Designed by Clarence Johnson, the Lockheed Hudson was developed in 1938 from the Super Electra commercial airliner in response to a British request for a maritime patrol aircraft to support the Avro Anson. An initial order for 200 machines was placed in quick time and the aircraft entered service with No 224 Squadron RAF in May 1939. By the outbreak of war, some 78 Mk 1s had been delivered.
The Hudson Mk I and Mk II aircraft were powered by Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engines of 1,100 hp and armed with two fixed Browning .303 in machine guns in the nose with a further two similar guns mounted in a Boulton Paul dorsal turret. A 1,400 lb bomb load could be carried in an internal weapons bay. The Hudson Mk III was equipped with up-rated engines and the addition of one ventral and two beam mounted machine guns. As the war gathered pace, several more variants were produced and, in time, the Hudson found favour with the air arms of several other nations, in particular Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.
The aircraft achieved a number of ‘firsts’ during the early stages of conflict. On 8th October 1939, a Hudson Mk I became the first RAF aircraft to shoot down a German aircraft when it destroyed a Dornier Do-18 off Jutland, and it was a Hudson Mk III of No 220 Squadron that guided a Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Cossack, to the Altmark prison ship in Norwegian waters, thereby freeing many British sailors. RAF Hudsons accounted for over two dozen successes against U-boats and a variant operated by the US Navy was the first US aircraft to destroy a U-boat when it sank U-656 off the coast of Newfoundland on 31st July 1942. It was also used as a bomber, some 35 machines taking part in the RAF’s second “thousand bomber” raid.
A total of 2,584 Hudsons were built. There are no known airworthy survivors, but several aircraft are on display at museums in Australia, Canada and New Zealand and a fine example can be seen at the RAF Museum, Hendon.
Hudsons were employed by the RAF Special Duties squadrons alongside Lysanders for the delivery and extraction of agents from France and occasionally used RAF Tangmere as a forward operating base during the period 1942-44.