On 23 November 1942 six Lockheed Hudsons of No.3 Sqn RNZAF flew into Henderson Field, Guadalcanal. A small party of ground crew and mechanics had already set up a camp which would be No.3 Sqn’s home on the front line. Guadalcanal had been fiercely fought over, when No. 3 Squadron deployed there the campaign was starting to go in the Allies’ favour.
New Zealand had taken delivery of its first Hudsons in 1941 and the type was to stay in RNZAF service until 1948. The Hudson had resulted from a hasty conversion of the Lockheed 14 airliner to meet British needs. Its designer was the young Clarence Johnson (famous many years later for designing the SR71 Blackbird). Entering service in the RAF just before the war, the Hudson was also allocated to Commonwealth air forces and later adopted by the US Navy and USAAF—all told nearly 3000 were built.
The RNZAF Hudsons at Guadalcanal in 1942 were deployed for reconnaissance; they carried bombs in case of a suitable target, but the crews’ job was primarily to report enemy movements. Typical reconnaissance patrols ranged about 400 miles from base and lasted up to five hours; the Hudsons flew at no more than 1000 feet—the best height for an immediate attack on submarines, and low enough to prevent fighter attack from underneath.
No. 3 Squadron was attached to the Search and Patrol Group of the Air Search and Attack Command; they conducted day and night searches for enemy ships and submarines and low-level searches along the coastlines of islands used by the enemy. The Hudsons relieved the US dive-bombers at Henderson Field from scouting, so that they were available for their proper role. The Hudsons also released American B-17s from Santos, so they could fill their main role of bombing enemy bases.
The Hudsons were immediately in action; within a week No.3 Sqn crews had sighted enemy ships four times, and were twice attacked by enemy aircraft. One attack saw the Hudson successfully defend itself from three fighters, raising morale and impressing the Americans. On 2 December a Hudson surprised a Japanese submarine on the surface and bombed it; the submarine hastily dived but a large patch of oil indicated the bombs caused some damage.
No.3 Sqn’s deployment was the start of a continuous RNZAF commitment to the front lines in the South West Pacific; the RNZAF remained in-theatre until VJ Day, 1945.
- Crew: 6
- Length: 44 ft 4 in (13.51 m)
- Wingspan: 65 ft 6 in (19.96 m)
- Loaded weight: 17,500 lb (7,930 kg)
- Height: 11 ft 10 in (3.62 m)
- Wing area: 551 ft² (51.2 m²)
- Powerplant: 2 × Wright Cyclone 9-cylinder radial engines, 1,200 hp (850 kW) each
- Maximum speed: 246 mph, (397 km/h)
- Range : 1,700 nm (3,150 km)
- Service Ceiling: 24,500 ft (7,470 m)
- Bombs: 4 x 500lbs or depth charges
- Guns: 2 × .303” (7.7 mm) mg in dorsal turret & 2× .303” mg in nose