Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   
Canadian Warplanes 3: Handley Page Halifax

Handley Page Halifax

Data current to 26 March 2021.

 (RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III bomber,“O” for Oscar, with No. 424 “Tiger” Squadron, RCAF, taxis for takeoff from an airfield in England, c1944.   During its career with the Tigers, it completed 62 sorties on enemy targets.  This Halifax Mk. III is equipped with Bristol Hercules radial engines, but other versions used the more well-known Rolls-Royce Merlin engines.

The Handley Page Halifax was a four-engined heavy bomber of the Second World War, developed to the same specification as the Avro Lancaster and Short Stirling four-engined heavy bombers.  The Halifax was a direct predecessor of the Lancaster, and both became capable strategic bombers, many of which were operated by the RCAF during the War.

The Halifax made its first flight on 25 Oct 1939, and entered service with the RAF on 13 November 1940.  It quickly became a major component of Bomber Command, performing routine strategic bombing missions against the Axis Powers, many of them at night.  Production of the Halifax continued until April 1945.  During their service with Bomber Command, Halifaxes flew a total of 82,773 operations and dropped 224,207 tons of bombs, while 1,833 aircraft were lost.  The Halifax was flown in large numbers by the RCAF, RAAF, Free French AF and Polish forces.

Various improved versions of the Halifax were introduced, incorporating more powerful engines, a revised defensive turret layout and increased payload.  It remained in service with Bomber Command until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing.  Additionally, specialised versions of the Halifax were developed for troop transport and paradrop operations.  Following the end of the Second World War, the RAF quickly phased the Halifax out of service, after the type was succeeded in the strategic bombing role by the Avro Lincoln, an advanced derivative of the Lancaster.  Of the 6,176 Halifaxes built, only three complete aircraft remain.  (Wikipedia)

 (Chris Charland Collection)

Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. VI (Serial No. RG814), which was used by the RCAF Winter Experimental Establishment (WEE).  It was taken on strength with the RCAF on the 5th of December and later struck off on the 10th of June, 1947. 

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. V (4), (Serial Nos. DG399, EB127, EB138, EB157), HP 61 Halifax Mk. VI (1), (Serial No. RG814), for a total of 5 aircraft operated by the RCAF in Canada.

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V aircraft at St. Thomas Technical School, Ontario, c1945.  These aircraft were bought and scrapped after the war by Cameron Logan of New Scotland ON, who cut them up and sent to Chicago by rail.  This will be either Halifax Mk. V (Serial No. DG399, EB127, EB138, or EB157), all 4 Halifaxes were flown to Canada in the summer of 1944, to Canada to be used for training ground crew and Halifax flight engineers for the RCAF., Karl Kjarsgaard

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V aircraft at St. Thomas Technical School, Ontario, c1945.  (Serial No. DG399, EB127, EB138, or EB157)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V aircraft at St. Thomas Technical School, Ontario, c1945.  (Serial No. DG399, EB127, EB138, or EB157).

The Handley Page Halifax at war

RCAF Nos. 405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433, and 434 Squadrons flew Halifax bombers during the war.

 (RAF Photo, 1942)

A Royal Air Force Handley Page Halifax Mk. II Series I (Serial No. W7676), coded TL-P, of No. 35 Squadron, RAF, based at Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire in the UK, being piloted by Flight Lieutenant Reginald Lane, (later Lieutenant-General, RCAF), over the English countryside.  Flt Lt Lane and his crew flew twelve operations in W7676, which failed to return from a raid on Nuremberg on the night of 28/29 August 1942, when it was being flown by Flt Sgt D. John and crew.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26870)

Original caption: "Courage and tenacity are the mainstays of Canadian Bomber crews now operating from bases in England, and the show put on by Flight Sergeant F. J. King is no exception.  While taking-off for an attack on the German industrial city of Frankfurt recently, the crew of the Halifax bomber "V" for "Vic" from No. 427 'Lion' (B) Squadron had a tire burst just as the aircraft left the runway; undismayed they carried on and successfully "pranged" the target.  On the way home a motor cut out on them, but skillful handling of the aircraft by the pilot resulted in a safe landing and no injuries to the crew.  Pictured here, F/S King on the left, skipper of the aircraft, is seen with F/S Baily his Bomb Aimer preparing to get airborne on a training flight."

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-40064)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III bomber, nicknamed "Gutsy Girty", from No. 427 Squadron, shown at Leeming, Yorkshire, with its crew before a night operation.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4752281)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III (Serial No. MZ620), No. 420 City of London "Snowy Owl" Squadron, RCAF.  This aircraft is fitted with a Preston Green Gun Mount.

 (IWM Photo, C4458)

Handley Page Halifax bombing a target over Mimoyecques, near Marquise, France, 5 July 1944. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4046920, and PL-10457)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, coded LQ-R, No. 405 Sqn, RCAF, 16 July 1942. 

Names painted on the sides of RCAF Halifax bombers, such as “Willy the Wolf”, “The Champ”, “Big Chief Wa-Hoo”, and “Vicky the Vicious Virgin”, reflected the affection that Canadian wartime crews felt for the big four-engine bomber type.  It could absorb tremendous punishment and still fly home. One Halifax aircraft, named “Friday the Thirteenth”, survived 128 sorties.  The Halifax was perhaps overshadowed by its larger cousin in Bomber Command, the Avro Lancaster, but many Canadian crews were more than satisfied with the aircraft type and the type was perhaps Canada’s most important bomber in the Second World War.  Apart from the bomber offensive, the Halifax was also used in Coastal Command to hunt submarines, and for special operations such as towing gliders or making parachute drops of supplies and agents in occupied territories. 

 (IWM Photo CH 6614)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. II (Serial No. W7710), coded LQ-R, "Ruhr Valley Express", No. 405 Squadron RCAF, ca 1942.  An extra truck was added to the nose insignia after each mission.  W7710 crashed at Niehuus, Denmark, on the night of 1/2 October 1942 while returning from a raid on Flensburg, Germany. 

 (RAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. II (Serial No. W7710), coded LQ-R, "Ruhr Valley Express", No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, ca 1942.  This Halifax B. Mk. II was lost on the night of the 1st/2nd of October, 1942 during an op against Flensburg, Germany with the loss of all seven crewmembers. It crashed at Liehuus, 6 km's north-northwest of Flensburg.

(IWM Photo CH 6609)

Armourers wheel a trolley of 1,000-lb MC bombs into position for hoisting into Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, coded LQ-Q, No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, at Pocklington, Yorkshire in the UK.  On the right, another armourer is fitting the release gear to Small Bomb Containers (SBCs) filled with 30-lb incendiary bombs, 1 Aug 1942.

 (IWM Photo, CH 17362)

Armourers check over a mixed bomb load of three 1,000-lb MC bombs and small bomb containers (SBCs) filled with 30-lb incendiary bombs, loaded into the bomb-bay and wing cells of a Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, Pocklington, Yorkshire.

 (RCAF Photo, PL10458)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. II (Serial No. W7710), coded LQ-R, "Ruhr Valley Express", No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, ca 1942.

 (IWM Photo, H10310)

Winston Churchill inspecting a Halifax bomber during a visit to an RAF bomber station, 6 June 1941. 

 (DND Archives Photo, PL-10457)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, coded L-QR, No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, in flight overseas on 16 July 1942.

(RAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, RAF (Serial No. JP121), ca 1943. 

(RAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. II, RAF, coded B-FY, ca 1943. 

(RAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. III, RAF (Serial No. LV837), ca 1944.

 (RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III bomber in RCAF service, operating from an airfield in England, ca 1944. 

 (RCAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. III bomber in RCAF service, operating from an airfield in England, ca 1944. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4752276)

Handley-Page Halifax bombers with No. 425 Squadron, RCAF, preparing for takeoff in the UK, 23 Nov 1944. 

(RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III bomber in RCAF service, operating from an airfield in England, ca 1944. 

(RCAF Photo)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax Mk. III, coded 6U-1, in RCAF service, operating from an airfield in England, ca 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 5129634) 

Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III (Serial No. MZ808), coded BM-P, "Pride of the Porcupines".  Aircrew and groundcrew members of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, No. 6 Bomber Group, gang up on the miniature English automobile owned by one of the aircrew members.  Left to Right: LAC D.W. Higgins, LAC Tom Collins, AC "Duke" Ducarme, Sgt. Sandy Grant, air gunner; Sgt. Bill Keen, bomb aimer; F/Sgt. Bob Thomas, navigator; LAC Gordon Austin, Sgt. Bill Mackay, flight engineer; Warrant Officer Jack McNaughton, pilot.  MZ808 crashed on Fynn Island, Denmark after being shot down by a 1./ NJG 3 night-fighter flown by Oberleutnant Herbert Koch while returning from a Gardening mission in Kiel Bay on 17 August, 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, PL-26857)

Original caption: "A long tough flight to bomb Germany lies ahead but these two Canucks and their "little" English pal are in good spirits as they await the signal to take-off.  They fly in one of the new Halifaxes of No. 6 (B) Group. Left to right: Sgt. D .K. McBain, RCAF, Mid-Upper Gunner; Sgt. Willie Morris, RAF, Flight Engineer, and Warrant Officer C. R. Jones, RCAF, Pilot."

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614993)

Handley Page Halifax B Mk. III (Serial No. HX290), No. 433 Sqn, RCAF tail gunner in front of his Boulton Paul four gun turret.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614991)

Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III (Serial No. MZ807), coded BM-C, No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, returning from a raid on Le Mans, France.  Skipton-on-Swale, England, 23 May 1944.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3614994)

Aircrew of No. 433 (Porcupine) Squadron, RCAF, en route to their Handley Page Halifax B. Mk. III aircraft before taking off to raid Hagen, Germany.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542802)

Handley Page Halifax, (Serial No. LK640), coded Q, "Q-Queenie", No. 431 Iroquois Squadron, RCAF, 16 Nov 1943.  The scantily-clad lady rates mention on the fuselage along with members of the crew whose names appear as "Dave," "Bill", "Mac", "Lorne" and "Bob". 

 (Chris Sheehan Photo)

Handley Page Halifax, No. 428 Squadron, RCAF, carrying out engine run between the two main hangars at the Middleton St George airfield.  This aircraft later made a crash landing at another field .  Note the nose art " git up them stairs " 4th April 1944.  The pilot was F/L Chuck Ford.

  (Library & Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4002568)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax bomber on a raid over Europe, ca 1944.

No. 6 (RCAF) Group was a comprised of RCAF heavy bomber squadrons between 25 Oct 1942 and 1945.  The group operated out of airfields in Yorkshire, England.  No. 6 (RCAF) Group was made up ofArticle XV squadrons: RCAF units formed under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP), for service with British operational formations; hence No. 6 Group was part of RAF Bomber Command.  In addition, a significant number of personnel from the RAF, RAAF, RNZAF, and other Allied air forces were attached to 6 Group during the war.

The RCAF began participating in operations by RAF Bomber Command in 1941, but its squadrons were initially attached to RAF groups.  In addition, many individual RCAF personnel belonged to RAF aircrews, in RAF squadrons.  The Canadian government wanted RCAF bomber squadrons and personnel to be concentrated, as much as possible, in a distinct, identifiably Canadian group.  To this end, No. 6 (RCAF) Group was formed on 25 October 1942 with eight squadrons.  At the peak of its strength, No. 6 Group consisted of 14 squadrons.  Fifteen squadrons would eventually serve with the group, which was almost every RCAF heavy bomber squadron.  Headquarters for No. 6 Group was at Allerton Park in North Yorkshire.

Significant operations involving No. 6 Group included raids on U-boat bases in Lorient and Saint-Nazaire, France, night bombing raids on industrial complexes and urban centres in Germany.

No. 6 Group flew 40,822 operational sorties.  A total of 814 aircraft, and approximately 5,700 airmen did not return from operations and 4,203 airmen lost their lives.

Operational squadrons included Nos. 405, 408, 415, 419, 420, 424, 425, 426, 427, 428, 429, 431, 432, 433, and 434 Squadron.

Bashow, David L.  No Prouder Place: Canadians and the Bomber Command Experience 1939-1945.  (St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada: Vanwell Publishing Limited, 2005)

 (IWM Photo C4713)

Handley Page HP 57 Halifax bomber of No. 6 Group flies over the smoke-obscured target during a daylight raid on the oil refinery at Wanne-Eickel in the Ruhr on 12 Oct 1944.  111 Halifaxes of 6 Group and 26 Avro Lancasters of No. 8 Group took part in the raid.  

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542794)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V, "Medicine Hat", bomb mission tally. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4542798)

Handley Page Halifax Mk. V, Series 1A, "Yehudi", "Laraine Day", 16 Nov 1943. 

 (RCAF Photo)

Handley Page Halifax, RCAF, ca 1943.  RCAF Leading Aircraftsman with an RCAF Women's Division Leading Aircraftswoman and two Corporals as passengers in a Norton 'Big Four" 600cc side-valve motorcycle hooked up to a sidecar.

 (Robert Taylor Photo)

 (JustSomePics Photo)

Handley Page Halifax A. Mk. VII, RAF (Serial No. NA337), National Force Museum of Canada.  This Halifax served with No. 644 Squadron RAF, based at RAF Tarrant Rushton during the Second World War, is a transport/special duties version that was shot down in April 1945.  This aircraft was retrieved from the bottom of Lake Mjøsa in Norway in 1995, and was taken to CFB Trenton, Ontario, where 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, Ontario.

 (RCAF Archives Photo, PL-104--)

Wing Commander John Fauquier, CO of No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, in the cockpit of his Handley Page Halifax bomber, 1942.  Air Commodore John Emilius "Johnny" Fauquier, DSO and two bars, DFC, (19 March 1909 – 3 April 1981) was a Canadian aviator and Second World War Bomber Command leader.  He commanded No. 405 Squadron, RCAF, and later No. 617 Squadron, RAF, (the Dambusters) over the course of the war.  He was a bush pilot before the Second World War, and had flown some 3,000 hours as pilot in command on bush operations.  He joined the RCAF in 1939 and initially served as a Flight Lieutenant.   After he completed an advanced course, he served until mid-1941 as an instructor of British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP) instructors.  After a short period in England at a glider and paratroop training center, he was posted to No. 405 Squadron, RCAF.  On returning in difficult weather conditions after bombing Berlin with the squadron on the night of 7 November 1941, he was forced to land his aircraft on a non-operational airfield, and as a result was temporarily suspected of being a spy by the Home Guard.

By February 1942, Fauquier had been promoted to acting Wing Commander and been given command of the squadron.  He was awarded the DFC for gallantry.  Shortly afterwards he was transferred from operations to the RCAF's Overseas Headquarters for staff duties.  He then served a short term with No, 6 Group, before once more taking command of No. 405 Squadron in February 1942.

During Operation Hydra in August 1943, a bombing raid on a German military research facility at Peenemünde, he acted as deputy master bomber, making 17 passes over the target.  He was awarded the DSO in September 1943, in part for his leadership during the raid.  Soon after that raid he was promoted to acting Group Captain of No. 405 Squadron,which had become a member of No. 8 (Pathfinder) Group.

During January 1944, he flew 38 sorties, completing his second tour of operations with No. 405 Squadron.  He was then awarded a Bar to his DSO.  After promotion to acting Air Commodore (rank precluded from operational flying), he was Mentioned in Dispatches in December 1944.  He then voluntarily reverted to the rank of Group Captain so that he might begin a third tour of operations, this time as the Commanding Officer of No. 617 Squadron, RAF (the Dambusters), which he led from December until the end of the war.  Under his command the Dambusters conducted raids against submarine pens, viaducts and other targets.  With the end of the war in Europe, he was awarded a second Bar to his DSO for his command of 617 Squadron.

Spencer Dunmore, a historian and novelist, wrote of him, 

"There is no doubt that Fauquier was one of the toughest of commanders.  He saw his job as getting every available aircraft on the target on every night of operations and had no patience with any incompetence or inefficiency that might compromise that goal. ... The ground crews thought the world of him, because he thought the world of them and never took them for granted, always remembering to take them bottles of beer or other treats if they had worked particularly hard.  Many considered him Canada's greatest bomber pilot."

After the war Fauquier returned to private business.  He was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame in 1974.  Fauquier died on Friday 3 April 1981.  (Wikipedia)

 (RCAF Archives Photo, PL-31680)

RCAF No. 6 Bomber Group overseas.  On Friday 11 Aug 1944, His Majesty King George VI, dressed in the uniform of a Marshal of the RAF, visited several stations of RCAF No. 6 Bomber Group in Britain.  He was accompagnied by the Queen and Princess Elizabeth.  The Royal Family are shown in the above historic photograph standing with Group Captain Clare Annis, OBE, of Vancouver (next to Princess Elizabeth), Air Commodore J.E. John Fauquier, DSO and Bar, DFC, of Ottawa, Canada's leading pathfinder (holding gloves), and Air Vice Marshal L.S. Breadner, CB, DSC, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the RCAF Overseas (on extreme right).  Air Vice Marshal C.M. ‘Black Mike’ McEwan is standing behind the royal ladies.   Air Vice Marshall Roy Slemon is standing behind the King.  The RCAF’s Warfare Centre building is named after then Group Captain Annis, who went on to higher rank.

  (Reginald William Parr Photo)

Handley Page Halifax, No. 640 Squadron, RAF, aircrew at RAF Leconfield, Yorkshire, England in December 1944. Not in order, Captain F/O R.Wakeman, DFC; Navigator P/O Reginald William Parr, DFC; Bomb Aimer F/O C.B.Morrison, RCAF, DFC; W/Op. F/Sgt H. Bearyman; Flt/Eng F/Sgt P/McPhie; Mid-upper Gunner F/Sgt H.Thomas; Rear Gunner F/Sgt E.G. Humphries.