33 Squadron History

33 Squadron History 33 Crest

No 33 Squadron was formed at Filton in 1916 under the command of Major PB Joubert de la Ferte. As part of the Home Defence, the Squadron soon moved to Yorkshire. Equipped with the Bristol F2b, 33 Sqn became the world's first dedicated Night Fighter Force. Disbanded after World War I, 33 Squadron was reformed as a Day Bomber unit at Netheravon before being equipped with the legendary Hawker Hart. Now an elite bomber Squadron , 33 Squadron served at Bicester and Upper Heyford until 1935 when the Squadron deployed to Egypt to protect the Suez Canal. In 1940, the Squadron was put to work in North Africa against the Italian Regia Aeronautica. Hart


During the early days of World War Two, the Squadron achieved impressive victories over the Italian fighters but by March 1941, the Squadron found itself fighting the Luftwaffe in Greece. By May 1941, the Allies had pushed back to Crete and it was there that 33 Squadron's ground crew distinguished themselves in battle.  Alongside Australian, New Zealand and Greek troops, 33 Squadron fought to repel thousands of German paratroopers around the airfield at Maleme.  After ten days, the surviving ground crew were evacuated to Egypt where they rejoined the Squadron.  Having re-grouped and re-equipped, with Hurricanes, 33 Squadron operated continuously against the advancing enemy tank columns at El Alamein which eventually resulted in defeat for the Afrika Corps. 1943 saw the introduction of the Spitfire to No 33 Squadron, this aircraft flew extensively throughout the liberation of Europe until late 1944. In 1944, now flying the Hawker Tempest, the Squadron crossed Holland and the Rhine. The Squadron flew its last sortie of World War II at Ardolf on 4th May 1945.

From May 1945 to 1949, 33 Squadron remained in Germany as a deterrent force until it deployed to Malaya to fight against the Communist guerrillas. Disbanded in 1955, the Squadron reformed later that year in Yorkshire as a Night Fighter Squadron. Over the next few years, the Squadron moved to Leeming and then back again to Malaya, this time as a Surface to Air Missile Unit. The Squadron disbanded a final time in 1965.

Since June 1971, the Squadron has operated the Puma HC Mk 1 helicopter, first at RAF Odiham and then, more recently at RAF Benson. No 33 Squadron plays a significant role with both NATO and the ACE Mobile Force (Land) (AMFL) in support of land forces. For 20 years, the Squadron maintained a detachment in Northern Ireland and has seen active duty in Belize, Zimbabwe (in support of the Cease Fire Monitoring Force), Ascension Island, Venezuela, Jamaica (to aid disaster relief) and the Gulf War.

The RAF Puma (Middle East) Squadron was created in 1990 when both 230 and 33 Squadrons were put on standby for the Gulf. By early January 1991, the Squadron was on active duty providing casualty evacuation for the 7th Armored Brigade. Deployed forward during the ground war, 33 Squadron had a forward operating base in Iraq. By the end of the war, the Pumas had flown over 1200 sorties, carried over 4000 troops, evacuated over 160 casualties and delivered 68000 kilograms of freight.

Throughout 1993 and 1994, the situation in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia continued to worsen and, in 1995, 33 Squadron deployed as part of the Rapid Reaction Force (RRF) in an attempt to stabilize the region. Based in Ploce, Croatia, the 6 Pumas were tasked to provide troop lift and airborne command and control. For 3 months the Squadron conducted flights throughout Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. With the signing of the Dayton Accord in 1995. The RRF was repatriated in November 1995. The Squadron also sent a flight of 4 Pumas and 70 Personnel to the Congo in May 1997. Violence was likely following the departure of Zaire's president Mobutu and 33 Squadron was on hand to provide lift capability should Commonwealth civilians need to be evacuated from the Zairian capital of Kinshasa. The transition of power was a peaceful one however, and the Squadron returned home the end of May.

In June 1997, 33 Squadron took up residence at RAF Benson, and was joined in February 1998 by the Operational Conversion Flight, formerly part of 27 Sqn. The Squadron's colourful history, encompassing many types aircraft and roles underscores the proud tradition that 33 Squadron maintains today. Whether assisting civilian authorities in times of crisis or supporting UK land forces, the Squadron continues to play a significant role within the RAF.

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