The Handley Page Halifax was equipped to provide stations for the Pilot, 2nd Pilot, Observer / Navigator, Air Bomber (when introduced), Wireless Operator and Flight Engineer. Air Gunners were accommodated in a mid and rear turret
The crew compartment in a Handley Page Halifax consisted of an upper deck to accommodate the Pilot, 2nd Pilot and Fitter II [Flight Engineer] and a lower deck for the Wireless Operator, Observer / Navigator and Air Bomber. Gunners were accommodated in a mid and rear turret
The following annotated photograph shows how decks were laid out:
2nd Pilot Station
The primary role of the 2nd Pilot was to assist the pilot during take off and landing and to take over the controls as and when required by the pilot. He would also take control in the event of loss of, or injury to, the pilot.
His station was situated beside the pilot, on a fold down seat
Note: During 1942, it was decided that the use of two qualified pilots on each flight was not sustainable and the 2nd Pilot was phased out. Other crew members (in particular the flight engineer) were taught to fly the aircraft in an emergency situation
Fitter II / Flight Engineer Station
The primary role of the Flight Engineer was to “act as the link between aircrew and ground crew for the care and maintenance of the aircraft, to carry out engineering checks before, during and post flight and to assist the pilot during take off and landing (when there was no 2nd Pilot)”
His station was situated behind the pilot seat on the upper deck, although when assisting the pilot with take off and landing he would be seated in the fold down seat beside the pilot
Observer / Navigator’s Station
The primary role of the Observer / Navigator was “to know the aircraft position at all times and to provide the pilot with courses to steer to achieve the sortie objective”
His station was situated in front of the Wireless Operator’s compartment on the lower deck of the Handley Page Halifax.
Initially the observer / navigator relied on map reading, dead reckoning, astro navigation and visual aids to enable him to plot the position of the aircraft and the subsequent course.
However, the development of radar enabled systems such as Gee, H2S and Oboe to assist with the navigational process
Air Bomber’s Station
The primary role of the Air Bomber was to “act as the eyes of the Navigator throughout the flight and then, when approaching the target area, to position himself in the Air Bomber’s station to enable him to direct the pilot over the target, identify the aiming point and trigger the release of the bombs”
Whilst the Air Bomber’s station was in the nose of the aircraft, he spent the bulk of the flight seated beside the Navigator so that he could provide fixes, weather reports etc to assist the navigation process.
Wireless Operator’s Station
The primary role of the Wireless Operator was to “keep his aircraft constantly in touch with the ground by sending and receiving all information, reports and orders vital to the success of the sortie and the safety of the aircraft”
His station was situated in a compartment on the lower deck of the Handley Page Halifax, immediately below the pilot.
As well as operating the wireless equipment, the Wireless Operator was also required to act as an air gunner in an emergency, to discharge “Window”, and, when the concept of a navigation team was introduced, he was also responsible for monitoring the “Monica” or “Fishpond” equipment.
The primary role of the Air Gunners was to “be the eyes and the sting of the aircraft, by warning the pilot of approaching enemy aircraft, telling him what tactics to adopt to evade action, and, if combat does develop, to destroy or drive off the enemy”.
Their stations, which were situated in the middle (mid-upper) and rear of the Halifax, were fitted with the following turret types:
- Mid-Upper Turret: Boulton & Paul Type C MKII, then Boulton & Paul Type A MKVIII
- Rear Turret: Boulton & Paul Type E
Some Halifax versions were also fitted with a front turret (Boulton & Paul Type C MKII)
Beam Guns were also utilised on some of the earlier versions