No. 33 Squadron (RAF): Second World War

Aircraft - Locations - Group and Duty - Books

No.33 Squadron began the Second World War operating the Gloster Gladiator in the Western Desert, fought in Greece and on Crete, then fought against Rommel during the see-saw battles that ended with the victory at El Alamein, before returning to Britain to take part in the D-Day landings and the campaign in Western Europe.

No.33 Squadron originally moved to the Middle East as a bomber squadron in 1935, but on 1 March 1938 it became a Gladiator-equipped fighter squadron. The Gladiators were taken into action against the Italian Air Force in June 1940, with great success. In the first six weeks of the war in North Africa No.33 Squadron shot down 38 Italian aircraft and destroyed 20 on the ground. The most successful sortie came on 6 August when thirteen Gladiators took on 27 Fiat CR.42 sesquiplanes, shooting down nine for the lose of two Gladiators.

The Gladiators were replaced by Hurricanes in September 1940, and it was the Hurricanes that No.33 Squadron took to Greece to take part in the fighting against the Italians in Albania. Operations began in February 1941 but were soon disrupted by the German invasion of Greece, and in April only four air-worthy Hurricanes remained. These were evacuated to Crete, where three more were lost during the German attack on the island. Only one aircraft survived to return to Egypt.

New aircraft were quickly found, and the squadron provided fighter cover during the see-saw battles against Rommel and the Africa Corps. After El Alamein the squadron was used to protect the coastal shipping that supported the advance west along the coast towards the final German stronghold in Tunisia.

By the end of 1943 the squadron had converted to the Spitfire, and in April 1944 these were taken back to Britain. In the month before the D-Day landings the squadron flew a mix of fighter sweeps, bomber escort and day intruder missions. After D-Day it moved to France, and operated as a fighter-bomber squadron, with the Spitfire until December 1944 and then with the Hawker Tempest V from February 1945.

Aircraft
February 1938-October 1940: Gloster Gladiator I and II
February-April 1940: Gloster Gauntlet II
September 1940-February 1943: Hawker Hurricane I
February-June 1942: Hawker Hurricane IIB
June 1942-December 1943: Hawker Hurricane IIC
January 1943-June 1943: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
April-December 1944: Supermarine Spitfire IXE (.50in guns)
December 1943-March 1944: Supermarine Spitfire VB and VC
December 1944-November 1945: Hawker Tempest V

Location
24 March-24 April 1939: Ramleh
24 April-25 May 1939: Helwan
25 May-5 August 1939: Ismailia
5 August-1 September 1939: Qasaba
1 September-23 October 1939: Mersa Matruh
23-28 October 1939: Qasaba
28 October 1939-17 June 1940: Mersa Matruh
17-22 June 1940: Qasaba
22-25 June 1940: Gerawla
25 June-22 September 1940: Helwan
22 September 1940-15 January 1941: Fuka
15 January-19 February 1941: Amriya (Egypt)
19 February-4 March 1941: Eleusis (Greece)
4 March-18 April 1941: Larissa
18-27 April 1941: Eleusis
27 April-1 June 1941: Maleme (Crete)
1 June 1941: Ground echelon to Amriya
13-19 June 1941: Gerawla
19-6 July 1941: Amriya
6-11 July 1941: Gamil
11 July-24 August 1941: Amriya
24-25 August 1941: Fuka
25 August-1 September 1941: Amriya
1-10 September 1941: Sidi Haneish
10 September-8 November 1941: Gerawla
8-20 November 1941: Giarabub
20 November 1941-1 January 1942: LG.125
1-13 January 1942: Msus
13-21 January 1942: Antelat
21-24 January 1942: Msus
24-28 January 1942: Mechili
28 January-3 February 1942: Gazala No.1
3 February-17 June 1942: Gambut
17-18 June 1942: Sidi Areiz
18-20 June 1942: LG.75
20-23 June 1942: LG.76
23-27 June 1942: LG.12
27 June-27 July 1942: LG.154
27 July-5 August 1942: LG.85
5-31 August 1942: Idku
31 August-2 October 1942: LG.85
2-23 October 1942: LG.154
23 October-11 November 1942: LG.172
11-18 November 1942: LG.101
18-28 November 1942: El Adem
28 November 1942-11 February 1943: Benina
11 February-24 June 1943: Bersis
24 June-9 September 1943: Misurata West
9 September 1943-17 January 1944: Bersis
17 January-1 April 1944: Mersa Matruh
1-23 April 1944: On way to Britain

23 April-17 May 1944: North Weald
17 May-3 July 1944: Lympne
3-17 July 1944: Tangmere
17 July-6 August 1944: Funtington
6-12 August 1944: Selsey
12-18 August 1944: Fairwood Common
18-19 August 1944: Selsey
19-20 August 1944: B.10 Plumetot
20-31 August 1944: Tangmere
31 August-7 September 1944: B.17 Carpiquet
7-10 September 1944: Lympne
10-12 September 1944: B.35 Le Treport
12 September-2 November 1944: B.53 Merville
2 November-15 December 1944: B.65 Maldeghem
15 December 1944-20 February 1945: Predannack
20 February-7 April 1945: B.77 Gilze-Rijen
7-20 April 1945: B.91 Kluis
20 April-19 June 1945: B.109 Quackenbruck

Squadron Codes: SO (Gladiator), RS (Spitfire), 5R (Spitfire, Tempest)

Duty
1940-1941: Fighter Squadron, Western Desert
1941: Fighter Squadron, Greece and Crete
1941-1944: Fighter Squadron, Western Desert
1944-1945: Fighter Squadron, Invasion of Europe, 2nd TAF

Links

Goon in the Block by Don Edy, written soon after the war by a member of the squadron, talks about his time in the Western Desert and his long years as a POW.

Books

Gloster Gladiator Aces, Andrew Thomas. A look at the wartime career of the only biplane fighter still in RAF service during the Second World War. Covers the Gladiator's service in Finland, Malta, North Africa, Greece, Aden, East Africa and Iraq, where despite being outdated it performed surprisingly well.
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Hurricane Aces, 1939-40, Tony Holmes. A look at the men who flew the Hawker Hurricane during the first two years of the Second World War, when it was arguably the most important front line fighter in RAF service. This book covers the Phoney War Period, the German invasion of the West, the Battle of Britain and the early use of the Hurricane in North Africa and from Malta. [see more]
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Spitfire: Flying Legend - 60th Anniversary 1936-96, John M. Dibbs. A beautifully illustrated book focusing on surviving flyable Spitfires, with some very impressive modern colour photos backed up by a good selection of archival pictures and a good selection of relevant quotes from wartime Spitfire pilots [see more]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (17 September 2008), No. 33 Squadron (RAF): Second World War, http://www.historyofwar.org/air/units/RAF/33_wwII.html

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