I would like to introduce you to a friend. This friend has been my constant companion for the past three-plus years. As you’d expect, this friend is reliable and can pick me up when I am a bit lost or trying to escape. Always there with the answers and a source of inspiration when I want to know how things should be done. May I present The RAAF Hudson Story Book Two by David Vincent.
This book has been, until recently when a second pair of little hands became very mobile, on my bedside table since it arrived in the mail. We were living a mere seventy kilometres from the world’s only flying Hudson when this book entered my life and, quite frankly, I was, and remain, rather enamored by this aircraft. From some angles on the ground it is a somewhat portly machine, with a deep fuselage born of an increased internal capacity inherited from its civilian predecessor, the Lockheed 14 Super Electra, yet it is all style and there is more than a hint of its art deco predecessors. In the air … it is a somewhat portly machine but it just flows. Even the lumps and bumps that only the military can bring to an aircraft design cannot hide the curves. The wings taper to a point that seemed impossible thirty feet closer to the fuselage. Thank goodness for straight leading edges. The tail is something that could only come from Lockheed. Watching a wingover well past ninety degrees just adds to this aircraft’s appeal.
The Hudson was a machine that was there at the start. Like the Blenheim, it wasn’t the best thing for the job but, in reality, who could have envisaged just what it would have to do before it was needed to be done? The Hudson was there and it did what was asked of it until something better, designed or improved from the lessons learned, came along. Even then, when the Bostons and Mitchells and Beaufighters were on hand to take over, the Hudson soldiered on. It flew sorties against the Germans bearing down on Dunkirk, it hunted U-boats and snooped around Norway for enemy shipping. In Australia, where it was the RAAF’s only modern bomber at the start of the war, it patrolled shipping lanes and was in action against the Japanese in Malaya before Pearl Harbor was attacked. For quite some time it was the RAAF’s sole means of hitting Japanese targets with any semblance of strike power. It was inadequate against Japanese fighters (what early Allied aircraft wasn’t?) but its crews had a stout ship at their command and they, in turn, were stout of heart.
The book. Yes, the book. The whole reason for waxing lyrical above. I have said, several times in the past, that I use the book in hand as a benchmark. Well, The RAAF Hudson Story Book Two is what I use to measure everything against. It made me go out and buy Book One not because I could afford it (or, more correctly, had remembered I hadn’t bought it yet) but because it didn’t seem right not to. Lightning (snigger) can hit twice as it turns out but Book Two is a further refinement. Obviously, it is not the full story. The rest, of course, is in Book One. Book Two is 420+ pages of RAAF Hudson operations in Australia and areas to the north-west and north-east (i.e. New Guinea etc). These were the final operational areas needing to be covered after Book One so Book Two then continues with the Hudson’s work as an air ambulance and transport (ideal work given its airliner roots) before concluding with its extensive post-war career. If a Hudson did it and it’s relevant to this book, it is in this book. I have spent hours, when not reading ‘properly’, just leafing through and stopping at whatever caught my eye. Often, it was just an interesting photo, easily the most arresting thing on a page, and an awe-inspiring caption. I can count on one hand, maybe two, the number of captions that have less than 35 words. Many have more than 150. That’s the sort of detail this book provides. I’m shaking my head now, and grinning wickedly, at the thought of it.
David Vincent’s pedigree is without question. The man who brought us Mosquito Monograph and Catalina Chronicle – both still sought after books – took more than ten years to bring Book Two into the world. It’s pages packed with text, two columns per page, hundreds of photos, reams of endnotes, and a narrative that is as much analytical as it is informative, combine to create a robust and all-encompassing history that I know will never see its equal. Should there be more written about the Hudson? Of course there should be. Will anything new come to light? Most definitely but whoever finds it will have the Vincent Hudson books within easy reach and will have smiled every time they caught their eye. These books aren’t life-changing, they are life-fulfilling. They are big, they need to be, and they are heavy, and they may even crush you if you read them lying down in bed (I know these things!), but they need to be. To leave these books wanting more is just not going to happen. They need to be bending your shelves now if they’re not already. Nowhere will you find a type history more readable or satisfying. And, well, it’s RAAF Hudsons. Enough said.