Douglas Hudson joined the Manchester Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve in 1939 as an Air Observer. After training he was posted to 101 Squadron flying Blenheims. Whilst ferrying a Blenheim to Heliopolis via Malta, Douglas and his crew had to make an emergency landing in Tunisia and were interned by the Vichy French. Douglas spent two and a quarter years in three POW camps, escaping and being recaptured twice. He was repatriated in November 1942, when North Africa was liberated.
In January 1944, Douglas joined 100 Squadron as a navigator on Lancaster Bombers at Waltham, from where he completed a tour of 30 operational flights over Nazi Germany and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In his autobiography ‘There and Back Again – A Navigator’s Story’ Douglas powerfully expressed his views on the Lancaster aircraft.
‘The Lancaster could be our salvation, our cradle or perhaps our coffin. She possessed weaponry of matchless peer. Loved or hated, her potential powers of destruction from the air were unequalled. She bolstered the morale of a British public, which had been tyrannized since 1940 by the Nazi war machine, and bolstered the morale of an even greater European public, living under German occupation and subjected to the Nazi yoke. The roar of her engines and her sisters’ engines as they thundered overhead on their way to the German targets, gave those beleaguered citizens new hope.
Rugged, robust and reliable, she remonstrated only when ill treated. As the devil incarnate she terrorized and was feared and hated by the enemy. She obeyed our bidding.
Rocked in her cradle and in the warmth of her cabin I was able to suppress the dreaded fears of adverse possibilities. Calmed by the comforting, continuous roar of her engines which drowned all other extraneous noises, time would pass quickly for me as I worked incessantly until we reached the target. Then I would go up front, look around and take in the awesome proceedings.’
Douglas spent his latter years back in ‘Bomber County’ and worked tirelessly to raise awareness of Bomber Command so that the sacrifices of over 56,000 should never be forgotten.
By Ann Smith – memories from my late father James Douglas Hudson.