The Halifax

Responsible for towing the Horsa gliders on the 6th June 1944, the four-engine bomber was a versatile beast.

Halifaxes bombing the Scharnhorst in Brest, 1941
Taking off on its maiden flight on the 25th October 1939, it would be just over a year before the Handley Page Halifax would enter service with the Royal Air Force in November 1940.
Despite being described by Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, as inferior to the more able Lancaster, it became a vital component in Bomber Command’s hierarchy. So much so that, at war’s end, the Halifax had flown over 82,700 operations, predominantly over Nazi occupied Europe and dropped over 200,000 tons of bombs.
The Lancaster has come to symbolise the efforts of Bomber Command during the Second World War, however there were only 1,000 more Lancasters produced than the Halifax up until 1945.
Although primarily built as a heavy bomber, the Halifax was also adapted to be able to play other parts in the fight against Nazi tyranny.
They adopted a wide and varied role, including being seconded to Coastal Command, in the fight against the Kriegsmarine submarines as well as meteorolgical observations that would become pivotal to the planning and success of the D-Day landings.
They were also converted into troop transporter aircraft, allowing paratroopers to drop into enemy territory.

Halifax being connected up to a Horsa glider c.1943
Soon after being converted for this role, they were also allocated to the Glider Pilot Regiment, as tow aircraft, to help train and prepare glider pilots for their role in the D-Day landings. It was common for the crews of both aircraft to exchange communications and banter between themselves during a flight, but way of the rather primitive communications line that featured alongside the tow rope.
On the night of the 5/6th June 1944, Halifax bombers took off from RAF Tarrant Rushton with their destination being the bridges and Ranville and Benouville, the men of the 6th Airborne Division being towed closely behind. Their mission was to release their gliders at the right time, then proceed onwards to create a diversionary bombing raid a few miles further south, so that their presence over the villages would not be too suspicious.
The raid was a complete success and the Halifax bomber continued to be produced until the end of the Second World War, when they were rather rapidly phased out of RAF service. They continued to be used by several Air Forces from around the world for many years after the war.
The Halifax 57 Rescue team is dedicated to finding, salvaging and restoring downed Halifaxes all around the world.

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