The 'Halibag' Newsletter

August '98 


Click on the pictures for a larger view.

Handley Page Halifax/Haltons
served on the Berlin Airlift.


Halifax in service during the Berlin Airlift

This year is the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of the Berlin Airlift. For the youngsters amongst you, Berlin, in the immediate post-war years, was a divided city, administered jointly by the French, British, Americans and Soviets as an 'island' some 60 or 70 miles inside Soviet Occupied German territory, later to be known as East Germany. All the requirements of the civilian and military population of the Allied sectors of Berlin had to be met from the Allied areas of Germany. This meant a continuous convoying of the daily requirement of 13,500 tons of fuel and supplies through the ground, road, rail and canal corridors from the Allied zones of Germany to Berlin. The Soviet military were not happy with this arrangement and they constantly harassed the vehicles and aircraft entering the city through the access corridors. Presumably in the hope that the Allies would eventually abandon the city to the Soviets. In one incident, in April 1948, a Soviet Yak 3 fighter collided with a British European Airways, Vickers Viking, shearing off the wing, killing the crew and all seven passengers as well as the Yak pilot. The Soviets claimed the incident was caused by the Viking ramming the Yak!

When the Soviet blockade of the ground access routes to Berlin began on June 18,1948, there was a rush to get any potential transport aircraft into the air to supply the needs of the beleaguered city. This massive demand for air transport came at an unfortunate time as the post war recovery was using up all the civilian transport aircraft and this meant that many wartime types had to be pressed into service, the Halifax amongst them.

The Halifax Mk VII had been adapted in military usage to carry a storage pannier with a capacity of 8,000 lbs. where the fuselage bomb bay doors were normally fitted. This called for some production line modifications and the final aircraft was re-numbered as the HP 70, Halifax, C Mk 8. Many Mk VII's were converted to the C Mk 8 standard but the first production C Mk 8 did not fly until June 1945 and it continued in RAF service until the summer of 1948.

After the war twelve Halifax C Mk 8 were modified for interim use as passenger aircraft by BOAC. They seated a total of 10 passengers, six seats on the port side and 4 on the starboard side. They had a washroom, a coat storage area and a galley. These 12 aircraft had solid noses and were named "Halton". The Haltons went into service in 1946, generally operated on the BOAC Middle East service and they remained in operation until 1948. Generally speaking the other Halifaxes in civilian usage retained their clear glass noses. The Haltons were equipped with freight panniers.

The 1948 release of RAF and BOAC Halifax/Halton aircraft was eagerly taken up and other types languishing in storage were quickly converted to meet the need. Probably the largest civilian operator of the Halifax was the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation, with 17. Other civilian users were: Aero Cargo (France), Air Freight, Air Globe, Bond Air Services, British American Air Services, CTAI (France), Eagle Aviation, London Aero Motor Services (14), Mayflower Air Services, Pakistan Airways, Payloads Ltd, Skyflight, Trans Air, Union Air Services, Vingtor Airways, Westminster Airways and World Air Freight.

41 Halifaxes, operated by seven companies, flew on the Berlin Airlift. They flew 8,300 sorties carrying over 53,000 tons of fuel and supplies. Bond Air flew 2,577 sorties involving some 17,131 tons and the Lancashire Aircraft Corporation flew 2,760 sorties carrying 16,413 tons of fuel and supplies. Seventeen of the Halifaxes used on the Berlin Airlift were equipped with 1,500 gallon fuel tanks for the transport of diesel fuel.

The Berlin Airlift, from June 26, 1948 to September 30, 1949 involved some 200,000 sorties and transported 1,783,572 tons of supplies, the peak day being 12,940 tons delivered in 1,344 sorties.

The Berlin Airlift was, for most of the Halifaxes, their final usage, most were broken up when their work with the Airlift was completed. Some Mk 9's saw a reprieve and went on to service with the Egyptian Air Force.

However, the honour of making the last civilian flight of the Berlin Airlift was to go to a Halifax operated by Eagle Aviation, G-AIAP, a Halifax C. Mk 8, Serial No. 1354. A worthy end to a magnificent career for a versatile design.

Unfortunately we are too late to get involved in the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Berlin Airlift, however, we should be in excellent shape for the 60th. We do have access to a Halifax pannier, which needs rebuilding and it would make an interesting side display for the aircraft when completed.

Restoration Progress

The following is a summary of the work in progress as of early August.

Wings
Centre Section . . .Work is continuing on the reconstruction of the wing centre and the newly restored starboard rear main wing spar has been moved from the assembly jig back into position on the centre section.


Centre section showing three of the bomb racks installed.
Guy Currier is working on the installation of the bomb
racks in the port wing bomb bays. More work is required
on the starboard side.

The lower fuselage centre section has been reassembled onto the front spar and some of the bomb rack supports and the bomb racks are in place. Guy Currier is working on the installation of the bomb racks in the wings.

Stub Wing Sections . . .are still not being worked on at this time, nor are the outer wing sections.

The four trailing edge sections which were rebuilt earlier, two by Spar Aerospace and two by Canadair/Bombardier, are being held in storage, two at Mountainview and two in the workshop.

The engine nacelles and the cowlings are not being worked on at this time to allow the rear fuselage and wing centre section to be worked upon in the limited workshop space.

The wing 'double D' box leading edge sections are not being worked on at this time.

Wing Control Surfaces . . .the control surfaces have been restored and have been recovered with fabric and painted at the Mountainview Air Cadet Maintenance Facility.

Power Plants . . .We have not yet received the Hercules 734 engine from the Western Canada Aviation Museum in Winnipeg. While the Hercules 734 is thought not to be usable in the restoration we might be able to use some of the parts as patterns or perhaps they will, hopefully, have some common parts.

As reported earlier the Achill Island recovery might yield two engines with usable parts and the site on Islay, off the west coast of Scotland, south of the Isle of Mull, has probably been recce'd by the RAF with a helicopter by the time you read this, to determine whether or not sufficient suitable reusable parts of the two engines and the propeller, which remain on the site, are worth recovering.

The RAF, which earlier had declined to get involved due to some potential local conflict, has now re-evaluated the situation and agreed to, at least, make the reconnaisance flight. Fortunately Ian Foster has all the required permissions and the necessary paperwork in place so we do not anticipate any further problems. However, I understand that there is still a 'corporate' concern on the part of the RAF that they should not be perceived as competing with civilian 'lift' operations. Ian Foster is endeavouring to work around this problem and he has managed to obtain a letter from a civilian helicopter operation dclining to attempt the lift. Hopefully this will be sufficient to allow the RAF to lift out the parts. When this has been done the 'trickier' Achill recovery can be planned.

The engine team is really now being held up for parts. We have forwarded a request for help in locating the required engine parts to Tim Moore of SkySport Engineering Limited, who specializes in vintage aircraft restorations and who has recently completed a Bristol Bulldog for the RAF Museum, a Bristol F2B for the Fighter Collection and another Bristol F2B for Aero Vintage.
 
 


Bristol Beaufighter similar to the one being restored by Tim Moore's SkySport Engineering. Picture is a rocket armed Beaufighter of 404 Squadron when based at Banff, Scotland. (DND PL 41049)
They are also rebuilding a Bristol Beaufighter to flying condition and we are hoping to become the heir to all the Bristol Hercules parts that he has rejected as being unsuitable for use on the Beaufighter! Tim is in a far better position than we are are to be able to locate suitable parts.
 
Some of the missing parts are quite essential to our completion, such as:
Reduction gearboxes, oil sumps, exhaust collector manifold, flame damper manifold, exhaust collector ring, engine mounting flange castings, etc.

Undercarriage . . .We have made no recent progress on the undercarriage reconstruction as we are still awaiting the parts recovered from the crash site of JP 185 on the Isle of Harris. The material is now being moved by road carrier to Royal Air Force Station Leuchars, or to Prestwick, as RAF Stornaway was recently closed.

We are proceeding with a plan to refurbish the retraction jacks from LW682. These are, generally speaking, in better cosmetic shape than those from NA337 but some have suffered damage to the jack housings from the impact. We have machined off one of the end fittings and are planning to replace the outer tubing of the hydraulic jacks and installing new cylinder tubing sections to replace those that are distorted. When completed, the end fitting brackets, which are forgings, will need to be straightened. We are hopeful that we will be able to recover another pair of wheel brake assemblies from JP185 material.

The Griffin Trust has offered us a complete wheel and brake unit which we are working on. I, through Ian Foster, contacted this institution about 18 months ago and they have only recently offered the wheel to the project.

It is unlikely that any Halifax crash site will yield usable main undercarriage bridge castings, that is the main magnesium alloy castings which formed the characteristic Halifax undercarriage components. This would leave museums as the only sources of authentic undercarriage components To the best of our knowledge only the RAF Museum and possibly one private collector in New Zealand have undercarriage castings. The New Zealand source seems unlikely, as no Halifaxes are thought to have been there.

Terry James is proceeding carefully on the detailing of the design of the rather complicated welded, 1/4" thick, steel box and tubular structure, which will replace the complex magnesium alloy casting which dissolved in the water. Terry, an ex-Dowty man, is working closely with Tom Mann, an ex-deHavilland Canada man, to make sure that the design of the new structure will be strong enough to ensure that the Halifax will not collapse on our heads, and that the completed welded steel structure will be slim enough so that we will be able to conceal it within the fibreglass mouldings taken from the original Messier leg casting held by the RAF Museum.

Although it is not the stated intention to attempt to move either the completed aircraft or the centre section and fuselage around we believe it would be prudent to ensure that the undercarriage structure is strong enough to permit such movement of the aircraft should the need arise in the future. Any such move would require that a more modern set of wheels and tires be used during the move and then the original wheels replaced, as the original tires, while completely authentic, were not designed and manufactured with the expectation of their being in use some 50 years later!

When the centre section is completed we will, no doubt, be installing at least a part of the undercarriage support structure and the inboard engine mounts and possibly the inboard engines, after attaching the rear fuselage, to allow for the test fitting of the various sections and components. It is unlikely that the undercarriage and wheels will be finally attached as this will raise the aircraft too high to be able to easily work on it. Another factor is the fibreglass mouldings will not stand too much workshop abuse.

From a final assembly perspective it would be far easier if the fuselage and the wing centre section, with the inboard engines mounted, could be assembled outside the new museum structure and then the partially assembled aircraft rolled into place on some temporary wheels. The final assembly of the wing outer panels and the outboard engines could then be quickly and easily completed with the minimum of disruption of the new museum's daily operations.

Control Surfaces . . .Not too much change here, the ailerons and rudders are with Ernie Sutton at Mountainview and are being fabric covered using World War II covering techniques and painted.

Rear Turret . . .The rear turret group is still hard at work restoring the rear turret components to as near to operatinal as it is possible to make them. This will be quite a challenge!

We have not yet received the drawings made available to us from the Boulton Paul Asssociation but we have acquired a maintenance handbook for the turret.

If anyone else has any rear turret souvenirs we would certainly like to hear from you.

Horizontal Stabilizer . . .The work on the horizontal stabilizer is still being held in abeyance to allow completion of the vertical fins. The same crew is working on both and due to the size of these components it is not possible to work on both fins and tailplane simultaneously.

Vertical Fins . . .The work on the vertical fins is still moving along slowly but this seems to be due to a few of the volunteers being on vacation which is slowing things a bit at the moment. The vertical spars of both fins were well along as were the ribs. Work is continuing on the many small brackets and fittings which support the control tubes and cables.

The starboard tailplane and fin and rudder were badly damaged in the ditching and the port tailplaine was mostly ripped off along with the port vertical fin and rudder. Thus the damaged starboard fin and rudder have been dismantled and used as patterns to permit the reconstruction of the starboard units while simultaneously manufacturing a complete set of 'mirror image' parts to use in the fabrication of a new port tailplane and fin and rudder.

Plastic Shop . . . The work on the plastic components temporarily shelved.

Instruments . . .Restoration work by Guy Currier on the instrument panels is pretty well complete, for the moment.

Fuselage Rest'n Work . . .The Rear Bay, which is that fuselage section which supports the tailplane and contains the rear turret, is complete on the exterior but much interior detail work remains. It has been to the paint shop and returned with an overall coat of black paint on the exterior and an aluminum finish on the interior to protect the finish. The exterior sections will be camouflaged later.
 

The rear bay section of the fuselage has been returned from the paint shop with an overall matt black finish and interior painted aluminum. The Halifax was left natural aluminum on the interior but for preservation reasons we have elected to paint the interior. The sides and bottom of the wartime Halifaxes was finished matt black and the upper surface and parts of the sides were camouflaged. The camo will be applied later. 
Shown is the rear bay section mated to the Mary McKenzie 'henhouse'  section of NA142which has been integrated into the rear fuselage, replacing that section of NA337 that was torn off and lost during the ditching.

The Rear Fuselage, which is the next section forward of the rear bay, is that section which incorporates the part that was, for some years, Mary McKenzie's henhouse, and, as such, it has suffered somewhat from that usage. The 'henhouse' section has been integrated into the rear fuselage section and the rear bay and the rear fuselage sections have now been joined together and realignment of the sections has been done which will allow the restoration work to move forward into that section.

The Covered Wagon section has now been offered up to it's centre section position. No work has yet been done on the restoration of this item.

The Nose Section is not being worked on at present.

Research & Recovery . . .At the moment we feel that we know most of the history of NA 337. I spoke with Peter Lloyd of Watford, England, at the end of July, Peter is writing a book about NA337, he has not completely given up on finding the ATA member who delivered NA 337 to the squadron, although, since the Ringway and Hawarden groups were mostly staffed with older Polish pilots, it is unlikely that many survive today. Peter attended the recent No.644 Squadron Reunion at Tarrant Rushton and managed to spend quite a while on a guided tour of the base with one of the original squadon members and was able to get a real feel for those 'war' days at Tarrant Rushton.

Peter is crossing the 't's and dotting the 'i's preparatory to getting the book published.

On the subject of the calibre of the shell which brought down NA 337: I have written to Erik Hoelsaeter in Norway, who previously gave me some information on the Minnesund flak position and he has put me in touch with Oystein Molmen who has written a book about the German Occupation of Norway. I have not yet received a response to my queries. I have also written to Tom Weightman, the rear gunner, to see if he was given any information on the make-up of the Flak position, during, either, his first visit in 1945 or his more recent visits in 1983 and 1995.

The Shuttleworth Collection recently indicated that they had a couple of World War II 'Trolley Accs' for disposal, less batteries of course, they would be a nice addition to the display. I have asked if they still have them and how we might acquire them.

Recently Recovered Parts . . .The 'monastery garden' main (forward) fuselage and wing bomb doors have arrived in the workshop and the fuselage doors appear to be in restorable condition! If not, they will certainly provide the patterns to permit the fabrication of replacement units and they will also provide the pattern for the rear fuselage doors, which appear to be identical in shape, but shorter.

The oleos and main wheel axles and other undercarriage parts, which the Royal Navy lifted off the mountain in the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, will not now be picked up until late August or early September.

The Achill Island crash site material will, hopefully, be recovered by a Royal Air Force helicopter when they can fit it into their schedule.

The Halifax cargo container, located earlier by Ian Foster, 50% has been recovered and it has been placed into indoor storage in Britain to prevent further deterioration until we can decide whether or not we would like to have it for use as an accessory display to the Halifax. Only 50% of the unit was deemed to be necessary to be recovered as the unit symmetrical and it will require complete rebuilding.

Volunteers . . .One question I am constantly being asked by visitors to the workshops is "How are the workers paid". It is a fairly simple answer, "They are not, they are volunteers". This seems to take some people aback. The concept of working and not being paid seems foreign to them. Most seem to think the Government is footing the bill. If it is, I have not yet got my check!

Errors and Omissions . . .Last month I incorrectly referred to that section of the fuselage recovered for the Outer Hebrides as Mary MacDonald's henhouse. It was Mary McKenzie's henhouse.

After the unfortunate 'long' landing by Jimmy Hope while flying Halifax MET Mk III, Y3*C of No.518 Squadron on Stornaway's short runway on September 7th 1945 the Halifax was, after recovery from the sea, stripped of all usable parts and declared scrap.

On a small island such as Stornaway work travels fast and no doubt Mr. McKenzie saw the opportunity to have a ready made henhouse and took the scrap section on his donkey car to his croft at Grimshader, a distance of about 5 miles, and from there manhandled it into position alongside his other shed and closed in the ends.

In the early 1980's the Yorkshire Air Museum came around looking for Halifax parts and took the remainder of the fuselage from NA142 for use in their restoration but declined to take Mr. McKenzie's portion, at which point he declared that he would scrap it, as he had earlier disposed of his hens and the shed at that juncture was used to store fencing, poles, and other similar junk, until one end fell off and it had virtually been abandoned. Fortunately for us, he did nothing.

When our project came alive the shed was still there but Mr. McKenzie had passed on and Ian Foster knew of the shed's existance from his association with the YAM project.

In the last issue, in a photo caption, I credited John Dawson with the fabrication of the wing bomb door jigs, when this work was actually done by George Rosskopf. My apologies.

The listing of the various volunteers working on the various projects in the last issue was not intended to be a complete listing of everyone working on the restoration. There are many others who perform other important tasks, the most important of which is Paul Botting who oversees the entire project and tries to keep the enthusiasm of the various groups in check.

Intersting Facts . . .The Halifax required 76,000 man hours to build. The average life of a Halifax was projected to be 14 sorties, in 1942/43, and it was anticipated that it would carry an average bomb load of 6,000 lbs. On those 14 sorties. The cost to deliver 1 pound of bombs was calculated to be one pound sterling. The value of the crew was not stated!

Although Britain was, in the early days of the war, fighting desperately to survive, labour strikes continued throughout the war years, a total of 163,000 man days being lost in 1940, rising to 1,048,000 man days in 1944!

Air Show 1999

Next year we will be celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the RCAF.

CFB Trenton is planning a major air show and it will attract a lot of people from the surrounding areas and from far afield. This will afford us the opportunity of being involved with a fund raising display.

What will we be displaying? It would seem that the rear bay (or perhaps the rear fuselage also), tailplane and turret could be pushed ahead to the point where, on the surface at least, the restoration would appear to be complete. Certainly an engine could be displayed. We need to be thinking

Letters

I recently received a letter from Mr. Gerald J. Garcey-Cox concerning Halifax LL505, about which we had earlier received correspondence. LL505 was a Mk V operating with No.1659 HCU at Topcliffe when it ran into Carrs Hill on the evening of Oct. 22, 1944 for a loss of all 8 crew members.

The crew members were:
P/O J. Johnston, pilot.
F/O F.A. Bell, navigator
Sgt H.E. Pyche, Flt Eng.
Sgt W.B. Ferguson, Flt Eng.
P/O R.N. Whitley, Air Bomber.
Sgt C.G. Whittingstall, WOP/AG.
Sgt G. Riddoch, AG.
Sgt D.F. Titt, AG.

Mr. Gracey-Cox writes that, in a magazine, he read a story from a walker who told of meeting two other walkers on a path near the remains of LL505 where he found a fresh bouquet of flowers had been placed on the cairn marking the crash site, to which he added a bunch of freshly gathered wildflowers. On checking later he found that this day was the fiftieth anniversary of the crash.

If anyone knows of any family of the crew, they might like to pass this poignant message along.
 

The Islay 'Soap Opera' Continues!

The Islay scenario is developing all the sub plots, etc. one might expect on an afternoon TV soap opera.

Just to catch you up to the story:
Ian Foster discovered a couple of Hercules engines and a propeller on a crash site in the Island of Islay. Islay lies off the west coast of Scotland, south of the Isle of Mull. Ian secured the permission of the land owner to recover the parts and then obtained the permission of the Ministry of Defence, necessary in order to recover the parts of one of their aircraft.

Islay, fortunately, is not too far, by air, from RAF Aldergrove, in Northern Ireland, where a friend of Ian's is stationed on helicopters. The RAF helicopter crew prepares to make a reconnaisance approach to the property, with a view to later recovery, only to find there is a very irate gentleman awaiting them making vague threatening noises. This 'gentleman's' name appears to change with his location and he is 'untraceable' when attempts are made to contact him and straighten out the problems! It is then noticed that all the (private) plans, made with the cooperation of the land owner, through the local estate agent, seem to somehow bring this gentleman onto the scene, who then claims he has the sole rights to the recovery of all artifacts from this area for the museum he may one day construct! (In his mind?) He claims to have the necessary permits but is unable or unwilling to show them!

It eventually turns out that the Estate agent of the landlord is 'involved' in other ways with the irate gentleman and all the plans for the reconnaisance and the recovery were being fed directly to him, despite her employer, the landowner, and the MoD having given permission to recover the parts!
 
 

On the Lighter Side

Here are a few USAF pilots 'squawks' and the Maintaince Dept. responses, all allegedly true:
Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
Almost replaced left inside main tire.
Something loose in the cockpit.
Something tightened in the cockpit.
Evidence of hydraulic leak on right main gear.
Evidence removed.
Dead bugs on windshield.
Live bugs on order.
No. 3 engine missing.
Engine found on starboard wing after brief search.
Test flight OK but auto-land very rough.
Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

The 'Halibag' Newsletter is produced to try to keep members of the Halifax groups and other interested parties in touch with the progress on the project.

The views expressed in these newsletter are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect the views of the RCAF Memorial Museum, the Halifax Aircraft Association or the Halifax Restoration Team. Deryck Brown, Editor. Material for inclusion in future issues may be sent to:

Deryck Brown
3379 Cty Rd #13
RR #3 Picton, Ontario
Canada, K0K 2T0

Tel/Fax (613) 476 4513
or by 

 


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