No.33 Squadron

A hart’s head affrontée, couped at the neck
A hart’s head affrontée, couped at the neck
12 January 1916

No 33 Squadron was formed at Filton on 12 January 1916 as a home defence unit. The Squadron soon moved to Yorkshire. When relieved of its day fighter duties No 33 Squadron became the world's first dedicated night fighter force. The squadron disbanded on 13 June 1919.

On 1 March 1929 the unit reformed as a day bomber unit at RAF Netheravon. In 1935 the unit deployed to Egypt to protect the Suez Canal during the Abyssinian crisis. On the 1 March 1938 its role change to fighter squadron.

During the early days of World War Two, the squadron operated over the North African desert but in January 1941, it was transferred to Greece. By May 1941, the Allies had been pushed back to Crete and it was there that 33 Squadron's ground crew distinguished themselves fighting against German paratroopers around the airfield at Maleme. What unit aircraft remained combined with the remnants of No 80 Squadron to form The Hurricane Unit, Crete. The unit was soon overwhelmed and the last aircraft flew out to Egypt on 19 May 1941.

After its retreat to Egypt No 33 Squadron was involved in the North African air war until it’s successful conclusion in May 1943. In April 1944 the squadron returned to the UK. The unit undertook fighter sweeps and ground attack missions during the liberation of Europe.

No 33 Squadron remained in Germany after the war as part of the occupation forces. In July 1949 it was sent to Malaya to fight against the Communist Guerrillas. On the 31 March the unit merged with No 45 Squadron and ceased to exist.

The Squadron reformed 15 December 1955 At RAF Driffield, Yorkshire as a night fighter unit. It disbanded again on 3 June 1957. It reappeared on 30 September 1957 when No 264 Squadron was renumbered. On 17 December 1962 the squadron disbanded. On 1 March 1965 it reformed as a surface-to-air (SAM) missile unit and was based in Malaysia for air defence duties. The squadron was again disbanded on 30 January 1970.

On 14 June 1971 No 33 Squadron reformed as a helicopter transport unit first based at RAF Odiham and later RAF Benson. The RAF Puma (Middle East) Sqn was created in 1990 when both 230 and 33 Sqn were put on stand-by for the Gulf. Deployed forward during the ground war, No 33 Squadron had a forward operating base in Iraq. In 1995 the unit was sent, as part of a Rapid Reaction Force (RRF), to the Yugoslavian region in an attempt to stabilise the area. In 1999 Puma helicopters were deployed to Macedonia to provide casevac support to 4 (UK) Armoured Brigade.

During 2003 men and machines from this unit participated in Operation Telic. Coalition forces, led by the United States overthrew the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein in a short campaign.

After a break over summer 2003, part of the squadron returned to the Gulf in December 2003 to operate 4 aircraft from Basrah, Iraq, as part of a reformed 1563 Flight. In June 2004, 33 Squadron celebrated 33 years of the Puma with a families day and a formal dining-in night.


BE2c/d 1916 – 1916
BE12 1916 – 1917
FE2b/d 1916 – 1918
F2b 1918 – 1918
Avro 504K 1918 – 1919
Horsley 1929 – 1930
Hart 1930 – 1938
Gladiator I/II 1938 – 1940
Gauntlet 1940 – 1940
Hurricane I/II 1940 – 1943
Spitfire V/IX 1943 – 1944
Tempest V 1944 – 1945
Spitfire XVI 1945 – 1946
Tempest 2 1946 – 1951
Hornet 1951 – 1955
Venom 2 1955 – 1958
Meteor 14 1957 – 1958
Javelin 7/9 1958 – 1962
Puma 1971 – current (30th June 2006)

Reference Sources

The Squadrons of the Royal Air Force James J Halley Air Britain (Historians) Ltd 1988

RAF Squadrons Wg Cdr C G Jefford Airlife 2001

Bomber Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft Phillip J R Moyes Macdonald & Jane’s 1976

Fighter Squadrons of the RAF and their aircraft John D R Rawlings Crecy Books 1993

Coastal Support and Spe

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