The Story of Halifax NA337
NA337 on the shore of Lake Mjosa
Handley Page Halifax A Mk VII, Serial Number NA337 was built by Rootes Securities at a 'shadow factory' constructed on the edge of the airfield at Liverpool (Speke). This aircraft was part of a batch of aircraft ordered under contract No. 637 which included 36 Halifax A, B and MET Mk III'sand 55 Halifax A. Mk VII's the Mk VII's being serialed NA311 to NA380.The 55 Mk VII's are listed as being constructed in March 1945. We have not yet ascertained the exact date of manufacture of NA337, but we believe that it was delivered to No. 644 Squadron RAF at Tarrant Rushton, Dorset, a part of No. 38 Group which was part of the Air Forces and was also assigned to "Special Duties", probably on March 3rd 1945 where it was coded 2P-X.The Halifax A Mk VII aircraft were used by the Airborne Forces to tow gliders and when not actively engaged in this role they were used for the "Special Duties" work or dropping 'Spies' and supplies to the Resistance Forcesin Europe which, in the case of NA337, included those of Denmark and Norway.
The Halifax aircraft assigned to this "Special Duties" work were supplied without the mid-upper turret and the H2S dome on the underside usually found on the bomber versions. The mid-upper turret opening was covered with plywood and the opening usually used for the H2S dome was converted,by the fitting of opening doors, for the dropping of 'joes' (spies) and "packages"behind enemy lines. The supply dropping usually consisted of the delivery of containers containing weapons, ammunition and explosives.The containers,about 15" in diameter and about 60" long were carried in the Halifax'sbomb bays. One such container was recovered from the NA337 drop site in Norway and is on display at the Museum. We are unable to confirm that it actually was dropped by NA337, but it could have been.
The first reference to 2P-X, NA337, in the 644 Squadron Operations Logs,is on March 24th, 1945, when the aircraft towed a General Aircraft "Hamilcar" glider, containing a Dodge truck and a 17 pounder gun, on the last, great, Airborne operation of World War II, "Operation Varsity", the massive airborne assault across the Rhine River into Germany.
Halifax NA337 flew some other supply dropping operations to Resistance groups in Norway and Denmark and it was on such an operation, on the night of April 23/24 1945, that it was shot down, 'ditching' in the waters of Lake Mjosa, near the town of Hamer, at about 02:00hrs on the morning of April 24th.
Unfortunately, although it is believed all the crew survived the actual 'ditching' by the time the Norwegians came out in their boats at first light, around 07:00hrs, to search for survivors, only one, the rear gunner, Flight Sergeant Weightman, was found alive, lying on top of the overturned dingy. The remainder of the crew, apparently, perishing in the freezing cold waters of the Lake.They where found floating in their 'Mae West' life jackets, with the exception of the Flight Engineer, who's body was never found.
Halifax NA337 was to lie undisturbed for 50 years, until the summerof 1995, when the Halifax Aircraft Association recovered it, for restoration and future display in the RCAF Memorial Museum.
Thanks to Scott Knox for the AVI animation showing how NA337 was pulled from it's watery grave.
Click here to see the animation. Note, this may take a few minutes to download.
The Handley Page Halifax is a very significant aircraft to those Canadians who fought in WWII in service with the Royal Air Force or the Royal Canadian Air Force. The Halifax is the aircraft in which Canadians flew 70% of all wartime operations.
The aircraft in Trenton will, when completed, be the only completely authentic, restored Halifax in the world.
Halifax NA337 was recovered from a lake in Norway due entirely to the efforts of the Halifax Aircraft Association (HAA). This is a group of enthusiasts consisting mainly of ex-Halifax groundcrew and aircrew who raised the funds necessary to have a commercial, marine, recovery group locate and lift the aircraft from it's grave some 750 feet down in Lake Mjosa.
How can you help?
||The HAA has committed
to fund the
Restoration of the aircraft to static
display condition, to be displayed at the RCAF Memorial Museum. TheHalifax
Restoration Team are all volunteers and, while many are ex-RAF, ex-RCAF, and ex-Canadian Forces personel with relevent aircraft engineering skills,many are enthusiasts who want to see a Handley Page Halifax on display.
If you have the time and skills to help on this restoration work, we would be pleased to have you join us. All skills are required in the restoration work and you should not be discouraged because you have not served in the aircraft trade. If you feel you are unable to participate, but, would like to help with a cash donation, no matter how small, we can certainly use that too. Donations can be made through the RCAF Memorial Museum or through the Halifax Aircraft Association. The appropriate "charitable donation" acknowledgement will be issued.
To contact us click HERE.
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This website was last updated January 13, 2003.