As the RAAF began to replace Hudsons in frontline service, surviving aircraft became available to fill other roles. One of these roles was that of air ambulance. Earlier, on 1 March 1942, No. 2 Air Ambulance Unit had been formed at Canberra to operate a fleet of five Tugan Gannets as air ambulances. With transport aircraft in short supply early in the war, the unit also operated a motley collection of DH.83, DH.84, DH.86, DH.94 and Ryan STM aircraft, some of which had been impressed from civil service. In February 1943, the unit moved to Kingaroy, moving again in September 1944 to Archerfield where it disbanded in December the following year.

On 12 January 1944, the Deputy Chief of the Air Staff advised the Directorate of Technical and Operational Requirements that when No. 2 Sqn had been completely re-armed with Beauforts, No. 2 Air Ambulance Unit would be re-equipped with Hudsons. Later the same month, three Hudsons, A16-177, A16-219 and A16-226, were allotted to No. 1 Aircraft Depot at Laverton for eventual issue to No. 2 AAU. These aircraft were received in such poor condition that they required a 240 hourly service and various repairs before the air ambulance conversion could be undertaken. For all of this work, the aircraft were allotted to Australian National Airways (ANA) at Parafield, South Australia. The conversion entailed the removal of unnecessary equipment such as armament, auxiliary fuel and oil tanks, radar, camera mount, pyrotechnic racks, flotation gear and the dinghy stowage on the cabin door. Additionally, the tunnel gun position was skinned over and a new plywood floor fitted to the cabin.

Calculations indicated a theoretical capacity of up to nine stretchers although No. 2 AAU planned to operate the Hudsons with six stretchers on the port side and seating on canvas benches on the starboard side. Similar seating was available on the port side when stretchers were not in use, in which case up to twelve patients and attendants could be seated. In practice, various combinations prevailed. At some stage of the design process it would have emerged that although loading an empty stretcher through the Hudson's cabin door was straightforward, loading an occupied stretcher was another matter altogether! To overcome this problem, a removable hatch was fitted to the starboard side of the fuselage aft of the wing. This hatch was in effect an enlargement of the existing emergency exit hatch. This ANA drawing shows the installation looking aft. (Click on the image for a larger view)

ANA drawing of the stretcher hatch installation.
(Source: John Warwick Collection via David Vincent)


A No. 2 AAU Hudson with the hatch removed.
(Photo: John Warwick Collection via David Vincent)

The first converted Hudson received by No. 2 AAU was A16-226 which arrived on 28 May 1944. The aircraft entered service two days later on a trip to Townsville to evacuate patients from the over-crowded hospital. The last Hudson operation by No. 2 AAU was on 8 September 1945 when A16-226 returned from New Guinea. Hudsons operated by No. 2 AAU are listed in the following table:


Air Ambulance Hudsons Operated by No. 2 AAU

Allotted Survey Flight
Allotted 2AD
Allotted Survey Flight. Later VH-AGG
Allotted 2AD. Later VH-AGO
Allotted 2AD
Allotted 2AD
Allotted 10RSU for repair after u/c collapse
Allotted Survey Flight

Source: RAAF Form E/E.88. The date in the "Received" column is the date on which the aircraft was received at 2AAU which was based at Kingaroy, Qld until 7 September 1944 when it moved to Archerfield, Qld. The date in the "Disposed" column is the date on which the aircraft was allotted ex 2AAU.



Former Air Ambulance Hudsons Operated by Adastra


Hudson VH-AGG (ex A16-219) with the hatch removed.
(Photo: Mike Wood)

Hudson VH-AGG (ex A16-215) with the hatch fitted.
(Photo: Bob Wills)



For a more in-depth examination of the air ambulance Hudsons and all aspects of Hudsons in the RAAF, The Lockheed File recommends David Vincent's definitive two-volume history of Australian military and civil Hudson operations.



Complete revision with added images. Thanks to David Vincent.