The Handley Page Halifax was equipped to provide positions for the Pilot, 2nd Pilot, Observer / Navigator, Air Bomber (when introduced), Wireless Operator, Flight Engineer and Air Gunner(s)
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. Air Gunner positions evolved, with the later versions accommodating them in a mid and rear turret.
The following annotated photograph shows the deck layout:
2nd Pilot Position
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 fold down seat was situated beside the pilot
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 Position
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 position was situated behind the pilot 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 Position
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 position 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 and in some aircraft, a second navigator was carried (Set Operator), to monitor the radar set.
Air Bomber Position
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 position 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 position 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 Position
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 position 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”.
The Air Gunner positions changed significantly during the development of the Halifax. The following provides a broad summary of the armament fitted to the versions used by the squadron:
|HP57 B.MKI (Series 1)||Boulton & Paul Type C MKII Turret||No Armament||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP57 B.MKI (Series 2)||Boulton & Paul Type C MKII Turret||Beam Guns fitted||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP57 B.MKI (Series 3)||Boulton & Paul Type C MKII Turret||Beam Guns fitted||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP59 B.MKII (Series 1)||Boulton & Paul Type C MKII Turret||Boulton & Paul Type C MKII Turret||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP59 B.MKII (Series 1 Special)||No armament||No armament||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP59 B.MKII (Series 1a)||No armament||Boulton & Paul Type A MKVIII Turret||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|
|HP69 B.MKIII||No armament||Boulton & Paul Type A MKVIII Turret||Boulton & Paul Type E Turret|