RAF No 33 Squadron emblem

RAF 33 Squadron

Motto: Loyalty

No 33 Squadron Formed from a nucleus provided by No 12 Squadron at Filton on 12 January 1916, it was intended to operate in the home defence role. As such it moved to Yorkshire in March and operated on night defence duties and during the day as a training unit. Three months later the training role was taken over by No 57 Squadron and 33 reverted to being a purely night defence unit. Tasked with defending the industrial North Midlands and Yorkshire, it was equipped with BE2s, which were replaced by FE2s in November 1916. These were operated until 1918 when Bristol F2Bs and Avro 504 night fighters were received but on 13 June 1919 the squadron disbanded having made no successful interceptions during its entire career.

Reformed as a bomber squadron on 1 March 1929 at Netheravon, it was initially equipped with Hawker Horsley but less than a year later became the first squadron to be equipped with the Hawker Hart. In October 1935 the squadron was despatched to the Egypt as part of the reinforcements for the area during the Abyssinian crisis. Unlike many of its contemporaries it did not return to Britain but remained in Egypt, becoming a fighter squadron in March 1938 when it re-equipped with Gladiators. From October 1938 to march 1939, the squadron operated in Palestine but by the time of the Italian entry to the war it was back in Egypt flying patrols over the Western Desert.

Hurricanes arrived in September 1940, with the last Gladiator leaving in October and then in January 1941 the squadron was earmarked for operations in Greece. These began the following months with escort sorties being carried out over Albania and Bulgaria. With the collapse of Greece the squadron's four remaining Hurricanes evacuated to Crete, where they joined No 80 Squadron in the defence of the island. On 19 May the single remaining Hurricane was flown back to Egypt and although the ground crews were captured, they succeeded in escaping and were eventually evacuated to Egypt.

The lost aircraft were replaced and the squadron resumed operations over the Western Desert in June 1941. Tomahawks started to arrive in February 1942 but this plan was halted and Hurricane IIBs arrived instead. Fighter patrols over the Western Desert now became the order of the day until after El Alamain when it moved over to convoy and coastal patrols along the Libyan coast. It remained in North Africa until April 1944, when it was transferred back to the UK. Having started to receive Spitfires in June 1943 it was December before the squadron was fully equipped.

In the UK it joined the North Weald Wing on 1 May 1944 and began escort missions and fighter sweeps on 19 May 1944. Equipped with Spitfire IXs, it moved to the continent in August and operated from there until returning to Britain in December, where it re-equipped with Tempests. These were taken back to the continent in February 1945 where it remained until the end of the war and becoming part of the Occupation Forces until July 1949, when it was moved to Malaya. Operating as part of 'Operation Firedog' against Communist terrorists, the squadron converted to Hornets in April 1951 but on 31 Mar 1955 it lost its individual identity when it became a linked squadron with No 45.

Seven months later, on 15 October, the squadron was re-born at Driffield (a few miles from one of its WW1 bases at Beverley) in its original role as a night fighter unit. Equipped with Venoms, it remained at Driffield until 3 June 1957 when it was disbanded yet again. However, in September of the same year No 264 Squadron at Leeming was re-numbered 33. It was still operating in the night fighting role but was now equipped with Meteors, with Javelins arriving in July 1958, which it continued to operate until 17 November 1962 when it was disbanded again, having moved to Middleton St George in September 1958.

Once again it was reformed on 1 March 1965, when it became a Surface-to-Air missile unit equipped with Bloodhounds in Malaya, a role it maintained until 30 January 1970. Its final and current incarnation came into effect on 14 June 1971, when it became the first operator of a type for the second time. It was now to become a support helicopter unit equipped with the new Aerospatiale Puma based at Odiham in Hampshire. In moved to its current base at Benson on 13 June 1997 and took over the OCU role for the Puma in February 1998. It is now a part of the Joint Helicopter Command.

Standards Battle Honours*
Award of Standard originally announced on 15 Jan 1952, effective from 1 Apr 1951 but presented:-
lst - 24 April 1958 ACM Sir Philip Joubert de la Ferte.
2nd - 19 May 1988 ACM Sir Denis Smallwood.
Home Defence, 1916-1918:
Egypt & Libya, 1940-1943:
Greece, 1941:
El Alamein: France & Germany, 1944-1945: Normandy, 1944:
Walcheren: Rhine: Gulf, 1991:
Palestine, 1936-1939: Iraq 2003:

Squadron Codes used:
SO Sep 1938 - May 1939
TN May 1939 - Sep 1939
NW Sep 1939 - May 1941
5R Apr 1944 - Apr 1951
CA - CZ Carried on Pumas

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This webpage was updated 30th June 2023