Named after a British Admiral of the 18th Century, the Avro "Anson", nicknamed 'Faithful Annie' or 'The Flying Greenhouse' by those who flew it, entered RCAF service in 1940 after serving in the RAF Coastal Command at the outbreak of World War II. It was the first aircraft to be flown by the RAF to have a retractable undercarriage which was a comparative novelty in 1936.
The Ansons were steadily replaced by later types such as the Hudson and Whitley throughout 1940, but few remained with Coastal Command until 1942. In the early days of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, the Anson was selected as the standard twin-engine aircraft for the training of pilots, observers, wireless-operators, and bomb aimers. Over 20,000 aircrew received their training on it. At first the aircraft was supplied by the United Kingdom, but as the war situation worsened, production was started in Canada.
Federal Aircraft Limited, a Canadian government owned company in Montreal was set-up in 1940 to supervise construction of the Anson Trainer in Canada. North American engines were substituted, and later the airframe was substantially redesigned. Nearly 3,000 Canadian Ansons were made and fifty were obtained by the USAAF under the AT-20 designation.
Although used primarily as a trainer when first delivered to the RAF, it served operationally in the early years of the war as a light bomber and coastal patrol aircraft. During the evacuation of Dunkirk, Ansons were used aggressively to protect the beleaguered British troops. During this operation one Anson was attacked by ten
Messerschmitts but managed to shoot down two and damage a third before the action was broken off. However, the Anson was severely limited in range, fire-power, and bomb load and was soon limited to training, transport, and other non-combat roles.
The Avro Anson MK I was to be the standard twin-engine trainer for the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. By May, 1940 British production could not keep up with the demand for aircraft in Canada and Federal Aircraft Ltd. was established in Montreal to produce the Mk II version. In August, 1941 the first Canadian built Anson flew. It featured the considerable use of plywood to save stocks of steel for other purposes.
Anson II's were used primarily to train pilots to fly multi-engine aircraft such as the Lancaster. However wireless operators, navigators, and bomb-aimers used the Anson as well. As a training aircraft the Anson was docile, forgiving, and easy to fly. As will, it developed such a reputation for reliability it was dubbed "Faithful Annie".
Anson II's were a familiar sight in the skies of southern Alberta during the war. All were declared surplus at war's end and many were immediately destroyed. Some were sold to farmers who used their electrical, mechanical, and other parts for various purposes on the farm. They became fantastic play areas for children and occasionally were kept as cherished relics.
RCAF Avro Anson Mk V