The Hudson light bomber/transport was a military conversion of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s Model 14 Supre Electra twin engined airliner that was launched in the mid 30’s to compete with the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC 2 for a share of the burgeoning civilian airline industry.
More widely known as the aircraft flown by Amelia Earhart on her ill-fated around-the-world attempt in 1937, the British government had been searching for a maritime patrol aircraft to support their Avro Anson.
It was to be the first biggest order for the Lockheed Group the British Air Ministry ordering an initial 200 aircraft followed by another 50.
A total of 350 MkI’s and 20 Mk II’s were supplied to the RAF and fitted with two fixed Browning machine guns and the British designed Boulton Paul Dorsal Turret which was installed after the aircraft had arrived in the UK.
Powered by the 1,200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830 Twin Wasp engines the aircraft had a cruising speed of 246 mph and could carry 1400 lbs of bombs or depth charges.
In May 1939, the first RAF squadrons began receiving the Hudson and by the start of the war, 78 Hudsons were in service with the RAF and Coastal Command.
Although later outclassed by the RAF’s larger bombers, the Hudson achieved some significant feats during the first half of the war.
On 8 October 1939, over Jutland, a Hudson became the first Allied aircraft operating from the British Isles to shoot down an enemy aircraft. Hudsons also provided top cover during the British retreat at the Battle of Dunkirk.
On 27 August 1941, a Hudson of No. 269 Squadron RAF, operating from Kaldadarnes, Iceland, attacked and damaged the German submarine U-570 causing the submarine’s crew to display a white flag and surrender – the aircraft achieved the unusual distinction of capturing a naval vessel.
The Germans were taken prisoner and the submarine taken under tow when Royal Navy ships subsequently arrived on the scene.
A Hudson of the United States Navy squadron VP-82 became the first US aircraft to destroy a German submarine, when it sank U-656 southwest of Newfoundland on 1 March 1942., with another U-boat destroyed on 7 July 1942 while running on the surface off Cape Hatteras by a Hudson of the 396th Bombardment Squadron, USAAF.
The RAAF took possession of their first Hudsons in early 1940 and later that same year, following Japanese attacks on Malaya, Hudsons from No. 1 Squadron RAAF became the first Allied aircraft to make an attack in the Pacific War, sinking a Japanese transport ship, the Awazisan Maru, off Kota Bharu at 0118h local time, an hour before the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Although seen as underpowered, enemy pilots found that the Hudson had exceptional manoeuvrability for a twin-engine aircraft and could attain some notable tight turns if either engine was briefly feathered.
By August 1940, Hudsons of No's 1 and 8 Squadrons had been deployed to Malaya and these aircraft made the first RAAF retaliative missions against the Japanese on 8 December 1941.
Hudsons continued to strike back during the following months of adversity and wreaked tremendous damage on enemy ships and landing forces in the Pacific area, with No 459 RAAF Squadron serving in the Middle East.
One of the highest-scoring Japanese aces of the War Saburo Sakai, praised the skill and fighting abilities of an RAAF Hudson crew killed in action over Papua New Guinea after being engaged by nine highly-manoeuvrable Mitsubishi A6M Zeroes on 22 July 1942.
The crew, captained by P/O Warren Cowan, in Hudson Mk IIIA A16-201 of No. 32 Squadron RAAF, was intercepted over Buna by nine Zeroes of the Tainan Kaigun Kokutai led by Sakai.
The Hudson’s crew had accomplished many aggressive and unexpected turns, engaging the Japanese pilots in a dogfight for more than 10 minutes. It was only after Sakai scored hits on the rear/upper turret that the Hudson could be destroyed.
The Hudson's pilot made such an impression on Sakai that, after the war, he wrote formally to the Australian government, recommending that Cowan be “posthumously awarded your country’s highest military decoration”
One of the most unusual and to this day, most baffling Hudson episodes was the disappearance of the RAAF Hudson A16-118 from RAAF No 4 Squadron which disappeared off the coast of Cairns in Queensland after encountering cyclonic weather conditions.
The aircraft was enroute from Brisbane to New Guinea carrying senior Australian Army officers and crashed into the sea approximately 366 m offshore from Machans Beach.
Some of the senior officers aboard were, Major General George Vassey, Major General Rupert Downes, Colonel Robert Russel and Lieutenant Colonel George Betram. Even though extensive searches were carried out neither the aircraft or any of the bodies of its passengers and crew were recovered and a solemn memorial on the Machans esplanade is all that marks their disappearance.
With the introduction of the Bristol Beaufort, Hudsons were phased out of the RAAF by 1949, but as late as 1963 various Hudsons had been operated by a variety of civilian companies for airline and survey work.
All Lockheed Hudson Instruments listed below come complete with detailed Scale Model, Mango Wood Stand & Plaque plus Printed Fact Sheet featuring photo of instrument in aircraft cockpit.
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