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Handley Page Halifax

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The Halifax was one of Bomber Command's four-engined bombers that it used for its strategic bombing campaign over Germany. Nicknamed the 'Halibag' the Handley Page Halifax would serve with distinction until the end of the Second World War, and post-war would play a role in the Berlin Airlift.

Quick Facts
Handley Page Halifax side profile image
First flight
25th October 1939
Entered service
13th November 1940
Total built

Front view
Sorry, no view photo available
Side view
Sorry, no view photo available
Rear view
Sorry, no view photo available

The Halifax can trace its roots back to 1935 when the Air Ministry issued a specification for a twin-engined bomber and Handley Page submitted their H.P.55 design, however this design lost out to the Vickers Warwick. Undeterred by this they submitted their H.P.56 design when the Air Ministry issued Specification P.13/36 the following year which required a bomber to use the Rolls-Royce Vulture engine, which at the time was still being developed. The Handley Page and Avro designs were ordered as prototypes and whilst Avro continued with their twin-engined prototype, which would become the Avro Manchester, Handley Page came up with their H.P.57 design which was heavier and larger as the aircraft had now been redesigned to be powered by four Rolls-Royce Merlins and this new design was sent to the Air Ministry for approval.

On the 3rd September 1937 a contract for production of two H.P.57 prototypes was awarded to Handley Page, making its maiden flight on the 25th October 1939 with accommodation for a crew of seven and a bomb bay 22 ft in size with bomb compartments on either wing.

Ten months later on the 18th August 1940 the second prototype flew, the Halifax Mk I, with four Rolls-Royce Merlin X engines each providing 1,280-hp and armament of six 0.303-in machine-guns with two located in the nose turret and the rest in the tail turret. The first production version of this new type was the Halifax B.Mk I Series I, with the first one flying on the 11th October 1940, and No. 35 Squadron began to receive these on the 13th November 1940. It was with the same squadron four months later that the Halifax would be used operationally for the first time when on the 10th March 1941 six took part in an attack on Le Havre, France. A daylight raid over Hamburg, Germany followed on the 13th March 1941.

The Halifax B.Mk II Series I followed with Merlin 22 engines, although prior to these it was the Merlin XX engine, and a dorsal turret with two machine-guns installed. Although the downside to these changes meant an increase in the aircraft's weight and as a result affected its operational performance which required attention. As a result the B.Mk II Series IA had its maximum speed increased by 10% due to a number of changes including the nose turret removed and an extra two guns placed in the dorsal turret and the installation of 1,620-hp Merlin 24 engines. There was, however, one draw back with the Handley Page Halifax and this was discovered after the loss of aircraft that were fully loaded and was to do with the original triangular shape of the fins which could result in the aircraft entering a uncontrollable spin and as a result of much testing these fins were replaced with rectangular and larger fins. So from aircraft produced after the early part of 1943 these new fins were used.

The Halifax B.Mk III would be the last of the type produced in large numbers and a new engine was introduced in the form of either Bristol Hercules VI or XI and the wingspan was extended by a further 5 ft 4 in and on the 29th August 1943 the first production version flew for the first time before it entered service six months later during 1944.

Serving mainly with the Royal Air Force there would be at least 34 squadrons operating the Halifax at the height of its operational service with Bomber Command and it would fly over 75,500 sorties during 1941 - 1945. The Halifax would also be sent to the Pacific, with Mk VI and VIIs fitted with particle filters, after the German surrender. Two notable achievements for the aircraft included taking part in some of the first Pathfinder operations during August 1942 and the H2S blind bombing radar would first be used aboard a Halifax. Other branches of the armed forces would also make use of the aircraft including Coastal Command, which would operate nine squadrons, Transport Command and the Airborne Forces used converted Halifax bombers for various roles including glider tugs, in fact the Halifax was the only aircraft able to tow the General Aircraft Hamilcar glider, and paratroop transports and two special duties squadrons No. 138 and 161 used the Halifax for dropping agents and supplies into enemy territory.

The last Bomber Command losses of the Second World War (1939 - 1945) were Halifax crews when two from No. 199 Squadron where involved in a mid-air collision on the 3rd May 1945 leaving only 3 survivors of the 16 airmen aboard both aircraft. After the Japanese surrender the types service with Bomber Command came to an end, although it remained in service with Coastal Command and a small number would take part in the Berlin Airlift (26th June 1948 - 30th September 1949).

In total 6,176 were built.

Technical Details

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Top Speed Range Service Ceiling Armament
Halifax Mk B.I 265 mph 980 miles 18,000 ft six 0.303-in machine-guns
13,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.II 254 mph 1,900 miles 21,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
13,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.II Series 1A side profile image
Halifax Mk B.III 282 mph 1,030 miles 24,000 ft nine 0.303-in machine-guns
13,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.IV Intended to be powered by the Rolls-Royce Merlin 65, none built.
Halifax Mk B.V 307 mph 1,260 miles 22,000 ft nine 0.303-in machine-guns
13,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.VI 309 mph 1,260 miles 22,000 ft nine 0.303-in machine-guns
12,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.VII 277 mph 2,225 miles 20,000 ft eight 0.303-in machine-guns
12,000lb bombs
Halifax Mk B.VIII Used as a military transport aircraft.
Halifax Mk B.IX Used as either a glider tug or paratroop transport.


Click on a photo to view a larger version.
Halifax Mk III

See This Aircraft

(C) = Cockpit only exhibit. (F) = Fuselage only exhibit. (R) = Remains of an aircraft.

Halifax Mk VII (C) Imperial War Museum, Duxford
Halifax Mk II (R) Royal Air Force Museum, London
Halifax Mk III Yorkshire Air Museum

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