Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engine heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
A contemporary of the
famous Avro Lancaster
, the Halifax
remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety
of duties in addition to bombing. The Halifax was also operated by
squadrons of the Royal
Australian Air Force
Canadian Air Force
, Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal Pakistan Air Force
and Polish Air Force
Design and development
design to meet Air
Ministry Specification P.13/36
for a twin-engine medium bomber
"world-wide use." Other candidates for the specification included
the Avro 679
, designs from Fairey,
Boutlon Paul and Shorts; all used twin engines Rolls-Royce Vultures
, Napier Sabres, the
Fairey P.24 or Bristol Hercules. A four engined wing was still a
new idea in British bombers. The introduction of the successful
P.13/36 candidates were delayed by the necessity of ordering more
The Avro and HP.56 designs were ordered "off the drawing board" in
mid 1937; the Avro design as the preferred choice. Soon after
Handley Page were told to redesign the HP.56 for four engines as
the Vulture was already suffering technical issues. The Avro
Manchester would be built with Vultures but suffer due to them.
This redesign increased the span from 88 ft to 99 ft and put 13,000
lb of weight on. Modifications resulted in the definitive
H.P.57 which upon acceptance gained the name
"Halifax" following the practice of naming heavy bombers after
major towns; in this case Halifax in the West Riding of
The H.P.57 was enlarged and powered by four
Such was the promise of the new model that the RAF had placed their
first order for 100 Mk I
Halifaxes "off the
drawing board" before the first prototype even flew. The maiden flight of
the Halifax took place on 24 September 1939 from RAF
Bicester, 21 days
after the UK declared war on Germany.
Halifax production subsequently began at English Electric's site at Samlesbury, Lancashire with over 2,000 bombers being built at the factory
during the war.
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
Type C nose turret
, and four in BP Type E tail turret and, in
some aircraft, two .303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers K machine guns
positions. The Merlins drove constant speed wooden screw Rotol
propellers. Subtle modifications distinguished
the Mk I aircraft. The first batch (of 50) Mk I Halifaxes were
designated Mk I Series I
These were followed by 25 of the Mk I Series II
with increased gross weight (from 58,000 lb/26,310 kg to
60,000 lb/27,220 kg) but with maximum landing weight
unchanged at . The Mk I Series III
fuel capacity (1,882 gal/8,556 L), and larger oil coolers
to accept the Merlin XX. A two-gun BP Type C turret mounted
dorsally replaced the beam guns.
Introduction of Merlin XX engines and a twin .303 in
(7.7 mm) dorsal turret instead of waist guns resulted in the
B Mk II Series I
Halifax. The Mk II Series
achieved improved performance by removing the
nose and dorsal turrets. The Mk II Series IA
nose (the standard for
future Halifax variants), a four-gun Defiant
-type dorsal turret, Merlin 22
engines and larger vertical tail surfaces which solved control
rudder overbalance) in the early Marks.Halifax IIs were built by
English Electric and Handley Page; 200 and 100 aircraft
Due to a shortage in Messier-built landing
and hydraulics, Dowty
were used. Being incompatible with the Messier equipment these gave
Halifaxes with new designations. A Mark II built with Dowty gear
was the Mark V. The use of castings rather than forgings in the
Dowty undercarriage speeded production but resulted in a reduced
landing weight of . The Mark V were built by Rootes Group at Speke and Fairey at Stockport and were generally used by Coastal Command and for training.
Some 904 were built by the time Mark V production ended at the
start of 1944, compared to 1,966 Mk II.
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 Bristol Hercules
XVI radial engine. Other
changes included de Havilland
Hydromatic propellers and rounded wing tips. The Mk
was a non-production design using a turbocharged
Hercules powerplant.The definitive
version of the Halifax was the B Mk VI
, powered by
the Hercules 100. The final bomber version, the Mk
, reverted to the less powerful Hercules XVI. However,
these variants were produced in relatively small quantities.
The remaining variants were the C Mk VIII
transport (8,000 lb/3,630 kg cargo pannier instead of a
bomb bay, space for 11 passengers) and the Mk A IX
transport (space for 16
paratroopers and gear). A transport/cargo version of the Halifax
was also produced, known as the Handley Page Halton
Total Halifax production was 6,176 with the last aircraft delivered
in November 1946. In addition to Handley
, Halifaxes were built by English Electric
, Fairey Aviation
, Rootes Motors
(Rootes Securities Ltd.
) and the
. Peak production resulted in one Halifax being
completed every hour.
The Halifax was originally intended to be used to bomb the Russian
Caucasus oil fields
. The raids were carried out from Syrian and
Lebanese territories. However, the first Halifax entered service
with No. 35 Squadron RAF at RAF
Linton-on-Ouse in November 1940, while Syria and Lebanon were
already ruled by Vichy. Therefore its first operational raid was
Havre on the night of 11-12 March
In service with RAF Bomber
, Halifaxes flew 82,773 operations, dropped
224,207 tons (203,397 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,833
aircraft. In addition to bombing missions, the Halifax served as a
tug, electronic warfare
aircraft for No. 100 Group
and special operations such as parachuting
agents and arms into occupied
. Halifaxes were also operated by
RAF Coastal Command
for anti submarine warfare
Postwar, Halifaxes remained in service with the RAF Coastal Command
and RAF Transport Command
Armée de l'Air
early 1952. The Pakistan Air
which inherited the planes from the RAF continued to use
the type until 1961.
A number of former RAF Halifax C8s were sold from 1945 and used as
freighters by a number of mainly British airlines. In 1948, the air
freight market was in decline but 41 civil aircraft were used in
the Berlin Air Lift
total of 4,653 freight sorties and 3,509 sorties carrying bulk
diesel fuel. Nine aircraft were lost during the airlift but as the
aircraft returned to England most civil Halifaxes were
- Proposed twin-engine bomber aircraft, never built.
- Proposed twin-engine bomber aircraft, fitted with two
Rolls-Royce Vulture engines, never built.
- The first Halifax prototype
- Halifax Mk. I
- The second prototype.
- ;Halifax B.I Series I
- :Four-engined long-range heavy-bomber aircraft; 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
- 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
- Halifax Mk II
- New variant with increased takeoff weight, fuel and weapons
- Halifax B.II Series I
- First series of the bomber variant; from March 1942 onwards,
these were fitted with TR1335
- Hailfax 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 went pipes and exhaust shrouds.
- Hailfax B.II Series I (Special)
- 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
- 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
- Halifax GR.II
- Coastal Command variant of the
- ;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 suggest that there were a meteorological variant
of the B.II, designated Met. II, but this is unlikely.
- 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. Some B.IIIs had extended round wingtips.
- Halifax A.III
- Halifax B.III bombers converted into glider tug and paratroop
- Halifax C.III
- Halifax B.III bombers converted into military transport
- 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
- 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
- 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
- Halifax C.VII
- Halifax B.VIIs bombers converted into military transport
- Halifax C.VIII
- Cargo and passenger transport aircraft.
- Halifax A.IX
- Paratroop transport, glider tug aircraft.
- Halton I
- Interim civil transport version; postwar, a number of Hailfax
bombers were converted into civilian transport aircraft.
- Halton II
transport aircraft for the Maharajah Gaekwar of Baroda.
Halifax military operators
An Australian Halifax at RAF Foulsham
Halifax civil operators
- Air Freight
- Bond Air Services
- British American Air Services
Overseas Airways Corporation
- C.L. Air Surveys
- Eagle Aviation
- Lancashire Aircraft Corporation
- London Aero and Motor Services (LAMS)
- Union Air Services
- Westminster Airways
(converted as a bulk fuel carrier for Berlin Airlift)
- World Air Freight
Halifax Mk II(III) LV907, Yorkshire
Halifax Mk VII NA337
There is only one fully restored Halifax bomber version in the
is located at the Yorkshire Air Museum, on the site of the Second World War airfield,
aircraft was re-constructed from a fuselage section of Halifax II
HR792 and parts from other aircraft. It is painted to represent
Halifax LV907, "Friday the 13th" on the port side and "N -
Novembre" of 347 "Guyenne" Squadron, French Air Force, on the
starboard side (RAF Elvington being the home of the only two French
heavy bomber squadrons in Bomber Command).
Another fully restored Halifax, NA337
of No. 644 Squadron RAF at
Tarrant Rushton is a transport/special duties version, and was
retrieved from the bottom of Lake Mjøsa in Norway in 1995
after being shot down in April 1945. It was brought back
to Canada and
restoration was completed in 2005. NA337 is a
Halifax A Mk VII Special Duties aircraft built by
Rootes Motors, Liverpool and resides at RCAF Memorial Museum at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ontario, near Kingston, Ontario.
Halifax II, W1048,
recovered from Lake Hoklingen (1973).
A third Halifax is a Mk II
, Serial Number W
. On the night of the 27/28 April, 1942, this
aircraft was taking part in a raid on the Tirpitz - its first operational flight. It was hit by
anti-aircraft fire after releasing the four mines it carried and
the pilot made a successful Belly
landing on the frozen surface of Lake Hoklingen.
All the crew escaped to Sweeden with the
help of the Norwegian
, except for the Flight Engineer who remained behind
because of a broken ankle and was taken prisoner. Within hours, the
aircraft sank through the ice into of water.
In the summer of 1973, it was recovered from the lake by a team of
divers from the RAF and a Norwegian diving club, and was
transported to the UK on a British Army Landing craft tank
. It is displayed in
its "as recovered" condition in the Bomber Command display at the
Force Museum in London,
apart from the nose turret which had already been restored prior to
November 2006, archaeologists from the
Uprising Museum, Poland, unearthed remains of another Halifax
(JP276 "A") from No. 148 RAF Squadron, which was found in
southern Poland, near the city of Dąbrowa Tarnowska.
It was shot down on the night 4-5 August
1944 while returning from the "air-drop-action" during the Warsaw Uprising
1945, while on weather patrol, the aging Halifax bomber LW170
sprung a fuel leak and, while trying to return to base, was forced
to ditch off the Hebrides
Islands west of Scotland.
A project is currently underway with the
stated aim of recovering and restoring Halifax LW170. When it is recovered
it will be restored and displayed at the Nanton Lancaster Society
Air Museum in Nanton,
Specifications (Mk III)
3-view projection of Halifax Mark I
Series III, with profile details of other significantly different
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