The Men Who Flew The Halifax

Another nicely crafted book from a leading aviation historian and author, this time covering the Halifax crews. The Handley Page Halifax was one of three RAF heavy bombers to enter service in the air war over Europe. – Very Highly Recommended.

NAME:   The Men Who Flew The Halifax
FILE: R3181
AUTHOR: Martin W Bowman
PUBLISHER: Pen and Sword 
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £25.00                                                               
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:   WWII, World War II, World War 2, World War Two, Second World War, 
war in the air, RAF, Handley Page Halifax, Bomber Command, bomber crews, 
technology, tactics, 1000 Bomber Raids, night bombing, night fighters

ISBN: 1-52670-568-0

PAGES: 231
IMAGE: B3181.jpg
DESCRIPTION: Another nicely crafted book from a leading aviation historian and 
author, this time covering the Halifax crews. The Handley Page Halifax was one 
of three RAF heavy bombers to enter service in the air war over Europe. – Very 
Highly Recommended.

The author demonstrates thorough research, producing a nicely written history with very good photo-plate sections in illustration. For his subject he has taken the outstanding service performed during WWII by Halifax heavy bomber crews. For some inexplicable reason, the Handley Page Halifax has never received the acclaim granted the Avro Lancaster and neither has the Short Sterling which completed the trio of heavy bombers that carried the fight to German soil in the Second Front.

The RAF had suffered during the inter-war years from the many cuts and general neglect with which Britain treated its armed services. Its whole justification as a service was to provide a new strategic weapon of war. Unfortunately that required equipment that was sadly lacking. The RNAS had invested in strategic and tactical air warfare from its creation a month before the outbreak of WWI when the Royal Navy regained control of naval aviation. From the start, the RNAS considered aircraft to be armed vehicles able to carry the war to the enemy. As a result, Britain ended WWI with airship aircraft carriers, effective fighters and bombers capable, as Alcock and Brown were to demonstrate, of trans-Atlantic range. However, aircraft technology was developing rapidly and WWI heavy bombers were soon obsolete and the replacements were not to be seen.

From 1938, the British military was desperately trying to catch up. For the RAF, this meant priority for fast modern and well-armed monoplane fighters and the most advanced early warning command and control system in the world. That technology was in place by the start of the Battle of Britain and, without it, the RAF would not have fought the Luftwaffe to a standstill. The situation with bombers was less well-prepared. Essentially, the RAF was equipped with twin engine medium bombers, lacking the range to take a worthwhile payload to Berlin and drop it with reasonable accuracy. In several respects, the RAF equipment was similar to the Luftwaffe Heinkel, Junkers and Dornier fleet that was primarily intended to work closely with fast moving Panzer forces to deliver Blitz Kreig. This meant, with the exception of the Vickers Wellington, the RAF Bomber Command did not have the equipment for strategic bombing.

Fortunately, the British aircraft industry was equipped to offer a choice of equipment to do the job. The Short Sterling was an approach the included several very advanced elements and that did present more than a few teething problems but it was an effective long range four engine aircraft with a good defensive armament, a credible bomb load, but a less than effective bomb aiming system. With a lack of fighter escort it could penetrate into German only at night and that required area bombing to compensate for the lack of a bomb sight as was to enable the USAAF to bomb with precision in daylight. At a time when the Merlin engine was needed for fighter production, the Sterling was equipped with air cooled radial engines that were also rugged and resistant to battle damage.

The Avro Manchester was unacceptably under powered with unreliable twin Vulture engines but showed potential in other respects. When Avro reworked the design around four Merlin engines, it became the superlative Avro Lancaster. Its huge bomb bay allowed it to carry a wide range of bombs including the bouncing bomb for the raid on German dams and the Earthquake bombs, 5 and 10 tons, that were able to destroy hardened high value targets. The RAF naturally gave priority to Lancaster production and it soon started to develop its own myths of invincibility and power. That is perhaps the best reason for the very worthy Halifax soldiering on without much limelight.

The author has gone a long way to correcting this omission. Some Halifax bombers were equipped with similar power plants to the Lancaster but, in the main, the Halifax was equipped with very dependable radial engines. The aircraft equipped many squadrons and had its full share of bomber aces. This new book brings the story to life.