Handley Page Halifax with Airborne Forces

The Halifax had a parallel career with the Airborne Forces. Halifax Mk Vs, IIIs and VIIs were adopted for both the paratrooper and glider towing roles, while the Mk IX was designed specifically for the role.

The Halifax was first used as a glider tug on 17 November 1942, during the unsuccessful first attempt to attack the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant at Rjukan, Norway. Two Halifaxes towing one Horsa glider each reached Norway, but both glider crews were lost. One Halifax was also lost.

Airborne Forces were to play a major part in Operation Overlord. One result of this was the formation of No 38 Group, dedicated to the Airborne Forces. By the time of D-Day this group contained two Halifax squadrons, along with a larger number using the Short Stirling, which was no longer a main force bomber, and the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle, which had never been deployed as a bomber.

The Halifax was the only aircraft capable of towing the massive Hamilcar glider. This was actually capable of carrying a small tank. The Halifax operated in tandem with the Short Stirling during the invasion of Europe. On the eve of D-Day six Halifaxes towed Horsa gilders in the operation that captured the bridges over the Orne and the Caen canal. On D-Day they towed 30 Horsas and four Hamilcars to Normandy. In the aftermath of the invasion, the Halifax was heavily involved in the aerial supply effort which helped supplement the massive flow of supplies across the channel.

The Halifax was also involved in Operation Market Garden. While the Stirling suffered very heavy losses during this operation, the Halifax emerged unscathed, demonstrating its advantages over the marginally older aircraft. The Halifax remained in service with the Airborne Forces until 1948, when it was replaced by the Handley Page Hastings.

Review of Halifax Squadrons by John lake Halifax Squadrons of World War II , Jon Lake. This is a very good book on the combat record of the Handley Page Halifax. It covers much more than just its role as a front line bomber, with chapters on the Halifax with Coastal Command, the Pathfinders and SOE, amongst others. [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 May 2007), Handley Page Halifax with Airborne Forces, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_halifax_airborne.html

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