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[RAF Elsham Wolds] [Squadrons of Elsham Wolds] [33 Squadron]

33 Squadron RAF.


33 Squadron was formed from the nucleus provided by 12 Squadron at Filton on 12 January 1916 as a Home Defence Squadron. It moved to Yorkshire in March operating on night defence duty and during the day as a training unit. Three months later the training role was taken over by 57 Squadron and 33 became solely a 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. The Squadron was disbanded 13 June 1919 with no successful interceptions in that time.


33 Squadron C Flight Captain Albert Baird Fanstone AFC Elsham Wolds

 The C Flight of 33 Squadron ( pictured above ) was based at Elsham Wolds and flew anti Zeppelin patrols covering the Humber Estuary. There were no no contacts or combats but 2 fatal; crashes are recorded.

 25th September 1917 – 33 Sqn - FE2b - Zeppelin alert - Lt James Arthur Menzies  – Canadian. Also 2nd Lt Carey Pinnock - 2 killed.

26th March 1918 – 33 Sqn - FE 2b – Patrol duty - Lt James Wilson Ross ( buried in Edinburgh ) 2 killed.

Landing Grounds with 33 Squadron HQ at Gainsborough ( + later upgraded to Flight Station/aerodrome,  existing aerodrome)

Bellasize, Beverley, Blyborough, Brampton, Brancroft, Broomhill/Wombwell, Bucknall/Horncastle, Carlton, Cockthorne Farm, Cuxwold, Caistor, Doncaster, Eastburn‡, East Retford +, Gainsborough, Greenland Top, Harpswell +, Hedon, Kelstern, New Holland, North Coastes Fitties  +, Owthorne, Redmires, Thorne, Wigsley, Winterton.

Squadron Searchlights

Blyborough, Blyton, Boltgate, Elsham aerodrome, Fillingham, Flixborough, Heapham, Goole Fields, Kirton Lindsey aerodrome, Potter Grange Farm, Saxilby, Scampton, Stow, Twigmore Grange, Wootton.

During this period the Squadron operated the BE2C, FE2B, Bristol Fighter and the Avro 504.

Be2c 1919

Above - BE2


33 Squadron FE 2D A12

Above - FE2D

Bristol Fighter 1919

Above - Bristol Fighter

Avro 504 1

Above - Avro 504


33 Squadron was reformed as a bomber squadron on 1 March 1929 at RAF Netheravon equipped with Hawker Horsley but soon re equipped with the newer Hawker Hart.

33 Squadron Harts

33 Squadron Hawker Harts in formation

In October 1935 the Squadron was dispatched to Egypt as part of the reinforcements during the Abyssinian crisis. It remained in Egypt and converted to a fighter squadron in March 1938 with Gloster Gladiators. From October 1938 to March 1939 it operated in Palestine


 but by the time of the Italian entry into WW2 the Squadron returned to Egypt flying patrols over the Western Desert.

Hawker Hurricanes replaced the Gladiators in September 1940 the last Gladiator leaving in October and in January 1941 and the Squadron was sent for operations in Greece. Here it flew escort sorties over Albania and Bulgaria.

Pattle 33 Squadron IWM)

Marmaduke Pattle 33 Squadron OC. Top scoring RAF ace with over 40 kills. MIA in Greece 20 April 1941 IWM

Hawker Hurricane 33 Squadron Greece

33 Squadron Greece IWM

With the collapse of Greece the four remaining Hurricanes withdrew to Crete where they joined 80 Squadron in the defence of the island. On the 19 May the sole remaining Hurricane flew back to Egypt. Some ground crew were captured but escaped and were later evacuated to Egypt

The lost aircraft were replaced and the Squadron resumed operations over the Western Desert in June 1941. Curtis P41 Tomahawks started to arrive in February 1942 but this plan was halted and Hurricanes IIBs arrived instead. Fighter patrols were their main duty until after the Battle of El Alamein when it was tasked with convoy and coastal patrols along the Lybian coast. The Squadron received Supermarine Spitfires in June 1943 but it was only fully equipped with this type in December 1943. 33 Squadron remained in North Africa until April 1944 when it was transferred back to the UK

In the UK it joined the North Weald Wing on 1 May 1944 equipped with Spitfire IX and began escort and fighter sweeps in May 1944. It moved to the continent in August and operated from there till December when it returned to the UK to re-equip with Hawker Tempests.

33 Squadron returned to the continent in February 1945 and remained their till July 1949

Post War

At this point 33 Squadron moved to Malaya and re equipped with the excellent De Havilland Hornet in April 1945 and participated in Operation Firedog, The Malayan Emergency, against the Chinese backed Communist Terrorists attempting to take over the country.

De Havilland Hornets 33 Sqdn and 45 Sqn RAF Tengah

De Havilland Hornets 33 Sqdn and 45 Sqn RAF Tengah

The Malayan Emergency can be regarded as one of the few successful  counter insurgency operations of the Cold War and Operation Firedog was a pivotal point in the history of the Royal Air  Force.In March 1955 33 Squadron was absorbed into 45 Squadron.

7 months later the Squadron was reactivated at RAF Driffield as a night fighter unit equipped with De Havilland Venoms and it was disbanded yet again in June 1957. In September of the same year 264 Squadron was renumbered 33 Squadron. At the time it was equipped with Gloster Meteors which were replaced by Gloster Javelins in July 1958. 33 Squadron moved to RAF Middleton St George and was disbanded yet again in September 1958.

33 Squadron was again reformed on 1 March 1965 when it became a SAM unit equipped with Bristol Bloodhound missiles in Malaya until January 1970.

Its final and current role 33 Squadron is now that of Support Helicopter Unit equipped with Westland Puma based at RAF Odiham and moving to RAF Benson in June 1997. This unit took over the Operational Conversion Unit role for the Puma in 1998 and is now part of the Joint Helicopter Command.

Aircraft of 33 Squadron

Hawker Hart 33 Squadron

Hawker Hart 33 Squadron

Gloster Gladiator

Gloster Gladiator of the type flown by Marmaduke Pattle and in which he gained the first 15 of his kills making him the leading Gladiator ace

33 Squadron Hornet

 De Havilland Hornet 33 Squadron

Gloster Javelin 33 Squadron

Gloster Javelin 33 Squadron

33 Squadron Puma

Westland Puma 33 Squadron

Item  compiled by David Fell with thanks to the Great War Forum and Air of Authority. Photos IWM and my own archive


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