Handley Page Halifax

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Handley Page Halifax B.III showing the later rectangular fins and Bristol Hercules radial engines
Role Heavy bomber
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer Handley Page
First flight 25 October 1939
Introduction 13 November 1940
Retired 1961 (Pakistani Air Force)
Status Retired
Primary users Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force
Free French Air Force
Produced 1940–1946
Number built 6,176[1]+ 2 HP.57 Protoypes

The Handley Page Halifax was a Royal Air Force (RAF) four-engined heavy bomber of the Second World War. It was developed by Handley Page to the same specification as the contemporary Avro Lancaster and Short Stirling, all three aircraft being four-engined heavy bombers.

The Halifax has its origins in the twin-engine HP56 proposal of the late 1930s, which had been produced in response to the British Air Ministry's Specification P.13/36 for a capable medium bomber for "world-wide use". The HP56 was ordered as a backup to the Avro 679, both aircraft being designed to use the underperforming Rolls-Royce Vulture engine; the Handley Page design was altered at the Ministry to a four-engine arrangement, which was powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, while the rival Avro 679 was produced as the twin-engine Avro Manchester which, while regarded as unsuccessful mainly due to the Vulture engine, was a direct predecessor of the famed Avro Lancaster. Both the Lancaster and the Halifax would emerge as capable four-engined strategic bombers of which thousands would be manufactured and operated by the RAF and several other services during the War.

On 25 October 1939, the Halifax performed its maiden flight, and it entered service with the RAF on 13 November 1940. It quickly became a major component of Bomber Command, performing routine strategic bombing missions against the Axis Powers, many of which were performed at night. Arthur Harris, the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Bomber Command, described the Halifax as being inferior to the rival Lancaster, in part due to its inability to carry larger individual bombs such as the 4,000 pound "Cookie" blast bomb. Nevertheless, production of the bomber continued until April 1945. During their service with Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew a total of 82,773 operations and dropped 224,207 tons of bombs, while 1,833 aircraft were lost. The Halifax was also operated in large numbers by other Allied and Commonwealth nations, such as the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), Free French Air Force and Polish forces.

Various improved versions of the Halifax were introduced, which incorporated more powerful engines and a revised defensive turret layout and also made it capable of carrying increased payloads. It remained in service with Bomber Command until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing. Additionally, specialised versions of the Halifax were developed for troop-transport and paradrop operations. Following the end of the Second World War, the RAF quickly chose to phase the Halifax out of service, the type having been succeeded in the strategic bombing role by the Avro Lincoln, an advanced derivative of the Lancaster. During the post-war years, the Halifax was operated by the Royal Egyptian Air Force, the French Air Force and the Royal Pakistan Air Force. The type also entered commercial service for a number of years, where it was mainly used as a freighter. A dedicated civil transport variant, the Handley Page Halton, was also developed and entered airline service. 41 civil Halifax freighters were used during the Berlin Airlift. In 1961, the last remaining Halifax bombers were retired from operational use.



Personnel in the Handley Page drawing office working on the Halifax bomber
A row of Halifax bombers under assembly at the Handley Page factory at Cricklewood, 1942

In the 1930s, the Royal Air Force (RAF) was primarily interested in twin-engine bombers.[2] These designs put significant demands on engine production and maintenance, both of which were already stretched with the introduction of many new types into service. Power limitations were so serious that the British invested heavily in the development of huge engines in the 2,000 horsepower (1,500 kW) class in order to improve performance. During the late 1930s, none of these were ready for production. Both the United States and the Soviet Union were pursuing the development of bombers powered by arrangements of four smaller engines, and the results of these projects proved to possess favourable characteristics such as excellent range and fair lifting capacity. Accordingly, in 1936, the RAF also decided to investigate the feasibility of the four-engined bomber.[2]

During the mid 1930s, the British Air Ministry formulated and released Specification P.13/36, which sought a twin-engine heavy-medium bomber suitable for "world-wide use".[3] Further requirements of the specification included the use of a mid-mounted cantilever monoplane wing and all-metal construction; the adoption of the in-development Rolls-Royce Vulture engine was also encouraged.[3] In response, Handley Page produced the twin-engine HP56 design to meet Specification P.13/36.[4] Handley Page aircraft designer George Volkert had responsibility for the design.[citation needed]

Various other candidates were submitted for the specification, including the Avro 679, and designs from Fairey, Boulton Paul and Shorts; all submissions were designed around two-engine configurations, using the Rolls-Royce Vulture, Napier Sabre, Fairey P.24 or Bristol Hercules engines. The majority of these engines were under development at this point; while four-engined bomber designs were considered for specification B.12/36 for a heavy bomber, wings which mounted two pairs of engines were still in the experimental stage and required testing at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE). The resulting increase in overall weight of adopting a stronger wing also necessitated further strengthening of the overall aircraft structure.[5]

In February 1937, following consideration of the designs by the Air Ministry, Avro's design submission was selected with Handley Page's bid being chosen as "second string". Accordingly, during April 1937, a pair of prototypes of both designs were ordered.[6][3] The introduction of the successful P.13/36 candidates was delayed by the necessity of ordering additional Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington bombers first. In mid-1937, it was decided to order both the Avro 679 and HP56 designs "off the drawing board" in order to speed up delivery timetables.[citation needed]

During July 1937, Handley Page was instructed that the HP56 should be redesigned to utilise a four engine arrangement as opposed to the original twin engine configuration; by this point, the Vulture had already been suffering from reliability and performance problems.[3] The rival Avro 679 proceeded into service as the Avro Manchester, which was powered by a pair of Vulture engines, but was only built in a limited quantity due to the type suffering substantially from engine-related difficulties.[citation needed] The redesign increased the wingspan from 88 ft (27 m) to 99 ft (30 m) and added 13,000 pounds (5,900 kg) of weight.[3] In September 1937, the use of four Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were specified by the Ministry; according to aviation author Phillip J. R. Moyes, the redesign to adopt the four Merlin engine configuration had been "much against the company's wishes".[3]

Towards the end of the year, a full mock-up of the design was assessed; in March 1938, the construction of the pair of HP57 prototypes commenced.[7] Further design modifications resulted in the definitive aircraft, which had been considerably enlarged and was powered by an arrangement of four 1,280 hp (950 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines. Such was the promise of the new model that, in January 1938, the RAF chose to place their first production order for the type, ordering 100 Mk.I Halifaxes "off the drawing board", at which point the serials which had already been assigned to HP56 were switched to HP57.[3]


Aerodynamic model of the Halifax undergoing wind tunnel testing, 1942

The first prototype was constructed at Handley Page's facility in Cricklewood, London, after which it was dismantled and transported by road to RAF Bicester (the nearest non-operational RAF airfield with suitable facilities), where the aircraft was reassembled. On 25 October 1939, the maiden flight of the first prototype Halifax, serial number L7244, was performed by chief test pilot Jim Cordes with E A 'Ginger' Wright as flight test observer; during this flight, the undercarriage remained locked down as an extra safety precaution.[8][3]

On 17 August 1940, the first flight of the second prototype, L7245, which was complete with full armament and operationally-representative equipment, was performed by Cordes from Radlett Aerodrome.[3] Upon its service acceptance, the HP57 was given the service name Halifax. This name followed the practice of naming heavy bombers after major towns – in this case, Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire. In September 1941, a production Halifax Mk.I participated in an official naming ceremony of the type, officiated by Lord Halifax and Lady Halifax.[3]


Spray painters at work in the paint shop of the Handley Page's Cricklewood factory, 1942

Series production of the Halifax commenced at Handley Page's factory at Crocklewood and at English Electric's site in Samlesbury, Lancashire. In order to speed up production, Handley Page implemented several manufacturing techniques, including two pioneering approaches: photo-lofting and split construction. In the latter capacity, each Halifax was assembled from various sub-assemblies.[9] The surface panels were flush-riveted, although the application of the matte black night bomber camouflage probably negated the benefit.[10]

Handley Page built the assemblies and components at Cricklewood and the aircraft were assembled and flown from Radlett Aerodrome, the first production aircraft flying from Radlett on 11 October 1940.

In addition to Handley Page, the sizeable production run envisioned for the type necessitate the involvement of external parties.[9] The Halifax Group was an organisation established to oversee the manufacturing programme, comprising English Electric (who had previously been a valued contributor in the production of the Handley Page Hampden), various firms within the London Aircraft Production Group, Fairey Aviation, and Rootes Motors.[9] As a result of this scheme and other initiatives, the Halifax was manufactured by a variety of aviation companies at sites across the British isles. At the peak of production, there were 41 separate factories and dispersed units involved in the production programme, along with 600 subcontractors and 51,000 employees, as a result, one Halifax was being completed every hour.[9] The first English Electric-built aircraft was flown from Salmesbury on 15 August 1941.

The Halifax was produced in large numbers during the war: of 10,018 heavy bombers that were produced in Britain between 1940 and 1944, 4,046 were various models of the Halifax – in excess of 40%.[9] In all, 6,178 Halifaxes were built, with the last delivered in April 1945.[11][9]

The first production standard Halifax, the Mk.I, had a 22 ft (6.7 m) long bomb bay as well as six bomb cells in the wings, enabling it to carry 13,000 lb (5,900 kg) of bombs. Defensive armament consisted of two .303 in (7.7 mm) Browning machine guns in a Boulton Paul Type C nose turret, with an additional four in a Boulton Paul Type E tail turret, and, in some aircraft, two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns in beam (side, or "waist") positions. Subtle modifications distinguished the Mk I aircraft. Aircraft of the first batch of fifty Mk I Halifaxes were designated Mk I Series I.[citation needed]


Manufacturer Location Number produced
Handley Page Radlett 1589
English Electric Preston 2145
Fairey Aviation Stockport 662
London Aircraft Production Group Leavesden[a] 710
Rootes Securities Speke 1070


The Halifax Mk.I was quickly followed by 25 of the Mk I Series II; these featured an increased gross weight (from 58,000 lb/26,310 kg to 60,000 lb/27,220 kg) but with maximum landing weight unchanged at 50,000 lb (23,000 kg). The Halifax Mk I Series III featured increased fuel capacity (1,882 gal/8,556 L), and larger oil coolers, the latter of which having been adopted in order to accommodate the Merlin XX engine. A dorsally-mounted two-gun Boulton Paul Type C turret replaced the beam guns.[12]

The test Halifax B Mk II Srs I, serial V9977, in-which the first H2S radar was installed; note the early triangular fins. This aircraft crashed in June 1942 as a result of an engine fire. All on board were killed, including the well-known engineer Alan Blumlein.

Introduction of 1,390 hp (1,040 kW) Merlin XX engines and a twin .303 in (7.7 mm) dorsal turret instead of waist guns resulted in the Halifax B Mk II Series I. The Mk II Series I (Special) achieved improved performance via the removal of the nose and dorsal turrets. The Halifax Mk II Series IA was fitted with a moulded Perspex nose (this nose became standard upon future Halifax variants), a four-gun Defiant-type dorsal turret, Merlin 22 engines and larger, trapezoidal-shaped vertical tail surfaces which solved control deficiencies from fin-stall produced by the roughly triangular-shape original surfaces, leading to rudder overbalance in the early marks.[13][14] Halifax IIs were built by both English Electric and Handley Page; 200 and 100 aircraft respectively.[citation needed]

Owing to a shortage of Messier-built landing gear and hydraulics, Dowty-built landing gear were used on some aircraft instead. As it was incompatible with the Messier equipment, this led to these Halifax bombers being given new designations: a Mark II built with Dowty gear was the Mark V.[12] The use of castings rather than forgings in the Dowty undercarriage had resulted in an increased production rate but had also led to a reduced landing weight of 40,000 lb (18,000 kg). The Halifax Mark V were manufactured by Rootes Group at Speke and Fairey at Stockport; operationally, these were generally used by Coastal Command and for training purposes. Some 904 had been built when Mark V production ended at the start of 1944,[15] compared to 1,966 Halifax Mk IIs.[citation needed]

The most numerous Halifax variant was the B Mk III of which 2,091 were built. First appearing in 1943, the Mk III featured the Perspex nose and modified tail of the Mk II Series IA but replaced the Merlin with the more powerful 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine. Other changes included the adoption of de Havilland Hydromatic propellers and rounded wing tips.[12] The Halifax Mk IV was a non-production design using a turbocharged Hercules powerplant.[citation needed]

The definitive version of the Halifax was the B Mk VI, powered by the 1,800 hp (1,300 kW) Hercules 100. The final bomber version, the Mk VII, reverted to the less powerful Hercules XVI. However, these variants were produced in relatively small quantities.[citation needed]

The remaining variants were the Halifax C Mk VIII, an unarmed transport that was fitted with a 8,000 lb/3,630 kg cargo pannier instead of a bomb bay, which could accommodate a maximum of 11 passengers and the Mk A IX paratroop transport, which had space for up to 16 paratroopers and their equipment. A transport/cargo version of the Halifax was also produced, known as the Handley Page Halton.[16]



Halifax cutaway model at the London Science Museum

The Handley Page Halifax was a British four-engined heavy bomber.[3] In terms of its design, the aircraft was mostly orthodox, being a mid-wing monoplane complete with a tail unit featuring twin fins and rudders. The Halifax featured all-metal construction which had a smooth, stressed skin covering the majority of the exterior surfaces; the flight control surfaces were an exception, being fabric-covered instead.[3] The slab-sided fuselage contained a 22-foot bomb bay, which contained the majority of the Halifax's payload, while the cockpit was flush with the upper fuselage.[3]

The Halifax was powered by an arrangement of four engines, two spaced evenly on each wing.[3] Early production Halifax bombers were powered by models of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, while later-build aircraft were instead commonly powered by the larger Bristol Hercules radial engine. To contain and attach the engines to the airframe, Handley Page had elected to use their own design for the power egg instead of the typical, slimmer Rolls-Royce counterpart; despite generating increased drag, this choice later proved to have been fortuitous as the design was readily adaptable to the alternative Hercules engine.[3]

Each engine drove a Rotol-built compressed wood constant-speed propeller, enabling the Halifax B.I to attain a maximum speed of 265 MPH when flown at an altitude of 17,500 feet.[17] When carrying a typical payload of 5,800lbs of bombs and 2,242 Imp gal of fuel, it had a range of 1,860 miles. The defensive armaments including power-assisted gun turrets in various positions located across the aircraft.[9] Across different models of the Halifax, various different combinations of turrets were present, which effectively traded speed for firepower and vice versa.[9]

Accommodation and armament[edit]

Looking upward and rearward from the navigator's position : wireless operator at lower right; pilot at upper right; flight engineer in his usual inflight position at upper left behind the pilot
Halifax B Mk II Series 1 : flight engineer on the fold-down seat next to the pilot, ready to assist with the throttles for takeoff; with front gunner and navigator seen below

The bomb aimer's position was in the extreme nose with the navigator's table located behind it, both posts being fulfilled by the same crew member. Above the navigator's position was the forward gun turret. The wireless (radio) operator was behind the navigator's position, separated by a half width partition.[18]

The pilot (left side) and co-pilot (right side) (the flight engineer filled in as a co-pilot, seated on a folding seat, during crucial manoeuvres such as take-off) occupied the cockpit, above the wireless operator. Aft of the pilots and on the same level as the navigator and wireless operator was the flight engineer's compartment. A further compartment aft of the flight engineer contained two bunks originally intended for resting crew members, but almost always used for treating and berthing injured crew. This area led to the two-gun dorsal turret. The tail gunner occupied a four-gun turret at the extreme aft end of the aircraft.[18]

For the Halifax Mk II Series IA and from the Mk III onwards, there was no longer a nose turret present. The bomb aimer occupied a streamlined perspex nose, with a single hand-held machine gun. On later-built aircraft, the two-gun dorsal turret was replaced by a four-gun Boulton Paul turret.

The maximum bomb load was 14,500 lb (6,600 kg), which was primarily carried in a bomb bay housed within the fuselage, divided into six separate bomb compartments, and three bomb compartments in the inboard sections of each wing; this division of the payload between multiple compartments limited the maximum size of the individual bombs which could be carried to 2,000 lb (910 kg).

Operational service[edit]

Halifaxes of No. 35 Squadron bombing the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in dry dock at Brest, France, 18 December 1941

In November 1940, the Handley Page Halifax entered service with No. 35 Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse. On the night of 10–11 March 1941, its operational debut occurred when six Halifax bombers flew a bombing raid against Le Havre, targeting the area around the docks and any shipping present.[9][19] Official public acknowledgement of the existence of the Halifax did not occur until July 1941 in the aftermath of a daylight attack performed by the type upon La Pallice, France, against the German battleship Scharnhorst. At the end of 1941, the Halifax was withdrawn from daylight bombing operations as a result of intensifying fighter opposition having increased the casualty rates resulting from such raids.[9]

In the second half of 1942, No. 35 Squadron and four other squadrons were selected to form the Pathfinder Force, later expanded to become No. 8 Group.[9] As a Pathfinder aircraft, crews flying the Halifax would mark routes and identify and mark targets for the Main Force. Effective marking had the effect of greatly increasing the accuracy and destructive power of Bomber Command. As a Pathfinder and Main Force aircraft, the Halifax was a core part of the bombing offensive conducted against Germany and its Axis allies.[20]

By the end of 1943, No. 4 Group had been entirely equipped with the Halifax. 4 Group would operate the aircraft til the end of the war.[9] Around the same time, the No. 6 Group of the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) also adopted the Halifax, and would operate it in each of its 14 squadrons, although not solely being equipped with the type at any point. At the time of its peak strength, Bomber Command operated a total of 76 squadrons that were equipped with the Halifax.[9]

Handley Page Halifax B Mk I, s/n L9530, MP-L of the No. 76 Squadron RAF, Summer 1941

While the early-built models of the Halifax were heavily used by Bomber Command and made valuable contributions to operations, it was felt that the aircraft's performance was unsatisfactory for the most part, mainly due to the Merlin engine being underpowered, which meant that the type could not fly at higher altitudes to avoid increasingly effective enemy fighters throughout 1943.[12] This was answered by the development of the Halifax Mk III, which was powered by Bristol Hercules radial engines in place of the Merlins; in November 1943, this model was introduced to service, first being delivered to No. 433 Squadron and No. 466 Squadron.[21] By January 1944, the Hercules-powered Halifax had become available in quantity and quickly proved to have superior performance in the face of German fighter defences.[12]

Early on, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Harris, head of Bomber Command, was scathing in his criticism of the Halifax's performance in comparison to the new Avro Lancaster, primarily of its bomb-carrying capability: it had been calculated that an average Halifax would drop 100 tons of bombs in its lifetime compared to a Lancaster's 154. The fact that later Hercules-engined Halifaxes had lower loss rates and higher crew survival rates after abandoning the aircraft than Lancasters, and came very close to its speed and altitude performance, did not alter his opinion.[22] Unlike the Lancaster, the Halifax's bomb bay could not be adapted to carry the 4,000 pound "Cookie" blast bomb, which was an integral part of Harris's fire-bombing tactics. It was progressively outnumbered in frontline service over occupied Europe as more Lancasters became available from 1943 onwards, many squadrons converted to the Lancaster.[note 1]

The Halifax continued to be built, supposedly because it was more efficient to keep building the type than to stop production and convert to building another aircraft. New facilities were devoted to the Lancaster.[citation needed]

View of a Halifax crewmember

Harris's view of the Halifax changed sometime after spring 1942. On 2 June 1942, in a response to a telegram sent by Frederick Handley Page, congratulating Harris on the success of the first 1000 bomber Cologne raid, he stated: "My Dear Handley Page. We much appreciate your telegram of congratulation on Saturday night's work, the success of which was very largely due to your support in giving us such a powerful weapon to wield. Between us we will make a job of it."[23]

Following the invasion of Europe in 1944, the Halifax resumed daylight bombing operations, performing semi-tactical strikes upon enemy troop concentrations, gun emplacements, and strong points along the French coastline with a reportedly high degree of accuracy.[24] Other common targets were enemy communications and the launch sites for V-1 flying bombs. Bombing activity became increasingly brazen throughout late 1944 as the Luftwaffe became incapable of putting up effective opposition against them.[24] The Halifax also found itself being increasingly tasked with transport duties around this time; in one instance, around half a million gallons of petrol was delivered to Brussels in support of the advancing Second Army, which was engaged in heavy fighting at Arnhem.[24]

During the latter half of 1944, the bombing of German-held oil facilities became a major priority of the offensive.[24] On 27 August, a force of 216 Halifax bombers, alongside smaller numbers of de Havilland Mosquitos and Lancasters and an sizable escort of Supermarine Spitfires, conducted the first major daylight operation by Bomber Commander against a target inside Germany that year, attacking the oil refinery at Homberg on the Ruhr. In spite of heavy fire from anti-aircraft defenses, no bombers were downed and the refinery was severely damaged in places.[25] Attacks upon oil production facilities throughout Germany would become commonplace within the remaining months of the war.[26]

Personnel of No. 462 Squadron operating in RAF Middle East Command, September 1942

The only Victoria Cross to be awarded to any Halifax pilot was awarded to Cyril J. Barton of No. 578 Squadron for displaying great gallantry in bringing his heavily damaged aircraft back after a raid on Nuremberg on the night of 30/31 March 1944. Barton continued to fly the Halifax while other crew members bailed out, he was killed in the aircraft's crash-landing, but the remaining crew survived due to his actions.[24]

An RAF airman attaches the tow rope of an Airspeed Horsa glider to the tow hook of a Halifax glider tug, of 295 Squadron, in preparation for Operation Fustian, Tunisia (July 1943)

Large numbers of Halifax bombers were also operated by Coastal Command, who used the type to conduct anti submarine warfare, reconnaissance and meteorological operations. The Halifax was heavily used in its capacity to deploy mines in the vicinity of enemy-held ports.[26] The Halifax served in various other support capacities, increasingly so in later stages of the war, being used as a glider tug, an electronic warfare aircraft for No. 100 Group and to conduct special operations, such as parachuting agents and arms into occupied Europe, for the Special Operations Executive (SOE).[27]

Throughout early 1945, the Halifax was frequently dispatched on attacks upon many cities within the German homeland, including Hannover, Magdeburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, Münster, Osnabrück and others.[26] During these months, infrastructure such as oil facilities and railways were assigned a high priority and continued to be attacked right up until the climax of the war. According to Moyes, within the final, bomber losses had fallen to all-time lows while raids were frequently regarded as having been highly successful.[26] It was during the final months of the war that the improved Halifax Mk VI and Mk VII were introduced to service. In particular, these models had been 'tropicalised' with an eye towards their potential use in the Pacific War against the Empire of Japan.[26] While some Halifax bombers were deployed to the theatre, they played little meaningful role as the end of the war was reached before larger numbers could be brought to bear against Japanese forces.[28]

On 25 April 1945, the Halifax bomber performed its last major operation against the enemy during an attack upon coastal gun batteries on Wangerooge in the Frisian Islands of the North Sea.[29] While the type continued to fly operations after this, this was primarily to act as a diversion to other operations while sporadically performing uncoordinated attacks upon targets of opportunity. Upon the end of the conflict, Bomber Command quickly disbanded the majority of its Halifax-equipped squadrons and the aircraft themselves were transferred to Transport Command.[27] During the type's service with Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew 82,773 operations and dropped 224,207 tons of bombs. 1,833 aircraft were lost.[30][31]

During peacetime, the Halifax remained in widespread service with Coastal Command and RAF Transport Command, Royal Egyptian Air Force and the Armée de l'Air until early 1952. The majority of Halifax bombers had been deemed to be surplus to requirement and scrapped by 1947.[27] The Pakistan Air Force, which had inherited a number of Halifax bombers from the RAF, also continued to operate them and become the last military user of the type, retiring the last aircraft in 1961.

In September 1997 Halifax 57 Rescue of Canada excavated Halifax LW682 from a bog near the River Dender in Belgium. The plane was part of RAF 426 Squadron and during a 12 May 1944 raid on Leuven, Belgium was shot down near Geraardsbergen. During the excavation, the bodies of three crew members were recovered and later given proper burial. Several items from the plane were used in restoration of NA337, while other items were transferred to museums. The airframe was melted down and used to construct the ceiling of the RAF Bomber Command Memorial in London, which was unveiled in 2012.[32]

Civilian operation[edit]

Halifax C.8 freighter of Lancashire Aircraft Corporation at Manchester Airport in 1950

A number of former RAF Halifax C.8s were sold from 1945 and used as freighters by a number of mostly British airlines. In 1948, 41 civil Halifax freighters were used during the Berlin Air Lift, operating a total of 4,653 sorties carrying freight and 3,509 carrying bulk diesel fuel. Nine aircraft were lost during the airlift. The Low-cost airline business pioneer Freddie Laker bought and serviced war-surplus Halifaxes for Bond Air Services operations in the Berlin airlift.[citation needed]

With the airfreight market in decline, most of the civilian Halifaxes were scrapped on their return to England. The last civilian-operated Halifaxes were withdrawn from service in late 1952.


Comparison of the Halifax Mk I (pink) with its contemporaries, the Short Stirling (yellow) and the Avro Lancaster (blue)

Pre-Halifax designs[edit]

Proposed twin-engine bomber aircraft, never built.
Proposed twin-engine bomber aircraft, fitted with two Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, never built.


L7244 - Prototype first flew on The first Halifax prototype with four Merlin 10 engines and no armament.
L7245 - Second prototype first flew from Radlett on the 17 August 1940 and was more representative of the production configuration including armament.
Halifax B.I Series I
A Halifax B Mark I Series I of No. 76 Squadron undergoing maintenance at RAF Middleton St George, County Durham
Four-engined long-range heavy-bomber aircraft powered by Rolls-Royce Merlin engines; the first production version. Armament consisted of nose turret with two guns, tail turret with four guns and two beam guns
Halifax B.I Series II
Stressed for operating at a higher gross weight.
Halifax B.I Series III
Re-engined with Merlin XX engines, introduced new upper turret in place of beam guns, with revised undercarriage and additional centre-section fuel tanks.


Halifax Mk II
Projected variant with revised armament including 20 mm cannon and no tail turret. Due to problems with the new armament, the project was cancelled and the Mk II designation given to H.P.59.


Halifax Mk II of No. 148 Squadron at Brindisi, Italy. Note the parachute canisters containing supplies for the Yugoslav National Liberation Army loaded into the bomb bay and wing cells
A Halifax A.V Series 1 (Special) glider tug of No. 295 Squadron getting airborne from RAF Portreath, Cornwall, towing an Airspeed Horsa glider to Tunisia during Operation Beggar, June 1943
Halifax Mk II
New variant with increased takeoff weight, fuel and weapons carriage.
Halifax B.II Series I
First series of the bomber variant; from March 1942 onwards, these were fitted with TR1335 navigation aids.
Halifax B.II Series I (Special), SOE
Special version for Special Operations Executive (SOE) used to drop supplies over Europe. Nose armament and dorsal turret removed, the nose being faired over, as well as changes to the fuel vent pipes and exhaust shrouds.
Halifax B.II Series I (Special)
Halifax B.II Series I (Special) W1057, ZA-X, No. 10 Squadron RAF, with a faired-over nose. During April–May 1942, this aircraft took part in a number of raids on the German battleship Tirpitz in Fættenfjord near Trondheim, Norway.
Generally similar to the aircraft used by the SOE, these were employed in the bombing role. These aircraft were more varied in appearance, especially concerning the fitting of dorsal armament with some aircraft retaining the standard Boulton Paul "Type C" turret in different mounts with others mounting a "Type A" turret. There were also examples with no dorsal turret, similar to the SOE-aircraft.
Halifax B.II Series IA
Modified with new glazed nose section, new radiators and new "D" fin and rudder. The dorsal turret was changed to a four-gun Boulton Paul Type A Mk VIII, and there were improvements to the bomb bay door sealing. Some aircraft were fitted with the H2S radar.
Halifax B.II Series I, Freighter
A few Mk IIs were employed in the transport role in Great Britain (unmodified SOE-aircraft) and in the Middle East (simple modifications to allow carriage of engines or Spitfire fuselages).
Halifax B.II Series II
Single aircraft (HR756) modified with three-blade Rotol propellers and Merlin 22 engines. Rejected in favour of Mk III.
Halifax A.II
According to some sources, a handful of the airborne forces Halifaxes were converted into B.IIs. If this is true they might have been designated A.II or may have retained their bomber designations.[33]
Halifax GR.II
Coastal Command variant of the Halifax B.II.
Halifax GR.II Series I
A handful of aircraft converted from Series I or Special to GR.II standard, having differences in dorsal armament. The main difference was the fitting of a ASV.Mk 3 radar in an H2S type fairing. Sometimes, a .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun was fitted in the faired nose.
Halifax GR.II Series IA
Definitive Coastal Command variant of the GR.II with glazed nose mounting .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun, Merlin XX or 22 engines, B-P A-type dorsal turret and extra long-range fuel tanks in fuselage. A ventral turret holding a single .50 in (12.7 mm) machine gun was mounted on most aircraft although some employed the ASV.Mk 3 radar in its place.
Halifax Met.II
Some sources[34] suggest that there were a meteorological variant of the B.II, designated Met.II, but this is unlikely.[35]


Group portrait of an air crew of No. 578 Squadron in front of a Halifax bomber, circa 1944
Halifax B.III
Main production variant, fitted with Bristol Hercules engines. B.III bombers were fitted with transparent nose dome with single machine gun, Boulton Paul dorsal turret with four guns and tail turret with four guns. All but first few had longer wing with rounded wingtips that increased wingspan to 104 ft 2 in (31.75 m).
Halifax A.III
Halifax B.III bombers converted into glider tug and paratroop transport aircraft.
Halifax C.III
Halifax B.III bombers converted into military transport aircraft.


A Halifax B Mark V Series I (Special) of No. 295 Squadron undergoing a 24-hour overhaul in at RAF Holmsley South, Hampshire, 1943
A line of Halifax A Mark VII glider tugs attached to various General Aircraft Hamilcars via tow ropes of No. 298 Squadron and No. 644 Squadron, at RAF Woodbridge, Suffolk, prior to launch
Halifax B.V
Four-engined long-range heavy-bomber, powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engines with square empennage and wingtips. Armament as B.III
Halifax B.V Series I (Special)
Halifax A.V
Halifax B.V bombers converted into glider tugs and paratroop transport aircraft.
Halifax GR.V
Coastal Command variant. Halifax B.V bombers converted into maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Halifax B.VI
Four-engined long-range heavy-bomber, powered by four 1,615 hp (1,204 kW) Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines with H2S radar. No dorsal turret. Square empennage, round wing tips.
Halifax C.VI
Halifax B.VI bombers converted into military transport aircraft.
Halifax GR.VI
Coastal Command variant. Halifax B.VI bombers converted into maritime reconnaissance aircraft.
Halifax B.VII
Four-engined long-range heavy-bomber, powered by four 1,615 hp (1,204 kW) Bristol Hercules XVI radial engines. Round wing tips. Armament as B.III
Halifax A.VII
Halifax B.VIIs converted into paratroop transport and glider tug aircraft.
Halifax C.VII
Halifax B.VIIs bombers converted into military transport aircraft.


Halifax C.VIII
Cargo and passenger transport aircraft.


Halifax A.IX
Paratroop transport, glider tug aircraft.

H.P.70 Halton[edit]

Halton I
Interim civil transport version; postwar, a number of Halifax bombers were converted into civilian transport aircraft.
Halton II
VIP transport aircraft for the Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda.


Military operators[edit]

An Australian Halifax from No. 462 Squadron RAAF at RAF Foulsham in 1945
Halifax bomber OO-R of 1663 HCU from RAF Rufforth in 1944
Pair of Halifax bombers flying in close formation
 United Kingdom

Civil operators[edit]

  • Peteair
  • Vingtor Airways
 South Africa
 United Kingdom

Halton operators[edit]

India India
 South Africa
 United Kingdom

Surviving aircraft[edit]

Of the 6,176 Halifaxes built, only three complete planes remain.

Serial Geographic location Institutional location History Photo
HR792 Elvington, North Yorkshire
United Kingdom
Yorkshire Air Museum Built by Handley Page. 58 Squadron. Flew 67 sorties between 15 July 1943 and 9 December 1944. Crash landed near Stornoway, 13 January 1945. Fuselage was purchased by a chicken farmer and used as a coop. Recovered and restored in 1984 using parts from Halifaxes LW687 and JP158 as well as wings from Hastings TG536. Painted as LV907 "Friday the 13th" of 158 Squadron.[42] Halifax HR792 at Yorkshire Air Museum Flickr 2554069651.jpg
NA337 Canada Trenton, Ontario National Air Force Museum of Canada Built by Rootes Motors. Delivered to 644 Squadron at RAF Tarrant Rushton 5 March 1945. On 24 March 1945 it towed a glider as part of Operation Varsity - the airborne operation in support of crossing the Rhine. Completed three supply drops in Norway and Denmark in March and April 1945. On fourth sortie, 23 April 1945, piloted by Alexander Turnbull, NA337 was sent to drop 13 supply containers and two packages at Mikkelsberget, Norway. After successful drop, it was hit by flak in starboard wing at 0131 hours on 24 April. After both starboard engines caught fire, ditched in Lake Mjøsa at 0145 hours. All but one crew member, Thomas Weightman, died of hypothermia. It was discovered in 1991 by Tore Marsoe and Rolf Liberg. Raised in 1995 by Halifax 57 Rescue. Restoration was completed in November 2005.[43] Halifax NA337 at NAFMC 2015 above.jpg
W1048 Colindale, London
United Kingdom
RAF Museum London Built by English Electric. Assigned to 102 Squadron at RAF Topcliffe on 27 March 1942. Sent to 35 Squadron at RAF Linton-on-Ouse on 9 April 1942. On 27 April 1942, it was one of 31 Halifaxes that flew from RAF Kinloss as part of raid on the German battleship Tirpitz. W1048 made her attack at 0300 hours, during which she was hit by the intense flak which set the outer starboard engine on fire. Pilot Don MacIntyre completed a wheels-up landing on frozen Lake Hoklingen in Norway but the aircraft sank 12 hours later. It was discovered by divers in 1971 and subsequently recovered on 30 June 1973 by the RAF Sub-Aqua Association. It has been left unrestored.[44] Halifax W1048 at RAF Museum London Flickr 2225201864.jpg

Specifications (Mk III)[edit]

3-view projection of Halifax Mark I Series III, with profile details of other significantly different variants.
Fuselage section of a Halifax

Data from Halifax, Second to None,[45] The Handley Page Halifax B.III, VI, VII[11]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 7 (pilot, co-pilot/flight engineer, navigator, bomb aimer, radio operator/gunner, two gunners)
  • Length: 71 ft 7 in (21.82 m)
  • Wingspan: 104 ft 2 in (31.75 m)
  • Height: 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m)
  • Wing area: 1,190 ft2 (110.6 m2)
  • Empty weight: 37,870 lb (17,178 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 54,400 lb (24,675 kg)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 65,000 lb (29,484 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine, 1,615 hp (1,205 kW) each



Halifax 57 Rescue[edit]

Halifax 57 Rescue is a Canadian organization dedicated to the recovery and restoration of Handley Page Halifaxes. Since its inception in 1994 the organization has recovered two aircraft, including Halifax NA337, one of only three complete examples in the world.

The organization was founded in 1994 by Karl Kjarsgaard, a Canadian former Air Canada pilot, and Ian Foster of Scotland. In 1995 they participated in their first recovery project, that of Halifax NA337 from 750 feet underwater in Lake Mjøsa, Norway. The aircraft was moved to the National Air Force Museum of Canada in Trenton, Ontario where it was unveiled in 2005 after a full restoration.[46] Their second project was the 1997 recovery of Halifax LW682 from a bog near Geraardsbergen, Belgium. During the recovery, the bodies of three crew members were removed and given a proper burial. Several parts of the aircraft were used in the restoration of NA337, and the airframe was melted down and later used to construct the RAF Bomber Command Memorial in London, which was unveiled in 2012.[47]

At present, Halifax 57 Rescue is working to recover two aircraft. The first is HR871, located off the coast of Sweden.[48] Preparations are currently underway for underwater excavation. Once the aircraft has been raised, it will be moved to the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta for restoration. The second aircraft the organization is seeking to recover is LW170 off the coast of Scotland.[49] This aircraft has yet to be located, although its general position is known.[50]

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era

Related lists


  1. ^ The aircraft were assembled at Leavesden from components and assemblies manufactured around London



  1. ^ The first "Thousand bomber raid" on Cologne on 30–31 May 1942 included 131 Halifaxes and 73 Lancasters; The attack on Berlin on 28 February 1943 included 252 Halifaxes and 457 Lancasters; The attack on Hamburg on 27–28 July 1943 included 244 Halifaxes, 353 Lancasters, 116 Stirlings and 74 Wellingtons; The attack on Nuremberg on 30–31 March 1944 included 214 Halifaxes and 572 Lancasters; The attack on Dresden on 13–14 February 1945 included 753 Lancasters and no Halifaxes with nine Mosquitoes marking.


  1. ^ Angelucci, Enzo (1988). Combat aircraft of World War II. p. 22. ISBN 0-517-64179-8.
  2. ^ a b Norris 1966, p. 3.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Moyes 1966, p. 3.
  4. ^ Bingham 1986, p. 4.
  5. ^ Buttler 2004, p. 104.
  6. ^ Buttler 2004, p. 102.
  7. ^ Buttler 2004, p. 105.
  8. ^ Barnes, C H: Handley Page Aircraft since 1907, London 1976, pp. 387–388.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Moyes 1966, p. 4.
  10. ^ Flight pp. 400–401.
  11. ^ a b Norris 1966, p. 12.
  12. ^ a b c d e Norris 1966, p. 5.
  13. ^ Johnson, Brian (1982). A Most Secret Place : Boscombe Down 1939–45. pp. Chapter 1. Recommendations 'The rudder overbalance, which is manifest when both port airscrews are feathered, would cause great fatigue to a pilot attempting to keep straight and level under such conditions, and modification action is necessary in order to overcome this defect.'
  14. ^ "Halifax aircraft: performance and handling trials: A.& A.E.E/760 13 pts 760a-e 55 pts". 1940–1946.
  15. ^ Barnes 1987,[page needed]
  16. ^ Barnes, C H: Handley Page Aircraft since 1907, London 1976, pp. 417, 419, 423, 603.
  17. ^ Moyes 1966, pp. 3–4.
  18. ^ a b Flight 1942, p. 401.
  19. ^ Falconer 1998, p. 232
  20. ^ Norris 1966, pp. 4–5.
  21. ^ Norris 1966, pp. 5–6.
  22. ^ Lake, Jon. "'Bomber Harris' – an enduring enigma." Archived 2 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine. Osprey Publishing, 1 May 2002. Retrieved: 15 September 2013.
  23. ^ Halifax – Second to none, p. 111. ISBN 0-906393-66-3.
  24. ^ a b c d e Norris 1966, p. 6.
  25. ^ Norris 1966, pp. 6, 8.
  26. ^ a b c d e Norris 1966, p. 8.
  27. ^ a b c Norris 1966, p. 10.
  28. ^ Norris 1966, pp. 8, 10.
  29. ^ Norris 1966, p. 9.
  30. ^ Wings Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Orbis Publishing, 1979.
  31. ^ Norris 1966, pp. 9–10.
  32. ^ "Bomber Command Memorial in London". www.bombercommandmuseum.ca. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  33. ^ Lake 1997, p. 131.
  34. ^ Robertson 1990, p. 77.
  35. ^ Lake 1997, p. 132.
  36. ^ a b Lake 1999, p. 93.
  37. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 92–93.
  38. ^ Robertson 1990, pp. 4, rear cover.
  39. ^ Robertson 1990, p. 64.
  40. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 91–92.
  41. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 90–96.
  42. ^ "Handley Page Halifax Mk III – Yorkshire Air Museum". Yorkshire Air Museum. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  43. ^ "The Story of Halifax NA337". airforcemuseum.ca. National Air Force Museum of Canada. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  44. ^ "Handley Page Halifax B.MK.II Series I W1048/8465M" (PDF).
  45. ^ Bingham 1986, p. 170
  46. ^ "The Story of Halifax NA337 «  National Air Force Museum of Canada". airforcemuseum.ca. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  47. ^ "Bomber Command Memorial in London". www.bombercommandmuseum.ca. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  48. ^ "Support the Recovery of a RCAF Halifax Bomber". FundRazr. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  49. ^ "Fishing For Halibags - Retrieving a Halifax Bomber from the Irish Sea > Vintage Wings of Canada". www.vintagewings.ca. Retrieved 2017-06-17.
  50. ^ "Bomber Command Museum of Canada - Halifax Project". www.bombercommandmuseum.ca. Retrieved 2017-06-17.


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  • Halifax at War: The Story of a Bomber (76 min. DVD). Toronto: Nightfighters Productions, 2005. ISBN 1-55259-571-4.

External links[edit]