In June 1938 the British Purchasing Commission put in an order for 200 long-range reconnaissance aircraft. Lockheed responded by developing the Hudson from the Model 14 Super Electra airliner. Aircraft designer Kelly Johnson designed what he called a “convertible transport bomber”.[i] With a unit price of $100,000 it was cheaper than its competitors.[ii] The contract signed on June 23 authorized Lockheed to produce up to 250 aircraft by December 1939. To the chagrin of its competitors Lockheed met the deadline.[iii] The first Hudson flew on December 10, 1938. The first Hudson landed in England in February 1939.[iv] Production continued until June 1943 after Lockheed produced 2,000 for the British. Lockheed also produced the Hudson for the U.S. Army and Navy.[v]
[i] Lockheed Martin, https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/history/hudson.html, last accessed 11/10/20.
[ii] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/allies/aircraft/hudson.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[iii] Lockheed Martin, https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/news/features/history/hudson.html, last accessed 11/10/20.
[iv] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/allies/aircraft/hudson.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[v] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes, ©HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.
Lockheed Hudson Stats
7x.303 cal. machine guns
7x7.6mm machine guns
Bomb load (Internal)
The Hudson became the first American built aircraft to shoot down an opposing enemy aircraft. This happened on October 8, 1939. A Hudson Mk I shot down a Dornier Do-18D.[i] Two Hudsons shot down another Do-18 on November 10.[ii] In December a Hudson spotted the German merchant ship Altmark. The Altmark was carrying 300 prisoners captured by the German pocket battleship Graf Spee. A destroyer flotilla hunted down the Altmark and a boarding party from the HMS Cossack liberated the prisoners in Norwegian waters.[iii]
On June 1, 1940 RAF No. 220 Squadron claimed 3 Ju 87s shot down. On the 3rd No.206 Squadron claimed 3 Bf 109s shot down. RAF Squadron No.269 launched an attack on the battleship Scharnhorst on June 11. The German defenses shot down 2 Hudsons. On the 19th Hudsons evacuated Polish General Sikorski and his staff from Bordeaux.[iv]
Hudsons began anti-submarine missions in August 1940. Their first U-boat success was on August 27, 1941. It bombed and damaged the U-570. The U-boat crew surrendered.[v] On March 1, 1942 a PBO-1 Hudson, piloted by Ensign William Tepuni, sank the U-656. It was the first U-boat sunk by U.S. forces.[vi] A PBO-1 Hudson, piloted by CPO Donald F. Mason, sank the U-502 on March 15. It was the second U-boat sunk by U.S. forces.[vii] On May 1 an RAF Hudson severely damaged the U-573, killing one crew member. The Hudson pilot, Sgt. Brent, saw some U-Boat sailors on the bridge with their hands raised in surrender. Sgt. Brent felt strafing the ship was unjustified. Coastal Command’s assessment was the Hudson should have strafed the U-boat crew since there were no surface vessels available to accept the surrender. The U-573 made it to Spain where it was interned and sold to Spain on August 2.[viii] On July 31 a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Hudson, Number 625, sank the U-754. This Hudson was the first RCAF Eastern Air Command aircraft to sink a submarine.[ix] All 43 crew members of the U-754 died.[x] Hudsons sank 20 U-boats and shared in the sinking of 4 other U-boats. The last Hudson U-boat success was on October 5, 1943. A Hudson sank the U-336 all 50 on board the U-336 died.[xi]
Hudsons also took part in the attempt to stop the German ships in the “Channel Dash”, February 1942. Three Hudsons were lost in two unsuccessful attacks.[xii] On the night of June 25/26 35 Hudsons took part in a 1,123 aircraft effort against German targets. RAF losses for the night were 55 aircraft. RAF Coastal Command lost 5 of the 102 aircraft taking part.[xiii]
Hudsons flew reconnaissance missions over Germany when there was low cloud cover. These Hudsons had a camouflage scheme for such missions. Hudsons also flew agents and supplies into occupied Europe.
A Hudson was also the first allied aircraft to fly a bombing mission in the Pacific Theater.[xiv] On December 8, 1941 the Japanese shot down a Hudson A16-19. The Hudson pilot was Flight Lieutenant J.C. Ramshaw. It was the first Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft lost in the Pacific.[xv] Flying Officer Donald Alexander Dowie was the only survivor. He spent the rest of the war as a POW.[xvi] Japanese Zero ace Subaro Sakai led 9 Zeros against a Hudson on July 22, 1942. Pilot Officer Warren Frank Cowan and his crew; Pilot Officer David Reid Taylor, Sergeants Russell Bradburn Polack and Edwin Sheard evaded the Zeros for over 10 minutes before Sakai pressed home his attack. The attack killed the Hudson crew.[xvii] A Japanese Zero shot down a RAAF Hudson on August 21, 1942. Flight Officer Sidney G. Wadey parachuted to safety. The other crew members; Pilot Officer Stanley W. Faull, Sergeants Francis M. O’Reilly & Gould W. Herbert died in the crash. [xviii] On May 7, 1943 two Nakajima A6M2s attacked a formation of 5 Hudsons. The A6M2s shot down one Hudson. Three others jettisoned their bombs. One Hudson landed with its bomb load and its undercarriage collapsed on landing.[xix] On July 1, 1943 Hudson pilot, Flight Officer Thomas shot down an Aichi E13A. [xx] On September 7 a Hudson attacked the Sugi Maru. The Sugi Maru shot it down. The Sugi Maru picked up the two survivors, Flight Sergeants N. A. Graham and William Robinson Boanas. The sergeants were transferred to Ambon where they disappeared 2 months later.[xxi] The Japanese shot down a Hudson, on March 19, 1944. The crew survived the crash landing. The Japanese captured them 2 days later. While being transported a B-25 attacked the ship. A Japanese guard shot and killed Pilot Officer D. C. Beddoe as Beddoe was waving to the B-25. The Japanese executed the other 4 crew members on August 16, 1944. After the war the Australian Military Forces identified, convicted, and executed the Japanese Personnel responsible for the executions.[xxii] Over 20 other RAAF Hudsons were lost to crashes. The Royal New Zealand Air Force lost 6 to crashes. [xxiii]
[i] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/allies/aircraft/hudson.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[ii] History of War, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_lockheed_hudson_RAF.html, last accessed 11/14/20.
[iii] National Interest.org, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/reboot/british-destroyer-captured-nazi-supply-ship-and-freed-300-prisoners-169801, last accessed 10/11/20.
[iv] History of War, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_lockheed_hudson_RAF.html, last accessed 11/14/20.
[v] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/allies/aircraft/hudson.htm, last accessed 11/12/20. The U-570 suffered no casualties but its first officer escaped from a POW camp on a mission to destroy the U-570. He was killed while trying to escape recapture.
[vi] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/boats/u656.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[vii] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/boats/u503.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[viii] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/boats/u573.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[ix] Lockheed Hudson: The Restoration of Lockheed Mark VI Hudson FK466, http://airforcemuseum.ca/eng/?page_id=492, last accessed 11/13/20.
[x] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/boats/u754.htm, last accessed 11/13/20.
[xi] U-Boat.net, https://uboat.net/boats/u336.htm, last accessed 11/12/20.
[xii] History of War, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_lockheed_hudson_RAF.html, last accessed 11/14/20.
[xiii] The Bomber Command War Diaries by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt © 1985. P.281.
[xiv] Military Factory.com, https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=1808, last accessed 11/10/20.
[xv] Pacific Wrecks, https://pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/hudson/index.html, last accessed 11/13/20.
[xvi] Pacific Wrecks, https://pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/hudson/A16-19.html, last accessed 11/13/20.
[xvii] ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20
[xviii] ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20
[xix] ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20
[xx] ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20
[xxi] The crew members who died in the crash were; Flight Lieutenant L.A. Martin, Flight Officer Marcus C. Wettenhall, and Flight Officer M.H. Williams. ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20
[xxii] The Hudson crew members executed were; Squadron Leader Scott, Flight Sergeants Wallace, J, Wright, and R. King. The Japanese convicted and executed were; 1st Sub Lt. Katayama, 2nd Sub Lt. Toyoji Takahashi, 2nd Sub Lt. Takashi Nishida, and Petty Officer Yashizaki. ADF-Serials, http://www.adf-serials.com.au/2a16.htm, last accessed 11/15/20.
[xxiii] Pacific Wrecks, https://pacificwrecks.com/aircraft/hudson/index.html, last accessed 11/13/20.
After World War II
A Hudson Mk.IIIA, A16-199, did aerial survey work in Australia. In 1948 there was an embargo on arms to Israel. Israel clandestinely purchased 4 of the Australian Hudsons. During the War of Independence one Hudson, VH-BIH, flew bombing missions. The other Hudsons flew normal transport missions. Three of the Israeli Hudsons were in service in 1950.[i]
[i] The Israeli Air Force Hudsons, http://www.adastron.com/lockheed/hudson/israelaf.htm#:~:text=This%20photograph%20is%20reproduced%20from%20a%20magazine%20entitled,that%20the%20photo%20was%20taken%20at%20Ekron%20Airbase., last accessed 11/14/20.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Robert Sacchi
Robert Sacchi (author) on November 22, 2020:
Yes, it was soon overtaken my more capable aircraft. That is the case of many prewar aircraft. There was a lot of advancement in aviation during the war. From a historical standpoint the Hudson was available when Britain needed them.
MG Singh emge from Singapore on November 21, 2020:
The Lockheed Hudson was an American -built light bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft built initially for the Royal Air Force shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and primarily operated by the RAF. It had its limitations but did a good job generally. Nice reading about it.
Robert Sacchi (author) on November 21, 2020:
Thank you both for reading and commenting.
Liz Westwood: Yes, Britain was in bad shape early in the war and put any materials they could get to good use.
Peggy Woods: It's interesting the crew didn't drop the bomb in the ocean instead of risk a landing with them.
Liz Westwood from UK on November 21, 2020:
This is a fascinating and well-researched article about a plane that had a key role in World War 2. It's delivery in 1939 was very timely for the UK.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 16, 2020:
You bring history alive with your well-researched articles. It is always fun to learn how these aircraft are used by civilians after they are no longer used in the military.
That Hudson that landed with the bombs still on board and with the undercarriage collapse, must have been a bit frightening for everyone involved.
Robert Sacchi (author) on November 16, 2020:
Thank you both for reading and commenting. I was fortunate to find just the right web site, the ADF-Serials website. The aircraft also reveal a part of history beyond the planes themselves. Researching the article gives a lot of history that isn't in the regular history books.
FlourishAnyway from USA on November 16, 2020:
It was interesting to read about this aircraft and its "firsts" You always do such an impressive job with research and presentation.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 15, 2020:
The history of the Hudson is very impressive. You gave us a wealth of informaiton about all the impressive feats for this aircraft, Robert. I was glad to read about the executed Japanese Personnel responsible for the executions as they sure deserved that fate.