158 Squadron Association

"Strength in Unity"

Handley Page Halifax

Handley Page Halifax Information and Fact Sheet

 

Handley Page Halifax MK III NP-G "Clueless" of RAF 158 Sqn

LV917 was taken on strength by 158 Squadron on 7th March 1944. The operational record book for 158 Squadron records 99 operations for this aircraft

 

A Short History of the Handley Page Halifax

The Halifax was a four engine long range heavy bomber developed by the Handley Page Aircraft Company. The Halifax first took to the skies on 25 October 1939 and the aircraft entered service with the RAF in November of 1940. By the end of 1943 every squadron of Number 4 Bomber Group, including 158 squadron, had been equipped with Halifax bombers. Halifax aircraft were also flown by Number 6 RCAF Group. A total of 6,116 Halifax bombers were built during the war. The type proved to be so versatile that it was used in a variety of rolls besides that of bomber throughout the war. Halifax aircraft were used in mine laying, anti submarine, reconnaissance and metrological rolls operations as well as being used to carry cargo through out the war. Halifaxes were also used to drop paratroops and special agents behind enemy lines for the SOE. Halifaxes were used to tow gliders and in fact the Halifax was the only aircraft the RAF had that was capable of towing the large Hamilcar gliders used in Operation Overload during the D-Day invasion.

The list of duties that the Halifax was capable of filling is impressive but its primary roll was that of bomber it was in this roll that 158 Squadron flew its Halifaxes. Although entering World War II flying Wellingtons and ending its existence flying Short Stirlings for transport command in 1946 RAF 158 Squadron will always be remembered as a Halifax squadron. The squadron flew all but its first 35 operations of the war in Halifax aircraft. Between 25 June 1942 when the first Halifax operation was flown by the squadron and 25 April when 158 flew its last operation of the war Halifax aircraft flew an incredible 4,175 individual sorties with the squadron to some of the most heavily protected targets in Germany and occupied Europe.

Based in Yorkshire in the heart of what was to become known as Halifax country 158 Squadron flew three variants of the Halifax, Mark II, Mark III and Mark VI during the war. Mark II and Mark III three aircraft flew the bulk of operations for the squadron. The Mark VI did not come on to the squadron until April 1945 and these aircraft were only used on the last two operations the squadron flew during the war.

All marks of the Halifax used by 158 carried a crew of seven, pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, flight engineer and two gunners, mid upper and rear. These men trained and worked together many long hours ensuring they could operate in all conditions and under all situations as a closely knit team.

The Halifax MK II flew its first operation with 158 in June of 1942. MK II Halifaxes had a long range and were able to carry a heavy bomb load and could fly at a higher altitude than the Short Stirling which was the RAFs only other 4 engine bomber at this time. Halifax MK II aircraft carried a very heavy work load load for the RAF during the early years of the war.

Mark II Halifaxes were very sturdy and strong aircraft able to sustain a considerable amount of damage and still maintain controlled flight. However the MK II's did have flaws, several of them serious. Fitted with 4 Rolls Royce Merlin engines the aircraft was under powered and this coupled with trouble caused by its pointed Delta shaped twin rudders led to the MK II gaining a reputation as a difficult aircraft to fly.

Perhaps the most serious flaw of the MK II Halifax was the pointed delta shaped twin rudder. This design made it difficult to keep the aircraft straight on take off. It could also lead to the aircraft overbalancing at low speeds or when a prop was feathered and during tight turns. This last was especially true during the corkscrew manoeuvre the crews used to try to evade enemy fighter aircraft. This rudder overbalancing led to the aircraft entering a deadly spin from which it was nearly impossible to recover. These flaws were a major contributor to the high aircraft loss and casualty rates Halifax squadrons suffered during this part of the war.

Having been introduced in August 1943 and brought on service with 158 in December '43 the MK III Halifax addressed many of the MK II's short comings. MK III Halifaxes were fitted with 4 Bristol Hercules engines. These engines and were much more powerful than the Merlins. MK III aircraft were also fitted with a redesigned rudder. Gone was the pointed fore section, replaced by a straight rectangular shaped rudder. This new rudder design eliminated the overbalancing problem completely. Together with other modifications introduced along with these change performance and handling of the Halifax MK III improved greatly over the MK II and made it a much better aircraft to fly than the earlier versions had been.

Introduced in in February of 1945 the Halifax MK VI incorporated several modifications and more powerful engines made the MK VI the best Halifax yet. Many pilots who flew Halifax MK VI and Lancaster type aircraft voiced the opinion that the Halifax MK VI was in many ways the superior aircraft.

 

Halifax MK II series 1 and series 1 (special) Specifications and Data

 

Halifax MK II NP-N of 158 Sqn.

 

Roll: Heavy bomber

Manufacturer: Handley Page Ltd

Crew: 7 - pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid upper and rear gunners, flight engineer

 

Power Plant: 4 x Rolls Royce Merlin XX 1,220hp engines

 

Dimensions

Wing Span: 98ft 8in

Length: 70ft 1in

Height: 20ft 9in

 

Weights

Empty: 35,800lbs

Max Weight Fully Loaded: 60,000lbs

 

Performance:

Service Ceiling at max weight: 22,000ft

Maximum Speed: 254 mph at 12,750ft

Cruising Speed: 190 mph at 15,000 ft - Series 1 (Special) 190 mph at 19,000 ft

Range: 1,900 miles

 

Armament

Eight .303 Browning machine guns in nose, mid upper and tail turrets. Note: in the Series 1 (Special) type aircraft the nose gun turret was removed and replaced by a stream lined fairing in an effort to decrease drag and improve performance.

Max Bomb Load: Bomb load: 13,000 lbs

   

Halifax MK III Specifications and Data

 

Halifax MK III NP-g.

 

Roll: Heavy bomber

Manufacturer: Handley Page Ltd

Crew: 7 - pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid upper and rear gunners, flight engineer

 

Power Plant: 4 x Bristol Hercules XVI, 1,675 hp engines

 

Dimensions

Wing Span: 104ft 2in

Length: 71ft 7in

Height: 20ft 9in

 

Weights

Empty: 38,332lbs

Max Weight Fully Loaded: 65,000lbs

 

Performance:

Service Ceiling at max weight: 22,000ft

Maximum Speed: 277 mph at 6,000ft

Cruising Speed: 225 mph at 20,000 ft

Range: 1,770 miles

 

Armament

Eight .303 Browning machine guns in nose, mid upper and tail turrets and provision for one Vickers K gun in the nose.

Max Bomb Load: Bomb load: 13,000 lbs

   

Halifax MK VI Specifications and Data

 

Halifax MK VI

 

Roll: Heavy bomber

Manufacturer: Handley Page Ltd

Crew: 7 - pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, wireless operator, mid upper and rear gunners, flight engineer

 

Power Plant: 4 x Bristol Hercules 100 - 1,680 HP engines

 

Dimensions

Wing Span: 104ft 2in

Length: 71ft 7in

Height: 20ft 9in

 

Weights

Empty: 38,300lbs

Max Weight Fully Loaded: 65,000- 68,000 lbs depending on variant

 

Performance:

Service Ceiling at max weight: 20,000ft

Maximum Speed: 290 mph at 9,000ft

Cruising Speed: 230 mph at 20,000 ft

Range: 2,500 miles

 

Armament

Eight .303 Browning machine guns in nose, mid upper and tail turrets and one Vickers K gun in the nose.

Max Bomb Load: Bomb load: 12,000 lbs

Service with RAF 158 Squadron

 

Halifax MK II

first op - 25 June 1942

last op - 03 December 1943

total sorties flown: 1657, hundreds of ops flown - bombing, mine laying, dropping propaganda leaflets, etc

 

Halifax MK III

First op - 20 December 1943

last op - 25 April 1945 - this was the last op carried out by the squadron and it was to Wangerooge which is one of the Frisian Islands

total sorties flown: 3502, hundreds of ops flown - bombing, mine laying, dropping propaganda leaflets, etc

 

Halifax MK VI

first op - 18 April 1945

last op - 25 April 1945 - this was the last op carried out by the squadron and it was to Wangerooge which is one of the Frisian Islands

two ops total flown with 158 squadron a total of 15 sorties

10 MK VI aircraft on strength at wars end.

   

For More information about the Handley Page Halifax Bomber see:

 

Websites

Wikipedia - Handley Page Halifax

Yorkshire Air Museum

Bomber Command Museum Canada

 

Books

Halifax At War - Brian J Rapier, Ian Allen Ltd - London, 1987, ISBN 0 7110 1554 6

Halifax: An Illustrated History of A Classic WWII Bomber - K.A. Merrick, Ian Allan - London, 1980 ISBN 0 7110 0767 5

Haynes – Handley Page Halifax Owner’s Workshop Manual – Haynes Publishing c2012, ISBN: 978 1 78521 067 9