From Front-Line Bomber to Post-War Transport
One of the three British four-engine heavy bombers that took the fight to Germany, the Handley Page Halifax contributed in no small way to the destruction and ultimate surrender of the Third Reich. However, in its early years from service entry in March 1941, little good could be said about the Halifax. All round it was a poor design from Britain’s most famous builder of big bombers. In fact, it was so bad that ‘Bomber’ Harris wanted it withdrawn from service and production switched in favour of the Lancaster. However, there was simply no time or money to switch to building a new machine. Instead, Handley Page designers struggled to improve the aircraft and it was a good two years before they succeeded. The new Halifax was worth waiting for. By late 1944, Halifax losses dropped below those of the Lancaster, even though the former often outnumbered the latter on some of the big raids.
Those who flew and maintained the Halifax were largely loyal to the type, particularly the Canadians, who operated 15 squadrons. Its early difficulties overcome, the design was found ideal for other tasks – towing gliders, carrying troops, stuffing the fuselage full of electronics to spook the enemy, anti-submarine patrollers, spy dropping and, in the post-war world, flying early civil air routes around Europe and helping to sustain Berlin against the Russians. This new book edition of Aeroplane Icons: Halifax reviews the lows and highs of the mighty Halifax and recounts its contribution to the Allied success in winning World War Two.