Warrant Officer Ernest Hudson, from Cascumpec, PEI, earned the Distinguished Flyer Cross for his performance of his duty while serving No. 70 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. Warrant Officer Hudson’s nephew, Lowell Hudson, provided the West Prince Graphic with information about his uncle’s actions, found through the Royal Canadian Air Force Association and in the form of a description from the December 12, 1944 issue of the London Gazette and a RCAF press release.
One night in July 1994 this warrant officer was the rear gunner in an aircraft detailed to attack an enemy airfield. Soon after leaving the target, on the homeward flight, Warrant Officer Hudson saw a Junkers 88 closing in. He promptly warned his captain. Evading action was taken after the rear gunner had opened fire. The enemy aircraft came in again, however, with guns firing. Warrant Officer Hudson was badly wounded.
In spite of this he continued to fire his guns to the best of his ability until the enemy aircraft was evaded some five minutes later. Not until the fight had ended was any member of the crew aware of the Warrant Officer Hudson had been hit. His injuries were severe but he had fought bravely and well. His efforts contributed in good measure to the safety of the aircraft. His fortitude and strong sense of duty in spite of much physical suffering set a magnificent example.
A draft RCAF Press Release, circa August 1944, gives the following account:
Somewhere in Italy - There were 2,000 holes in the fuselage of the Wellington when it got back to base and a good many holes in the tail gunner too. Whether the aircraft has recovered he doesn’t know, but the gunner is doing well in hospital here and expects to be walking again next week.
He is Warrant Officer Ernest Hudson of Cascumpec, Prince Edward Island. He lost an eye in the encounter with German night fighters south of Vienna, but his other wounds are healing nicely and he counts himself lucky to be alive at all. Four cannon shells smashed through his turret.
“I don’t know yet how it happened,” he says. “I was firing at a Dornier 217 which was trying to come at us from below. The rest of the crew were watching for other fighters; there were a lot of them up that night. They didn’t see anything at all, but suddenly - wham! - we caught a packet. I think there actually must have been three of them, because in addition to the one which got my turret, somebody threw a rocket which exploded under the wing, tearing off the fabric and filling the fuselage with holes.”
It happened after an attack on an airdrome near Vienna. It was carried out in bright moonlight, and the Wellingtons hit the target efficiently and thoroughly. They turned home, and 20 minutes later the fighters appeared.
“There were a lot of them,” Hudson said. “Before we were attacked, I could see other aircraft hit and burning. They got 14 of our kites that night, and we were lucky they didn’t get us.”
Of the crew, only Hudson and the wireless operator were injured by the pieces of shrapnel which riddled the bomber from end to end. The English wireless operator escaped with minor wounds. Hudson, in addition to his eye injury, was hit about the face and forehead; his right hand and arm were peppered, and two pieces entered his leg. The most serious was a fragment which entered below his shoulder and penetrated some distance. All been have removed, and Hudson expects soon to be virtually as good as new. Dazed and bleeding, he retained consciousness during the whole trip back to base.
“I tried to tell the others what had happened,” he said, but the intercom had been damaged. “I could hear them talking but they couldn’t hear me. I tried to swing the turret, but the hydraulics had been knocked out and it wouldn’t move. The guns were damaged and the feed system was smashed. After we had got clear, the others came back and pulled me out of the turret and bandaged me up. When we landed, we found there were pieces of shrapnel imbedded (sic) in one of the tires; it was a miracle it didn’t blow out. They carried me out of the aircraft and told me that my promotion from flight sergeant had just come through. Then they brought me to the hospital and I blacked out.”
Hudson joined the RCAF before he was 18, and came overseas a year and a half later. The trip to Vienna was his 30th with the squadron. He hopes now to be sent back to Canada as soon as he is in shape to travel.