Military Wiki
Privately owned Auster AOP.V restored to its RAF colours
Role Liaison aircraft
Manufacturer Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited
Introduction 1942
Primary user Royal Air Force
Number built 1,630
Developed from Taylorcraft Plus C
Variants Beagle A.61 Terrier

The Taylorcraft Auster was a British military liaison and observation aircraft produced by the Taylorcraft Aeroplanes (England) Limited company during the Second World War.

Design and development

The Auster was a twice removed development of an American Taylorcraft design of civilian aircraft, the Model A. The Model A had to be redesigned in Britain to meet more stringent Civil Aviation standards and was named the Taylorcraft Plus C.[1][2] After the start of the Second World War, the company developed the model further as an Air Observation Post (AOP)—flown by officers of the Royal Artillery and used for directing artillery fire of British Army Royal Artillery units.

prewar Taylorcraft C/2, impressed by the RAF in September 1941, seen postwar

Auster I converted postwar to Taylorcraft Plus D, restored in wartime marks as LB382 of 653 Squadron RAF

The Plus C was re-engined with the Blackburn Cirrus Minor I engine and re-designated the Taylorcraft Plus D. Most of the civil Plus Cs and Ds were impressed into Royal Air Force service, the Plus Cs were re-engined with the Cirrus Minor I and re-designated as Plus C2.

Pre-war tests identified the Taylorcraft Model D as the most suitable aircraft for the AOP role. Three more Ds were purchased from Taylorcaft and a trials unit, D Flight, under Major Charles Bazeley RA, formed at Old Sarum on 1 February 1940. The flight with three Austers and one Stinson Voyager, and three artillery and one RAF pilots moved to France where they trained with artillery and practised fighter avoidance with Hurricanes of Air Component before moving south to train with French artillery. The flight did not participate in the fighting and withdrew without loss to UK. However, the War Office then ordered 100 Stinson L-1 Vigilants. Formation of the RAF's Army Cooperation Command in December 1940 led to the RAF rejecting the notion of light AOP aircraft. Intercession by General Alan Brooke led to doctrinal rectification of the RAF. Nevertheless the first AOP pilot course for artillery officers took place in October 1940 and in 1941 the first AOP squadron, No 651, formed. The Stinson Vigilants eventually arrived in early 1942 but most were severely damaged during shipping, this led to the adoption of the Taylorcraft Auster 1 and an order for 100 aircraft placed. Some Stinsons were resurrected but found to be to big for the AOP role.[3]

The Auster II was a re-engined aircraft with an American 130 hp (97 kW) Lycoming O-290 engine. Due to the shortage of American engines that version was not built but led to the Auster III (Model E), which was the same as the Auster I but had a 130 hp (97 kW) de Havilland Gipsy Major engine. The next development was the Auster IV (Model G) which had a slightly larger cabin with three seats and used the Lycoming O-290. The major production version was the Auster V (Model J) which was an Auster IV with blind flying instruments, and a flap modification.[4][5] Post war the Auster Mark V was used as the basis for the Auster J/1 Autocrat intended for the civilian market; the British firm having changed their name to Auster and stopped licensing from Taylorcraft. Further military aircraft were supplied post war; the Auster AOP6, Auster T7 (a trainer), and the Auster AOP9.

Operational history

The Auster Mark III, IV and V were issued to 12 Royal Air Force (RAF), one Polish and three Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Air Observation Post (AOP) Squadrons. The first to deploy was No. 651 Squadron RAF. The leading elements landed in Algiers on 12 November 1942 with eight aircraft, 11 Royal Artillery (RA) pilots, 39 RA soldiers and 25 airmen (mostly maintenance technicians). The normal strength of an AOP squadron was 12 aircraft, 19 RA officers (all pilots), 83 RA other ranks and 63 RAF including two administrative officers. Aircraft were fitted with the Army's No 22 Wireless, an HF set providing two way voice communications with artillery units and formations on the ground.

Four squadrons (No. 651, No. 654 Squadron RAF, No. 655 Squadron RAF and No. 657 Squadron RAF) fought in North Africa and Italy, being joined from August 1944 by No. 663 Polish squadron. The other seven squadrons (Nos. 652, 653, 658, 659, 660, 661 and 662 of the RAF) operated after D-day in France, the Low Countries and into Germany.

No. 664 Squadron RCAF, No. 665 Squadron RCAF, and No. 666 Squadron RCAF were also issued with the Auster Mk. IV and V, formed in the UK at RAF Andover in late 1944 and early 1945. The RCAF squadrons were manned by Canadian personnel of the Royal Canadian Artillery and the RCAF, with brief secondment to the squadrons with pilots from the Royal Artillery; overall control was maintained in the UK by 70 Group, RAF Fighter Command. The three squadrons deployed from RAF Andover, England, to the Netherlands, to Dunkirk, France, where the last Canadian 'shots' in Europe were fired, and later to occupied Germany. No. 656 Squadron RAF was assigned to 14th Army and used Austers in Burma, generally with flights assigned to each corps. In European theatres a squadron was generally assigned to each corps, but under command for technical matters of an RAF group.

The Royal Australian Air Force's No. 16 AOP Flight and No. 17 AOP Flight operated Auster Mark III aircraft in support of the Australian Army in the Pacific Theatre from October 1944 until the end of the war.

Post-war Auster AOP aircraft were reorganised into independent flights (probably because the RAF used Wing-Commanders, equivalent to Lieutenant-Colonel, to command squadrons while the army insisted on a major's command) including 1903 Flight in Korea that had artillery pilots from several Commonwealth countries. There was also an Auster-equipped Liaison Flight, No 1913, in that theatre. Air OP flights also operated in the Malayan Emergency. Several AOP squadrons were reformed within the Royal Auxiliary Air Force in 1949 and these operated some AOP.5s, AOP.6s and AOP.9s until at least March 1957, when the Auxiliary Air Force was disbanded. All Auster AOP units were transferred to the Army Air Corps when it was formed in September 1957, with AAC squadrons using numbers starting with 651. The air observation duties, counter-insurgency and casualty evacuation roles performed by Auster and similar light aircraft were generally taken over by light helicopters from the mid-1960s.


Auster III

Taylorcraft Plus C
Original civilian version with a Lycoming 0-145-A2 engine, 23 built.
Taylorcraft Plus C2
Plus C re-engined with a 90hp Cirrus Minor I engine for the Royal Air Force, 20 conversions.
Taylorcraft Plus D
Plus C with a 90hp Cirrus Minor I engine, nine built.
Taylorcraft Auster I
Military version of Plus C, 1 conversion and 100 built.
Taylorcraft Auster II
Auster I with a Lycoming 0-290 engine, two built.
Taylorcraft Auster III
Auster I with a de Havilland Gipsy Major engine, 470 built.
Taylorcraft Auster IV
Three-seat version with a Lycoming 0-290-3/1 H.O. engine, 255 built.
Taylorcraft Auster V
Auster IV with blind flying instruments (Vacuum pump) and flap modification, and removable armour plate installed for pilot only, 790 built.
Taylorcraft Auster Model H
Experimental tandem two-seat training glider converted from a Taylorcraft B.


Military operators

Auster III of the Royal Australian Air Force at the RAAF Museum, Point Cook, Victoria, in March 1988

 Hong Kong
 Jordan (Transjordan)
  • Royal Norwegian Air Force in exile in the United Kingdom - Nine aircraft in service from 1944 to 1945. Used by Nos 331 and 332 Norwegian Squardons as communications aircraft.
 South Africa
 United Kingdom

Specifications (Auster V)

Data from British Warplanes of World War II and British Aircraft of World War II.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Length: 22 ft 5 in (6.83 m)
  • Wingspan: 36 ft 0 in (10.97 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 0 in (2.44 m)
  • Wing area: 167 ft² (15.51 m²)
  • Empty weight: 1,100 lb (499 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 1,850 lb (839 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming O-290-3 flat-four piston, 130 hp (97 kW)


  • Maximum speed: 130 mph (209 km/h)
  • Range: 250 miles (402 km)



See also



  1. Mondey 1994, p. 71.
  2. March 2000, p. 225.
  3. Mead 1983, p. 157-163.
  4. Ellison 1966, p. 72.
  5. Hitchman 1989, p. 54.


  • Blackburn, George. Where The Hell are the Guns?. Toronto, Canada: McClelland & Stewart Publishing, 1997. ISBN 0-7710-1504-6.
  • Ellison, N.H. Auster Aircraft - Aircraft Production List. Tonbridge, Kent, UK: Air-Britain (Historians) Ltd, 1966.
  • Fromow, LCol. D.L. Canada's Flying Gunners: A History of the Air Observation Post of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery. Ottawa, Canada: Air Observation Post Pilots Association, 2002. ISBN 0-9730055-0-5.
  • Hitchman, Ambrose. The History of the Auster Aeroplane. Bingley, UK: International Auster Pilot Club, 1989.
  • Jackson, A.J. British Civil Aircraft since 1919, Volume 1. London: Putnam and Company Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-370-10006-9.
  • Ketley, Barry. Auster - A Brief History of the Auster Aircraft in British Military Service . Ottringham, UK: Flight Recorder Publications, 2005. ISBN 0-9545605-6-6.
  • March, Daniel J. British Warplanes of World War II: Combat Aircraft of the RAF and Fleet Air Arm, 1939-1945. Rochester, Kent, UK: Grange Books plc, 2000. ISBN 1-84013-391-0.
  • Mead, Brigadier Peter. The Eye in the Air - History of Air Observation and Reconnaissance for the Army 1785-1945. London, UK: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1983. ISBN 0-11-771224-8.
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to British Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press, 1994. ISBN 1-85152-668-4.
  • "Taylorcraft Auster". The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft. (Part Work 1982-1985). London: Orbis Publishing, 1985.
  • Willis, David. "Military Auster A to Z: Unarmed and in the frontline." Air Enthusiast, Issue 121, January/February 2006, pp. 40–57. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Willis, David. "Military Auster A to Z: Post-war use and experimentals." Air Enthusiast, Issue 122, March/April 2006, pp. 42–57. ISSN 0143-5450.
  • Willis, David. "Military Auster A to Z: n different colours - Exports." Air Enthusiast, Issue 123, May/June 2006, pp. 64–72. ISSN 0143-5450.

External links

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