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Handley Page Halifax B.III showing the later rectangular fins
Role Heavy bomber
Manufacturer Handley Page
First flight 24 September 1939
Introduction 13 November 1940
Retired 1961 (Pakistani Air Force)
Primary users Royal Air Force

Royal Canadian Air Force Royal Australian Air Force Free French Air Force

Produced 1940–1945
Number built 6,178[1]

The Handley Page Halifax was one of the four-engined 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 Canadian Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Free French Air Force, and Polish forces, and after the Second World War by the Royal Egyptian Air Force, the Armée de l'Air and the Royal Pakistan Air Force.


[hide] *1 Design and development

Design and developmentEdit

[2][3]Comparison of the Halifax Mk I (pink) with its contemporaries, the Short Stirling (yellow) and the Avro Lancaster (blue)[4][5]Halifax cutaway model at the London Science MuseumHandley Page produced the H.P.56 design to meet Air Ministry Specification P.13/36 for a twin-engine medium bomber for "world-wide use".[2] Other candidates for the specification included the Avro 679, and designs from Fairey, Boulton Paul and Shorts; all used twin engines – Rolls-Royce Vultures, Napier Sabres, the Fairey P.24 or Bristol Hercules. A four-engined wing was then still a new idea in British bombers. The introduction of the successful P.13/36 candidates was delayed by the necessity of ordering more Armstrong-Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellington bombers first.

The Avro and HP.56 designs were ordered "off the drawing board" in mid 1937, with the Avro design as the preferred choice. Soon after Handley Page was told to redesign the HP.56 for four engines rather than two, as the Vulture was already suffering technical problems. The Avro Manchester would be built with Vultures but suffered due to them. This redesign increased the span from 88 feet (27 m) to 99 feet (30 m) and put 13,000 pounds (5,900 kg) 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 Yorkshire. The H.P.57 was enlarged and powered by four 1,280 hp (950 kW) Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines. 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, just 21 days after the UK declared war on Germany.

The Halifax production subsequently began at Handley Page's (now English Electric) site in Samlesbury, Lancashire, with over 2,000 bombers being built by this 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 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. 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 50,000 lb (23,000 kg). The Mk I Series IIIhad increased 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. [6][7]The test Halifax B Mk II Srs I, V9977, in-which the first H2S radar was installed. Note the early triangular fins. This aircraft later crashed in June 1942, killing several radar techniciansIntroduction 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 B Mk II Series I Halifax. The Mk II Series I (Special) achieved improved performance by removing the nose and dorsal turrets. The Mk II Series IA had a moulded Perspex nose (the standard for 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 with the roughly triangular-shape original surfaces, leading to rudder overbalance) in the early marks. Halifax IIs were built by English Electric and Handley Page; 200 and 100 aircraft respectively.

Due to a shortage in Messier-built landing gear and hydraulics, Dowty landing gear was used. Being incompatible with the Messier equipment this gave Halifaxes with new designations.[clarification needed] 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 40,000 lb (18,000 kg). 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,[3] 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 1,650 hp (1,230 kW) Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine. Other changes included de Havilland Hydromatic propellers and rounded wing tips. The Mk IV was a non-production design using a turbocharged Hercules powerplant.

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.

The remaining variants were the C Mk VIII unarmed transport (8,000 lb/3,630 kg cargo pannier instead of a bomb bay, space for 11 passengers) and the Mk A IX paratroop transport (space for 16 paratroopers and gear). A transport/cargo version of the Halifax was also produced, known as the Handley Page Halton.

The bomb aimer's position was in the extreme nose with the navigator's table behind it; the posts being fulfilled by the same crew member. Separated by a half width partition the wireless (radio) operator was behind the navigator's partition. Above the navigator was the forward gun turret and the pilot and co-pilot above the wireless operator. Aft of the pilots was the flight engineer's compartment. A further compartment aft of the flight engineer led to the dorsal turret.[4]


Halifaxes were assembled from prebuilt sub assemblies. The surface panels were flush riveted although the application of the matte black night bomber camouflage probably negated the benefit.[5]

Total Halifax production was 6,178 with the last aircraft delivered in April 1945. In addition to Handley Page, Halifaxes were built by English Electric, Fairey Aviation, and Rootes Motors (Rootes Securities Ltd) in Lancashire and by the London Aircraft Production Group. Peak production resulted in one Halifax being completed every hour.

Operational serviceEdit

[8][9]Halifax C.8 freighter of Lancashire Aircraft Corporation at Manchester Airport in 1950The Halifax entered service with No. 35 Squadron RAF at RAF Linton-on-Ouse in November 1940 and its first operational raid was against Le Havre on the night of 11–12 March 1941.

In service with RAF Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew 82,773 operations, dropped 224,207 tons (203,397 tonnes) of bombs and lost 1,833 aircraft.[6] In addition to bombing missions, the Halifax served as a glider tug, electronic warfare aircraft for No. 100 Group RAF and special operations such as parachuting agents and arms into occupied Europe. Halifaxes were also operated by RAF Coastal Command for anti submarine warfare, reconnaissance and meteorological roles. Postwar, Halifaxes remained in service with the RAF Coastal Command and RAF Transport Command, Royal Egyptian Air Force and the Armée de l'Air until early 1952. The Pakistan Air Force which inherited the planes from the RAF continued to use the type until 1961.

Civilian operationEdit

A number of former RAF Halifax C.8s 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 operating a 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 scrapped. The last civilian operated Halifaxes were withdrawn from service in late 1952.


[10][11]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.===Pre-Halifax designs===

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 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
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)
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.[7]
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[8] suggest that there were a meteorological variant of the B.II, designated Met.II, but this is unlikely.[9]


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 transport aircraft.
Halifax C.III
Halifax B.III bombers converted into military transport aircraft.


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 HaltonEdit

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.


Halifax military operatorsEdit

[12][13]An Australian Halifax from No. 462 Squadron RAAF at RAF Foulsham in 1945;Australia


Halifax bomber OO-R of 1663 HCU from RAF Rufforth in 1944;Egypt

United Kingdom

Halifax civil operatorsEdit

  • Peteair
  • Vingtor Airways
South Africa
United Kingdom

Halton operatorsEdit

[14] India
South Africa
United Kingdom


[15][16]Halifax Mk II(III) LV907, Yorkshire Air Museum.There are 2 fully restored Halifax bomber version in the world. One of the two is located at the Yorkshire Air Museum, on the site of the Second World War airfield, RAF Elvington. This aircraft was re-constructed from a fuselage section of Halifax B.Mk.II HR792 and parts from other aircraft including the wings from an RAF Hastings. It is painted to represent Halifax LV907, "Friday the 13th" from no. 158 Squadron RAF on the port side and "N - Novembre" of 347 "Guyenne" Squadron, Free French Air Force, on the starboard side (RAF Elvington being the home of the only two French heavy bomber squadrons in Bomber Command).[16] Halifax Mk VII NA337, RCAF MuseumAnother fully restored Halifax, NA337 of No. 644 Squadron RAF, then based at RAF 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 taken to Canada and restoration was completed in 2005. NA337 is a Halifax A.Mk.VII Special Duties aircraft built by Rootes Motors, at Liverpool Airport and is now preserved at the National Air Force Museum of Canada at CFB Trenton in Trenton, Ontario, near Kingston, Ontario. [17][18]W1048 on display at Hendon.A third Halifax is a B.Mk.II, serial W1048, 'S' for Sugar of no. 35 Squadron RAF. 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 1,000-pound (450 kg) mines it carried and the pilot made a successful belly landing on the frozen surface of Lake Hoklingen. The crew escaped to Sweden with the help of the Norwegian resistance, 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 27 metres (89 ft) of water.[17][18]

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 Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon in London, apart from the nose turret which had already been restored prior to the decision.[18]

The front fuselage section of Halifax MkVII PN323, built by Fairey Aviation at Manchester, is displayed at the Imperial War Museum in London. PN323 was the final Halifax scrapped, at Radlett, with the forward fuselage being recovered in 1965 and the nose section/crew compartment moved to the IWM 1978.[19]

On 26 November 2006, archaeologists from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Poland, unearthed remains of another Halifax (JP276 "A") from No. 148 Squadron RAF, 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.

In August 1945, while on weather patrol, the aging Halifax bomber LW170 from no. 518 Squadron RAF sprang a fuel leak and, while trying to return to base, was forced to ditch off the Hebrides Islands west of Scotland.[20] A project is currently underway with the stated aim of finding, recovering and restoring Halifax LW170. When it is recovered it will be restored and displayed at the Bomber Command Museum of Canada in Nanton, Alberta, Canada.[21]

Specifications (Mk III)Edit

[19][20]3-view projection of Halifax Mark I Series III, with profile details of other significantly different variants.

Data from Halifax, Second to None[22]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 7
  • Length: 71 ft 7 in (21.82 m)
  • Wingspan: 104 ft 2 in (31.75 m (Early Mks. had span of less than 100 ft (30 m) to fit through standard hangar doors.))
  • Height: 20 ft 9 in (6.32 m)
  • Wing area: 1,190 ft² (110.6 m²)
  • Loaded weight: 54,400 lb (24,675 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Bristol Hercules XVI radial engine, 1,615 hp (1,205 kW) each



See alsoEdit

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


  1. ^ Robertson 1990, pp. 78–79.
  2. ^ Bingham 1986, p. 4.
  3. ^ Barnes 1987
  4. ^ Flight 1942 p401
  5. ^ Flight p400-401
  6. ^ Wings Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Orbis Publishing, 1979.
  7. ^ Lake 1997, p. 131.
  8. ^ Robertson 1990, p. 77.
  9. ^ Lake 1997, p. 132.
  10. ^ a b Lake 1999, p. 93.
  11. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 92–93.
  12. ^ Robertson 1990, pp. 4, rear cover.
  13. ^ Robertson 1990, p. 64.
  14. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 91–92.
  15. ^ Lake 1999, pp. 90–96.
  16. ^ Robinson 1996, p. ?.
  17. ^ Roberts, N. 1975, p. inner cover.
  18. ^ a b Simpson, Andrew. "Individual History: Handley Page Halifax B.Mk.II Series I W1048/8465M." Royal Air Force Museum, 2007. Retrieved: 28 October 2009.
  19. ^ Handley Page Halifax A Mk VII, PN323, Imperial War Museum
  20. ^ Roberts, N. 1975, p. 59.
  21. ^ Kjarsgaard, Karl, Chris Charland and James Blondeau. "Halifax Aircraft Recovery Project - 2009." Retrieved: 27 March 2010.
  22. ^ Bingham 1986, p. 170.
  • Barnes, C.H. Handley Page Aircraft since 1907. London: Putnam, 1987. ISBN 0-85177-803-8.
  • Bingham, Victor F. Halifax, Second to None: The Handley Page Halifax. Shrewsbury, UK: Airlife, 1986. ISBN 0-906393-66-3.
  • Buttler, Tony. British Secret Projects: Fighters & Bombers 1935-1950. Hinckley: Midland Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-85780-179-2.
  • Clarke, R.M., ed. Handley Page Halifax Portfolio. Cobham, Surrey, UK: Brooklands Books, No year cited. ISBN 0-948207-89-2.
  • Clayton, Donald C. Handley Page: An Aircraft Album. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1970. ISBN 0-7110-0094-8.
  • Jones, Geoffrey Patrick. Night Flight: Halifax Squadrons at War. London: William Kimber, 1981. ISBN 0-7183-0338-5.
  • Lake, Jon. Halifax Squadrons of World War 2. Botley, Oxfordshire, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1999. ISBN 1-85532-892-5.
  • Lake, Jon. Halifax Variants "Wings of Fame, Vol. 8". London: Aerospace Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-86184-009-8.
  • Merrick, Keith A. Halifax, an Illustrated History of a Classic World War II Bomber. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1980. ISBN 0-7110-0767-5.
  • Merrick, Keith A. Handley Page Halifax: From Hell to Victory and Beyond. Hersham, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Publishing Ltd, 2009. ISBN 978-1-906537-06-7
  • Merrick, Keith A. The Handley Page Halifax. Bourne Ends, Buckinghamshire, UK: Aston Publications Ltd., 1990. ISBN 0-946627-60-8.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. Handley Page Halifax: Merlin-Engined Variants (Aerodata International No 7). Kidlington. Oxfordshire, UK: Vintage Aviation Publications Ltd., 1979. ISBN 0-905469-50-X.
  • Moyes, Philip J.R. The Handley Page Halifax B.III, VI, VII. Leatherhead, Surrey, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1966.
  • Rapier, Brian J. Halifax at War. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1987. ISBN 0-7110-1554-6.
  • Roberts, Nicholas. Aircraft Crash Log No.2: Handley Page Halifax. Leeds, UK: N. Roberts, 1979.
  • Roberts, R.N. The Halifax File. Tonbridge, UK: Air Britain (Historians) Ltd., 1982. ISBN 0-85130-098-7.
  • Robertson, Bruce. Halifax Special. Shepperton, Surrey, UK: Ian Allan Ltd., 1990. ISBN 0-7110-1920-7.
  • Robinson, Ian. The Unbeaten Warrior Returns: The Story of Reconstructing the Handley Page Halifax at the Yorkshire Air Museum, 1983-96. Elvington, UK: Yorkshire Air Museum, 1996. ISBN 0-9512379-4-2.
  • Scutts, Jerry. Halifax in Action (Aircraft in Action series, No. 66). Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-89747-158-X.
  • Stachiw, Anthony L. and Andrew Tattersall. Handley Page Halifax: In Canadian Service St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2005. ISBN 1-55125-085-3.
  • "The Halifax" (pdf), Flight XLI (1739), 23 April 1942,, retrieved 10 December 2011
  • Halifax at War: The Story of a Bomber (76 min. DVD). Toronto: Nightfighters Productions Inc., 2005. ISBN 1-55259-571-4.

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