No. 233 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

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No.233 Squadron performed two very different role during the Second World War, first as a maritime reconnaissance and then anti-submarine warfare squadron in Coastal Command, and second as a transport squadron working with airborne forces. The squadron was reformed at Tangmere on 18 May 1937 as a general reconnaissance squadron equipped with the Avro Anson. In August 1939 the squadron moved to Scotland and began to convert to the Lockheed Hudson, but the conversion was not complete at the start of the Second World War and the squadron operated both aircraft until 10 October, when it flew its last Anson patrol.

A flight of Blenheims arrived at the end of the same month and remained until January 1940 when it went to Bircham Newton to form No.235 Squadron.

After the German invasion of Norway in April 1940 No.233 Squadron began to fly anti-shipping sweeps off Norway. This continued under December when the squadron moved to Northern Ireland.

In August 1941 the squadron moved to Cornwall to fly patrols over the Bay of Biscay. In December a detachment was sent to Gibraltar and the rest of the squadron joined it in July 1942. The Hudson was operating at its limits on the tricky 950 yard runway at Gibraltar and the accident rate remained high for some time, but the same period saw the squadron achieve three or four victories over U-boats (the first, against U-573 is also credited to the Royal Navy). The second, on 14 November 1942, saw aircraft from the squadron badly damage U-605. The submarine survived the attack but was unable to return to German occupied territory and eventually took refuge in Spain where it became part of the Spanish navy.

In February 1944 the squadron returned to the UK and converted to the Dakota. It was allocated to the airborne forces and spent the next few months preparing for paratrooper drops and glider towing duties. On D-Day the squadron provided thirty aircraft to tow gliders and fly paratroopers to Normandy. Another twenty one supply sorties were flown later in the day and the squadron lost four aircraft on D-Day. The squadron was used for casualty evacuation from the beachhead, before flying 37 sorties on the first two days of the Battle of Arnhem and 35 supply missions. This time three aircraft were lost.

The squadron's main role after Arnhem was to provide a transport link between the UK and Allied-occupied areas of Europe, but it also provided 24 Dakotas for the crossing of the Rhine in March 1945.

In August 1945 the squadron began to move to India, but Japan surrendered before the move was complete. The squadron performed general transport duties for a short period before being merged into No.215 Squadron on 15 December 1945.

U-77

28 March 1943

East of Cartagena

U-447

7 May 1943

West of Gibraltar

U-573*

1 May 1942

East of Cartagena

U-605

14 November 1942

North of Algiers@

* Damaged and escaped to Spain where became part of Spanish Navy.
@ Also credited to Royal Navy

Aircraft
May 1937-December 1939: Avro Anson I
August 1939-May 1944: Lockheed Hudson I, II, III and V
March 1944-December 1945: Douglas Dakota III and Dakota IV

Location
October 1938-August 1940: Leuchars
August-September 1940: Aldergrove
September-December 1940: Leuchars
December 1940-August 1941: Aldergrove
August 1941-January 1942: St. Eval
    December 1941-July 1942: Detachment to Gibraltar
January-July 1942: Thorney Island
July 1942-October 1943: Gibraltar
October 1943-February 1944: Lagens
February-March 1944: Gosport
March 1944-June 1945: Blakehill Farm
June-August 1945: Odiham

September-December 1945: Tulihal

Squadron Codes: EY (Anson), ZS (Hudson), 5T (Dakota)

Duty
1937-1942: General Reconnaissance, Coastal Command
1942-1944: Anti-submarine warfare, Mediterranean
1944-1945: Airborne forces/ transport

Part of
September 1939: No.18 G.R. Group, Coastal Command
15 February 1943: HQ RAF Gibraltar; Coastal Command
10 July 1943: AHQ Gibraltar; Mediterranean Air Command
6 June 1944: No.46 Group; Allied Expeditionary Air Force

Books

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 March 2011), No. 233 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/233_wwII.html

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