 35 countries including Australia and New Zealand, Canada, the US and South Africa.
One of the Anson’s key features was its considerable load carrying ability and its long range. It was an uncomplicated aircraft using long tried and tested construction methods with a low mounted one-piece wooden wing composed of plywood and spruce and a fuselage of welded steel tubing forming a sturdy framework for its fabric covering and its magnesium alloy skinned nose.
Powered by two Armstrong Siddeley Cheetah IX air-cooled radial engines, the Anson had a top speed of 188mph; a range of over 660 miles and a service ceiling of 19,000ft.
It was the first RAF aircraft to enter service with a retractable undercarriage with the wheels tucking into the bottom of the engine nacelles. The only issue its flight crew had with that was that the retraction gear was manually operated by a hand-crank requiring over 144 turns of the crank handle to lock them in place.
Originally flown with a three-man crew of pilot, navigator/bomb aimer and a radio operator/gunner the aircraft was equipped with a single 303 Vickers machine gun aimed by the pilot and an Armstrong Whitworth manually operated gun turret located in the Anson’s dorsal section fitted with a single Lewis gun.
In its coastal patrol capacity, the Avro could also carry up to 160 kg of bombs under its wings with the bomb aimer laying in a prone position in the forward section of the nose with a bombsight band drift sight.
By the outbreak of WWII, all of the Bomber Command squadrons had also been equipped with the Anson which served as a training platform for newly formed aircrew preparing for frontline service with its crews moving onto the Bristol Blenheim, Fairy Battle, Vickers Wellington and Handley page Hampden.
Although generally accepted that the Anson was too slow and under armed for any serious combat role, a small number continued on s with Coastal Command as submarine chasers and air/sea rescue. In fact, one Anson was credited with scoring a direct hit on a German U-boat which had been suprised on the surface with the U-boat managing to limp away in the fading light.
In June 1940, a flight of three Ansons were attacked by nine Bf 109’s and to everyone’s surprise, all Ansons survived the skirmish with one of the Ansons shooting down two German aircraft and damaging a third.
It was however as an advanced trainer that the Anson really came into its own with the aircraft being exported to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India and the US to form the backbone of the Commonwealth Air Training Scheme providing much needed aircrew for the European theatre.
In its training role the top turret was often removed and many of its student pilots, navigators and bomb aimers went onto serve aboard the British heavy bombers such as the Avro Lancaster and Vickers Wellington with great success.
After the war, the Avro Anson was modified for civilian use and operated as a light transport and charter aircraft all over the world and continued in production until late 1952.
Unfortunately, one of the key elements that made it relatively cheap to produce and maintain - its wooden laminated wing construction and fabric covering, also became its downfall in many of the more humid countries it was exported to. Much like the De Havilland Mosquito, it was discovered that heat and humidity broke down the resin glues used in construction and the wing structures simply fell apart.
Today, only a few flying examples survive of this much loved military trainer.
This Avro Anson Instrument comes complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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