© 2009 454 & 459 RAAF Squadrons
The Hudson was specifically designed to meet an urgent British requirement for a coastal reconnaissance bomber - The Hudson also served with the RAAF, RNZAF and RCAF
The Lockheed Hudson, the first American-built aircraft to be used operationally by the RAF during WW2, was designed to meet an urgent 1938 British requirement for a long-range maritime patrol bomber and navigation trainer. Lockheed's response, was militarized version of the proven Lockheed 14 Super Electra.
The Hudson was an all-metal mid-wing monoplane with an elliptical cross-section fuselage and a transparent nose for bomb-aiming. Fowler flaps were fitted to improve short-field performance.
The crew normally consisted of a pilot, navigator, bomb-aimer, radio operator and gunner.
Armament consisted of a bomb load of up to 454kg/1000lb (in later models) and up to seven machine guns in nose, dorsal turret, beam and ventral hatch positions. Size - wingspan 19.96m/65ft 6in, length of plane - 13.5 m/44ft 4in, Height - 3.6m/11ft 10in, Wing area - 51.19m2/551 sqft. Maximum speed 396kph/246mph.
Hudsons soon began to be equipped with air-to-surface vessel radar. Total production amounted to 2,584, and Hudsons were also operated by the RCAF, RAAF and RNZAF fighting in the Mediterranean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, North Atlantic and Caribbean.
Pilot's cockpit - Hudson
Wing Op.'s compartment - Hudson
Formation - Hudsons
Number 459 Squadron was officially formed at Burg-el-Arab LG 40 (40 miles west of Alexandria in Egypt)
on 10.2.42 for general reconnaissance duties over the Eastern Mediterranean area. S Ldr P.W. Howson assumed
temporary command. At that time there were two Hudsons on strength, but crews, who had completed
operational flying training in England and were posted to the Squadron, delivered more aircraft in April via
Gibraltar and Malta. For the next two years the Squadron's Hudsons ranged over the sea lanes, harbours and
islands of the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas until December 1943, when Venturas began replacing them,
and from July 1944, when conversion to Baltimores began. No. 459 Squadron quickly established a fine reputation
as a highly efficient, very mobile, aggressive search and strike, night operational force, using many home bases,
and many more detachment locations, whether in an offensive or defensive role. It regularly penetrated the ring
of enemy occupied islands from the Greek West Coast to the east and Athens in the north. Though its early
sorties were individual and at night, its versatility and aggressiveness were exploited in later periods by day,
sometimes singly, sometimes in small bombing formations.
Shipping Strikes - Hudsons
On 19.4.42 K.S. Hennock assumed command as Wing Commander. Hudson aircraft continued to arrive, and by May the Squadron had moved to its own airfield at Behig. On 1.6.42 the first squadron sortie flown was to be the forerunner of three years of concentrated effort in a wide variety of roles. In a period of three weeks from 28.7.42 to 17.8.42 Squadron Hudsons claimed as destroyed 17 F-Boats and 3 others damaged, for the loss of 5 crews in very low level attacks. F-Boats were landing barges, heavily armed for their size (approx. 300 tons displacement), ferrying fuel, vital equipment, and stores for Rommel's rapidly advancing Axis forces driving past Mersa Matruh towards Alamein and the Nile Delta area. [see Map page] Successful mast head dawn attacks by several squadrons, including No. 459, towards silhouetted targets stopped this supply line. Depth charges had been replaced by
sticks of 100lb bombs for 459's shipping attacks.
The ensuing months saw the squadron conducting convoy escorts, anti-submarine patrols and shipping strikes.
In these early months it claimed one destroyer and one 6000 ton merchant ship as destroyed and sundry other targets damaged. This pattern continued from many different airfields, the Squadron winning high praise for its results, for aircraft serviceability and the low accident rate. On 14.9.42, W Cmdr Hennock was posted to Australia and W Cmdr P.W. Howson took command. Additionally, S Ldr I.L. Campbell, the Squadron's first Flight Commander, was posted as W Cmdr to form No. 454 RAAF Squadron. For the remainder of the year, convoy escort principally at night, and co-operation with the Navy, continued.
The advent of 1943 saw atrocious weather restricting operations as airfields became unserviceable.
In April the first of the operationally retired crews left the squadron and new crews began to arrive.
These and later retired crews were replaced from the U.K. and No. 75 RAF Operational Training Unit now relocated at Gianaclis in Egypt [see Maps]. On the anniversary of the first operation in June 1942, a Squadron dinner was held in celebration of 1294 sorties totaling 6,775 hours flown, and aircraft serviceability at a record 98%. In June 1943 operations continued from six airfields stretching from the Western desert to Cyprus, Palestine, Southern Arabia and Eritrea; record flying hours were recorded and the Squadron's first submarine "kill" was achieved.
A message of congratulations was received from the Air Officer Commanding Middle East Command...
"once again 459 and 454 Squadrons are to be congratulated on their effort not only for this month but also for the quarter. In view of the large amount of night flying carried out by 459 Squadron, theirs is a really fine record which should be the aim of all other units."
From anti-submarine and convoy escort work No. 459 commenced bombing in the Aegean area - within the Axis perimeter of occupied and defended islands of Crete, Rhodes and the Dodecanese [see Maps] - and in the first month dropped 25 tons of bombs, in this somewhat different light bomber role.
On 5.120.43, W Cmdr Howson handed over command to W Cmdr A.D. Henderson. In dreadful weather conditions, the bombing in the Aegean continued with Rhodes now a main target.
THE HUDSONS ARE HOME
Out of the evening sky they come; out of the grey
Dusk-heavy light that marks our end of day.
Like weary swans the Hudsons glide to ground,
and taxi up the runway, while the sound
of roaring engines shakes the patient trees,
and cool air from the slipstream fans the breeze
into the tents around the breathless drome,
and someone shouts "…four, five, yes, they're all home !”.
By David Mc Nicoll
[reproduced by permission of the author from his published book "Deal Me In"]
Courtesy of Murray Evans (459)
Hudson formation [photo from Reg Nossiter - 459]
Hudsons over the Delta [photo from Sep Owen collection]
Sam Oakes  returning from Aden - [photo from Sep Owen collection]
Looking Aft in Hudson - [photo from Sep Owen collection]
Looking forward in Hudson - [photo from Sep Owen collection]
On convoy escort [photo from Sep Owen collection]
Caught in the draft - [photo from Sep Owen collection]
The end of one of our Hudsons
Hudson Engine and propeller remnants - "pranged" on shipping strike Bardia
A letter from Cam Stephen - 459 Squadron to his sister Valerie in Australia, just weeks before he was killed in a horrific accident with 6 others on the 1st June 1942 -- HUDSON FLIGHT V8997 from No. 107MU at Kasfareet.
Here in the letter he has done a drawing of his plane's crest.
The burnt wreckage of the Hudson aircraft after crashing on 1 June 1942 taking 7 souls - as follows:
Pilot - Sergeant Frank Leavy
Flight Sergeant - Oliver Willis Osborne
Flight Sergeant - Campbell 'Cam' Stephen
Flight Sergeant - Stanley Andrew Unger
Ground Crew: (on that flight)
Flight Sergeant - Arthur Leslie Chirnside
Leading Aircraftman - Robert James - Aitken - RAAF 32510
Leading Aircraftman - Wallace David 'Wal' Reid
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