The origin of the
Halifax stemmed back to an Air Ministry requirement of 1935 for a
twin-engined bomber, to which Handley Page submitted a design
identified as the H.P.55. This proved to be unsuccessful, but about a
year later the Air Ministry issued a new specification, P.13/36, which
called for a medium/heavy bomber to be powered by two 24-cylinder
engines known as the Vulture X-Type which Rolls-Royce then had under
development. Handley Page's H.P.56 proposal was selected for prototype
construction, but the company had doubts that the Vulture engine would
emerge as a reliable production powerplant, and set about the task of
redesigning the H.P.56 to take four Bristol Taurus engines, but this
was soon changed to incorporate Rolls-Royce Merlins instead. The
overall configuration was not greatly changed, but the H.P.57 design,
which was submitted to the Air Ministry for approval, was for a
considerably larger and heavier aeroplane. 40,000 lbs (18141 kg) loaded
weight instead of the original 26,300 lbs (11927 kg).
On 3 September 1937
Handley Page was awarded a contract for the manufacture of two
prototypes of the H.P.57, with construction beginning in early 1938.
When the first of these was nearing completion, it was realised that
the company's airfield at Radlett, Hertfordshire, was too restricted
for the first flight of such a large aircraft, and it was decided
instead to use the nearest non-operationa1 RAF airfield, which was at
Bicester in Oxfordshire. Thus, final assembly was carried out at
Bicester and it was from there that the first flight (L7244) was made
on 25 October 1939.
As then flown the
H.P.57 was a mid-wing cantilever monoplane of all-metal construction,
the wing incorporating automatic leading-edge slats, but these were
deleted on production aircraft as the Air Ministry required that the
wing leading edges should be armoured and provided with barrage balloon
cable cutters. The tail unit comprised a large high-mounted tailplane
and rudder assembly with twin endplate fins and rudders, and the
fuselage was a deep, slab-sided all-metal structure with considerable
internal volume, it was this feature which was to provide the later
versions with multi-role capability. Accommodation was provided for a
crew of seven, including three gunners to man the nose, beam and tail
positions. Landing gear was of retractable tailwheel type, and the
powerplant comprised four Merlin engines. For its primary role as a
bomber, a variety of weapons could be carried in a 22 ft (6.71 m) long
bomb bay in the lower fuselage, supplemented by two bomb compartments
in the wing centre-section, one on each side of the fuselage.
Melting Snow, Clearing Mist - An original artwork by Keith Woodcock.
The second prototype
(L7245) made its first flight on 17 August 1940, followed just under
two months later on 11 October 1940 by the first production example
(L9485), by then designated Halifax Mk I, and this was powered by 1,280
hp (954 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines. Armament of these early
production aircraft consisted of two and four 7.7 mm (0.303 in)
machine-guns in nose and tail turrets, respectively. Full designation
of the first production version was Halifax B.Mk I Series I, and these
began to equip the RAF's No.35 Bomber Squadron based in Leeming
starting on 23 November 1940. It was this unit that, on 11 March 1941,
was the first to use the Halifax operationally, in an attack on Le
Havre by six of the squadrons aircraft, and a few days later the
Halifax became the first of the RAF's four-engined bombers to make a
night attack against a German target, when bombs were dropped on
Hamburg by three aircraft. The Halifax was used for the first time in a
daylight attack against Kiel on 30 June 1941, but it did not take long
to discover that the aircraft's defensive armament was inadequate for
daylight use, and by the end of 1941 the Halifaxes were used only by
night in the bombing role. This resulted in the provision of better
armament for later versions.
Early deployment of the
Halifax had confirmed that this new four-engined bomber had much to
offer, but although contracts for large-scale construction very quickly
exceeded the productive capacity of the Handley Page factories at
Cricklewood and Radlett, pre-war plans had been made for alternative
sources of supply. The establishment of four new production lines was
made easier by the unit method of construction which had been adopted
for the Halifax, and the first of these sub-contract aircraft to fly,
on 15 August 1941, came from the English Electric Company of Preston,
which had earlier been involved in the manufacture of Handley Page's
Hampden medium-bomber. The other three lines were those of Fairey
Aviation Company Limited of Stockport, Rootes Securities Limited of
Spekes and the London Aircraft Production Group (London Passenger
From their first
introduction into operational service, Halifax bombers were in
continuous use by RAF Bomber Command, equipping at their peak usage no
fewer than 34 squadrons in the European theatre, and four more in the
Middle East. Two flights were in early use in the Far East, and
following VE-Day a number of squadrons operating with the Halifax B.Mk
VI flew their aircraft out for co-operation with the Allied forces
fighting in the Pacific theatre The Halifax was involved in the first
Pathfinder operations in August 1942 and was the first RAF aircraft to
be equipped with the highly secret H2S blind bombing radar equipment.
It was also involved in extensively in daylight attacks on German V-1
sites. Between 1941 and 1945 the Halifax flew 75,532 sorties during
which 231252 tonnes (227,610 tons) of bombs were dropped on European
The Halifax was also
operated by nine squadrons of the RAF's Coastal Command for
anti-submarine, meteorological and shipping patrols, the aircraft being
converted from standard bombers and specially equipped, taking the
designations Halifax GR.Mk II, GR.Mk V or GR.Mk VI according to the
bomber version from which they were derived. Similarly, RAF Transport
Command acquired Halifax C.Mk III, C.Mk VI and C.Mk VII aircraft as
casualty, freight and personnel transports. Little known in wartime was
the work of Nos 138 and 161 SOE (Special Duties) Squadrons, which had
the task of dropping special agents and/or supplies by parachute into
One other vital use of
the Halifax was by the Airborne Forces, for under the designations
Halifax A.Mk III, A.Mk V and A.Mk VII, equivalent bomber versions were
converted to serve for the deployment of paratroops or as glider tugs.
The Halifax was, in fact, the only aircraft capable of towing the large
General Aircraft Hamilcar glider, a capability first proven in February
1942. Soon after that date the Halifax tug made its operational debut
when two Airspeed Horsas were hauled across the North Sea to attack the
German heavy-water plant in south Norway.
The Halifax Mk I was
followed into service by the Halifax B.Mk II Srs 1, which introduced a
Boulton Paul twin-gun dorsal turret, and an increase of 15 per cent in
standard fuel capacity. The powerplant, initially Merlin XXs, was
changed later to Merlin 22s of equal power output. These changes, plus
others introduced after the prototypes had made their first flights,
resulted in a steady increase in gross weight. As there had been no
surplus engine power from the outset, the result was that operational
performance was being eroded by enhanced capability. This can be
accepted during wartime conditions provided the rate of attrition
remains fairly constant, but in the case of the Halifax Mk II the
dorsal turret represented 'the last straw', and steps were taken
immediately to improve the performance of these aircraft.
The resulting Halifax
B.Mk II Srs IA (company designation H.P.59) had a performance increase
of some 10 per cent in both maximum and cruising speeds, which was
achieved by efforts to reduce both weight and drag. The nose turret was
deleted, the nose acquiring a streamlined fairing and the dorsal turret
was removed. Later production switched to the B.Mk II Series IA, which
introduced a Perspex nose fairing and Defiant-type four-gun dorsal
The Halifax however,
suffered through several initial teething problems. The most serious of
which was that the rudders, when exposed to violent manoeuvres, had a
tendency to overload and jam, making it possible for the Halifax to
enter an inverted and uncontrollable spin. When this happened the pilot
usually was unable to free the rudder from its locked position and
several crashes initially determined to be caused by "unknown
circumstances" were eventually traced to this problem after extensive
testing, following the inexplicable losses of fully loaded aircraft.
This design flaw along with other minor problems, were to lead to the
Halifax squadron's suffering higher than expected losses in the
aircraft's early months of service. Various modifications were made to
the initial rudder design, including limiting the amount the rudder
could be moved, but the problem was not completely eliminated until the
introduction of the B.Mk III, which introduced a rectangular, rather
than a triangular shaped rudder. The last major production version was
the Halifax B.Mk III (company designation H.P.61), the first of the
bombers to introduce Bristol Hercules VI or XVI radial engines, which
offered 1,615 hp (1204 kW) for take-off.
Although withdrawn from
Bomber Command immediately after VJ-Day, the Halifax GR.Mk VI continued
to serve with Coastal Command after the war, as did the Halifax A.Mk
VII with transport squadrons at home and overseas. Post-war versions
included the Halifax C.Mk VIII (company designation H.P.70), which
could accommodate a 8,000 lbs (3629 kg) capacity detachable pannier
beneath the fuselage, and the Halifax A.Mk IX (company designation
H.P.71) troop-carrier and supply-dropper for use by airborne forces.
When production of these two versions ended, amounting to some 230
aircraft, a total of 6,178 Halifaxes had been built, and examples
remained in RAF service until late 1947.
When Transport Command
Halifax C.Mk VIIIs became surplus to military requirements, 10 were
converted by Short Brothers & Harland (Belfast) as 10 seat Halton Mk.I
(H.P.70) civil transports for service with BOAC. Subsequently about 80
other civil conversions, some near to the Halton standard were carried
out by a variety of contractors.
Only four Halifaxes
made it to 100 missions. Today there are no complete original Halifax
bomber on display, but the Air Force Museum in Trenton, Ontario, Canada
is currently restoring a plane recovered from a lake in Norway, which
had originally crashed there in 1944.
To make available as
soon as possible a high-speed long range civil transport that will
serve as an interim type until the Handley Page H.P.68 Hermes is ready,
Handley Page Limited, developed a civil conversion of the Halifax
Bomber for use by Airline Operators.
In a conventional
airliner interior arrangement the Halifax Civil Transport accommodates
eleven passengers. Nine in adjustable armchair type seats and two in a
comfortable compartment which is readily convertible into a two-berth
sleeping compartment. If desired additional sleeping berths can be
fitted in the main passenger compartment. The whole cabin is
upholstered and lined throughout and each passenger seat has a window
adjacent thereto. A lavatory is fitted aft of the main compartment.
In addition to the
eleven passengers, the Halifax Civil Transport can also carry a large
amount of freight and/or mail in a specially-designed pannier of a
streamline form which fits into the underside of the fuselage where in
the military version bombs are carried. This pannier, with a capacity
for loads up to 8,000 lbs (3,632 kg), has loading hatches fore and aft
and can be lowered from and raised up to the aircraft by means of
winches. Thus for specific freight-carrying operations, a complete
pannier can be detached and replaced by another for rapid "turn-around"
When conditions demand
extreme range, with a consequent reduction in payload, additional
long-range tanks can be fitted in place of the pannier to give a
maximum range of 3,510 miles (5616 km). The general structure of the
Civil Transport is identical to that of the Halifax bomber. The
powerplant consists of four Bristol Hercules 100 engines which
developed 1,675 hp (1249 kW) for take-off and 1,800 hp (1342 kW) at
10,000 ft (3050 m), each driving a de Havilland three-blade
constant-speed full-feathering airscrew.
Range - at 65,000 lbs
(29510 kg) all up weight and 55,000 lbs (24970 kg) landing weight.
Range with maximum load of 12,100 lbs (5493 kg) 1,810 miles (2896 km),
Range with load of 10,000 lbs (4540 kg) 2,150 miles (3440 km), Maximum
range with normal fuel tanks and load of 7,750 lbs (3518 kg) 2,530
miles (4050 km.), Maximum range with long-range fuel tanks and load of
2,500 lbs (1135 kg) 3,510 miles (5616 km).
Range - at 68,000 lbs
(30,870 kg) all up weight and 57,000 lbs (25880 kg) landing weight.
Range with maximum load of 14,100 lbs (6400 km) 1,860 miles (2976 km),
Range with load of 12,500 lbs (5675 kg) 2,120 miles (3390 km), Maximum
range with normal fuel tanks and load of 10,750 lbs (4880 kg) 2,420
miles (3872 km), Maximum range with long-range fuel tanks and load of
5,450 lbs (2475 kg) 3,360 miles (5,376 km).
Dimensions - Same as
for the Halifax bomber except Length 73 ft 7 in. (22.45 m).
Weights - Tare weight
37,750 lbs (17140 kg). Removable equipment and crew 2,850 Ibs (1294
kg). Basic equipped weight 40,600 lbs (18434 kg).
Performance - Maximum
speed 320 mph. (512 km/h), Maximum weak mixture cruising speed at
10,000 ft (3050 m) 260 mph (416 km/h), Maximum weak mixture cruising
speed at 15,000 ft (4575 m) 270 mph (432 km/h), Economical cruising
speed at 10,000 ft (3050 m) 200 mph (320 km/h). Economical cruising
speed at 15,000 ft (4575 m) 210 mph (336 km/h).
This type was a late
war conversion done by Handley Page Limited, and should not be confused
with the 10 post-war Halton Mk.I (H.P.70) civil transports converted
from surplus military aircraft for service with BOAC.
Page H.P.57 Halifax B.Mk III)
Type: Seven Seat
Heavy Bomber, Glider Tug, Troop/Freight Transport, Electronic
Countermeasures (ECM), ASW Platform & Air Ambulance
A crew of seven was normally carried, consisting of a Pilot,
Co-Pilot/Flight Engineer, Navigator, Radio/Wireless Operator and three
Gunners. Bomb-aimers position in extreme nose. Aft of the bomb-aimer is
the navigator's compartment and chart table. Aft of the navigator is
the pilot's compartment seating two side-by-side. Pilots have direct
communication with the Radio Operator who is situated below them on the
same level as the navigator. Behind the pilots compartment is the
engineers station, where there is an astral dome in the roof from which
the Fighting Control Officer can direct operations when the aircraft is
attacked. In the centre-section bunks are fitted for the crew. Behind
the wings there is an upper midships gun turret and tail turret. A
walkway throughout the length of the fuselage gives access to all crew
stations. Entry to the fuselage is provided by a door on the lower port
side of the aircraft. All crew positions have armour protection.
Page Design Team with Sir Frederick Handley Page as Managing Director.
Handley Page Limited based in Cricklewood, London with airport
facilities at Park Street and Colney Street, Radlett, Hertfordshire.
The aircraft were built at Cricklewood, but assembled at the Park and
Colney Street plants (1,592 aircraft). The actual production of the
Halifax was undertaken by a Production Group consisting of Handley Page
Limited (which acted as technical consultants and advisors), the
English Electric Company of Preston, Lancashire with assembly at
Samlesbury (2,145 aircraft), the London Passenger Transport Board (710
aircraft), Rootes Securities Limited of Spekes (1,070 aircraft) and the
Fairey Aviation Company Limited of Stockport (661 aircraft). The London
Passenger Transport Board (London Aircraft Production Group) itself
originally consisted of Chrysler Motors (rear fuselage), Duplex Bodies
and Motors (forward fuselage and components), Express Motor and Body
Works (inner wing sections), Park Royal Coachworks (outer wing
sections) and London Transport's Aldenham bus depot, with assembly at
Leavesden. Altogether at the peak of production the Group comprised 41
factories and dispersed units, 600 sub-contractors and a total of
51,000 employees, which on average, produced one aircraft per hour.
1,675 hp (1250 kW) Bristol Hercules XVI 14-cylinder sleeve-valve
double-row air-cooled radial engines rated at 2,900 rpm at 4,500 ft
(1370 m); 1,615 hp (1205 kW) at 2,900 rpm for take-off; 1,050 hp (783
kW) at 2,400 rpm at 10,250 ft (3130 m) driving three-bladed Rotol
constant-speed full-feathering propellers or four-bladed de Havilland
Maximum speed 282 mph (454 km/h) at 13,500 ft (4115 m); long range
cruising speed of 215 mph (346 km/h) at 20,000 ft (6095 m); service
ceiling 24,000 ft (7315 m); initial rate of climb 751 ft (229 m) per
12 self-sealing fuel tanks giving a total capacity of 1,998 Imperial
gallons (2,400 US gallons or 9071 litres), plus provisions for 576
Imperial gallons (692 US gallons) in 6 auxiliary tanks in the the wing
Oil tanks in outer engine nacelles and in leading-edge of
centre-section for the inboard engines. Capacity is unknown.
miles (1658 km) on internal fuel with maximum bombload of 14,500 lbs
(6576 kg) or 1,985 miles (3196 km) with a main fuselage bomb bay load
of 13,500 lbs (6122 kg) with extra fuel carried in the wing cells.
Weights & Loadings:
Empty (clean) 38,240 lbs (17345 kg), empty (equipped) xx lbs (xx kg)
with a maximum take-off weight of 65,000 lbs (29484 kg). Wing loading
51 lbs/sq ft (248.8 kg/sq m); power loading 12.7 lbs/hp (5.76 kg/hp).
104 ft 2 in (31.75 m); length 71 ft 7 in (21.82 m); height 20 ft 9 in
(6.32 m); wing area 1,275.0 sq ft (118.45 sq m).
A total of nine 7.7 mm (0.303 in) machine-guns with one 7.7 mm (0.303
in) Vickers "K" machine-gun with 300 rounds on a pivoted mount in the
nose and four 7.7 mm (0.303 in) Browning machine-guns in each of the
(Boulton-Paul) Type A Mk.VIII dorsal turret with 600 rounds per gun and
the Boulton Paul Type E Mk.III tail turret with 2,500 rounds per gun.
For aircraft serving in RAF Coastal Command, standard machine-guns of
12.7 mm (0.50 in) calibre were used where possible.
A maximum of 14,500 lbs (6576 kg) of disposable ordnance in main
fuselage and wing cells. The main ordnance compartment in the lower
part of the fuselage is 22 ft (6.7 m) long and closed by eight
hydraulically operated doors and is capable of carrying up to 13,000
lbs (5896 kg) of disposable stores. Six wing cells (three in each
centre-section of the wing) are each capable of carrying 500 lbs (227
kg). Handley Page loading winches load bombs on their carriers and
automatically locates them in the correct position within the
bomb-bays. Aircraft serving in RAF Coastal Command could carry up to
eight 250 lbs (113 kg) depth charges and starting in 1944, 600 lbs (272
kg) anti-submarine bombs. Supply dropping usually consisted of the
delivery of containers containing weapons, ammunition and explosives.
The containers were about 15 in (38 cm) in diameter and about 60 in
(152.4 cm) long and were carried in the Halifax's bomb-bays.
II, GR.Mk II Series 1 (Special), GR.Mk V, Met.Mk V, GR.Mk VI, Met.Mk
VI, C.Mk III, C.Mk VI. C.Mk VII, C.Mk VIII (H.P.70), A.Mk III, A.Mk VI,
A.Mk VII, A.Mk IX (H.P.71), B.Mk I Series 1, B.Mk I Series 2, B.Mk I
Series 3, Mk II/B.Mk II, B.Mk II Series 1, B.Mk II Series 1A, B.Mk II
Series 1 (Special), B.Mk II Series 2, B.Mk III (H.P.61), B.Mk IV
(single prototype), B.Mk V Series IA, B.Mk V Series I (Special), B.Mk
VI (H.P.61), B.Mk VII (H.P. 61), Halton Mk I.
Full communications and navigation equipment. Flares, oxygen, cabin
heating are also provided. Dinghies for emergency use are located in
the trailing-edge of the port wing.
Unit: Mid-wing cantilever monoplane type. The wing is built up of
five main sections, consisting of a centre-section carrying the inboard
engine mountings at its extremities, two intermediate sections, and tow
out sections which carry the outboard engine mountings at their roots.
The centre-section has two spars, the front spar a girder structure
built up of channel sections and the rear spar comprising of T-section
extruded booms and plain sheet web. The intermediate sections, at which
the dihedral begins, are built up on two spars which have T-section
booms and sheet webs. The outer wings are similar but have L-section
booms. All sections have detachable trailing-edge sections aft of the
rear spars. The leading-edge of the outer sections is armoured and is
provided with balloon cable cutters. The structure of the various
sections is completed by former ribs, spanwise stringers and a smooth
light alloy skin. Ailerons on the outer sections have aluminium-alloy
frames and fabric covering. Handley Page slotted trailing-edge flaps
between ailerons and fuselage. The fuselage is an oval section with
light alloy monocoque structure in four main sections with L-section
and U-section frames, L-section stringers and a stressed-metal skin.
Two channel section longerons run the entire length of the fuselage
along the centreline of the sides, with the top flanges forming the
floor support. The tail unit is a cantilever monoplane type with twin
fins and rudders. Two spar tailplane. Balanced elevators and rudders.
Trimming tabs in all control surfaces.
Rectractable Messier hydraulic units made from cast magnesium, with
auxiliary hand pumps. Wheels are retracted backwards into inner engine
nacelles leaving a small portion of each wheel protruding but closely
fitted by doors. The tailwheel was also retractable.
flight (first prototype) 25 October 1939; first flight (second
prototype) 17 August 1940; first flight (production) October 1940;
first operational sortie 11 March 1941; retired from service (RAF
Coastal Command) late 1947.
United Kingdom (RAF), Canada (RCAF), Australia (RAAF), New Zealand (RNZAF),
Halifax first entered service with No.35 Bomber Squadron during
November 1940, and on 11 March 1941, was the first to use the Halifax
operationally, in an attack on Le Havre. At their peak, the Halifax was
to equip 34 Squadrons in the RAF Bomber Command (Europe). Squadrons
Nos.10, 35, 51, 76, 77, 78, 102, 103, 158, 171, 192, 199, 346, 347,
405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433,
434, 460, 466, 578, 614, 640. Four additional bombers squadrons served
in the Far East. Squadron Nos. 138 & 161 (Special Duties) also used the
type in a clandestine role, today known as Covert Operations, dropping
agents and supplies into German occupied territories. RAF Coastal
Command equipped nine squadrons with the Halifax for anti-submarine,
meteorological and anti-shipping patrols.