33 Squadron, RAF
Reformed in 1929 as a light bomber unit1 33 Sqn was initially equipped with Hawker Harts. In 1935 the squadron was posted to Egypt and after the Abyssinian crises formed part of the permanent Egyptian garrison. In March 1938 it was designated as a fighter squadron and given Gladiators. based at Ismailia.
In September of that year the squadron moved to Palestine to begin three months of intense operations against armed rebels in the area. In 1939 the squadron moved to Helwan and on the outbreak of the War in Europe it moved on to Mersa Matruh.
11/6/40
33 Sqn carried out its first patrol of the War on the 11th. The area covered was from Daba to Mersa Matruh. no enemy aircraft were encountered.
13/6/40
Six Gladiators were sent to Sidi Barrani to be closer to the bombers that they were escorting.
14/6/40
Blenheims from 211 Sqn set out to bomb Fort Capuzzo in the early morning. As a prelude to this raid 33 Sqn flew offensive patrols as far afield as Bardia. Over Fort Capuzzo they came across a single Ca3lO, from 159 Squadriglia, being escorted by CR32s from 8 Gruppo. Fly Off E H Dean, L9046, claimed one of the CR32s destroyed, as did Plt Off V C Woodward, N5783. Woodward then attacked the Caproni along with Sgt Craig, N5768, both pilots causing enough damage to cause the Italian to go down and crash-land in the desert. The Gladiators also attacked the airfield at Sidi Azeiz where several bombers, probably S79s, were damaged.
16/6/40
A flight of six Gladiators, were sent to carry out a defensive patrol over Sidi Barrani. Over the target area thick mist was encountered and the flight turned back. Three pilots lost their bearings and one crashed into the sea killing the pilot, Flt Lt Bolingbroke. The other two pilots made forced-landings in the desert and were picked up by patrolling British army units.
At this point in the War the Gladiators were finding it very difficult to intercept the faster Italian bombers, mainly S79s and to some extent S80s. This problem was commonplace no matter where the Gladiators served. To counter this, a Hurricane and several Blenheim fighters were attached to the squadron,
19/6/40
Four Gladiators, Sqn Ldr Johnson, Flt Lt Hawkins, Fly Off Lynch, and Sgt Green, took off to patrol over Sollum. With the Gladiators was the Hurricane piloted by Fly Off Wykeham-Barnes. There were also two Blenheims present. Formation flying was rather difficult as there were three different aircraft with three different cruising speeds. When this unwieldy formation was over Sollum they encountered 5 CR42s and either 7 CR32s or RO37s. Two of the CR42s were shot down by Wykeham-Barnes. The Gladiators accounted for a further two but lost Sgt Green when he was cornered by 3 CR425 and shot down despite some violent aerobatics.
Later on in the day the Hurricanes and four Blenheims were involved in further combats with CR42s. One of the Italian biplanes was shot down by the Hurricanes and two more were accounted for by the cumbersome Blenheims.
21/6/40
At sea four Royal Navy cruisers and the French Battleship Lorraine bombarded the town of Bardia. Air cover was provided by Gladiators from 33 Sqn.
29/6/40
During a patrol over Capuzzo, three Gladiators from 33 Sqn came across three opposing CR32ss. Plt Off Woodward was able to despatch two of them for no loss. One of the Fiats was piloted by Sottoten Weiss, who crashed in flames west of Bardia. The other flown by Ten Buliarini, from 13 Gruppo, came down near Tobruk.
During another engagement later in the day Fly Of f Wickam9 a 112 Sqn pilot attached to 33 Sqn, claimed the destruction of a R037 and a CR32 3m west of Sidi Aziez,
30/6/40
During an early morning patrol by 33 Sqn Gladiators, they surprised a formation of Italian fighters taking off from Bardia. A CR42 was claimed by Fly Off P R W Wickham, a CR42 was also claimed by another pilot, this one in flames. A few minutes later a third Fiat went down. One Gladiator was slightly damaged by return fire.
1/7/40
During a patrol over Fort Capuzzo, a CR32 was shot down by Sgt W Vale.
4/7/40
In the morning of the 4th 33qn pilots claimed two CR42S shot down for no loss. One of these by Flt Sgt Cottingham, N5779, and the other by Fly Off E HDean, N5758.
Later in the afternoon six Gladiators were up on an escort mission. As they were flying over Monastir nine CR42S were seen taking off. Three of the Gladiators dived down to attack. One of them, flown by Fly Off Worcester, on detachment from 112 Squadron, attacked a formation of Fiats just as they left the ground and shot down four of them. Flt Sgt Cottingham and Pit Off Woods from 33 Sqn shot down two and one respectively. The remaining two CR42s made good their escape.
The Italians in their own wisdom decided to scramble more fighters. Five Fiats attempted to get airborne just as the other three Gladiators, all flown by 112 Squadron pilots, decided to join the fray. Taking the barely flying CR42S by surprise. Fly Offs Bennet and R H Smith shot down one apiece, while another two CR42s were lost and a five landed back at the airfield with a wounded pilot. Three of the Italians were killed and a fourth baled out. In return for all this mayhem one Gladiator, N5751, was lost, the piloted baling out. An S79 was also claimed shot down during this engagement by Sgt Cottingham.
Two weeks after achieving four kills in his first engagement Fly Off Worcester was killed when he flew into a hill obscured by low cloud
During the weeks that followed the attack on Monastir things were very quiet with only the occasional skirmish. A few aircraft were lost on either side.
15/7/40
During a defensive patrol over the front lines Sgt Vale shared in the destruction of a 579 near Mersa Matruh.
24/7/40
During a patrol by three 33 Sqn Gladiators 18 CR425 were engaged over the front lines. The Italians lost four of their number to the more experienced RAF pilots. Fly Of f Woodward claimed two of them, and Fit Lt M T St John Pattle claimed one. The Italians claimed three Gladiators destroyed but none in fact were lost
25/7/40
33 Sqn came off best during another combat with the Fiats. They were escorting Blenheims over Bardia when they were attacked by seven CR42s. The Italians lost five of their number for the loss of one Gladiator, N5774. The successful pilots were FIt Lt Pattle, three, Fly Off Woodward and Sgt Slater one apiece. The latter two also shared in the probable destruction of a sixth.
During early August it was decided to re-equip 33 Sqn with Hurricanes. The Sqn was sent to Helwan and its Gladiators were handed over to the newly arrived 3 RAAF Sqn from Australia. During its two and a half months of operation 33 Sqn claimed an estimated total of 38 Italian aircraft shot down and numerous others damaged.
33 Squadron claims
DATE PILOT SERIAL CLAIM
14/6/40 Plt Off V C Woodward N5783 Caproni Ca310 shared shot down with Sgt Craig over Fort Capuzzo.
14/6/40 Sgt Craig N5768 Caproni Ca310 shared shot down with Plt Off Woodward over Fort Capuzzo.
14/6/40 Fly Off E H Dean L9046 Fiat CR32 shot down over Fort Capuzzo.
14/6/40 Plt Off V C Woodward Fiat CR32 shot down over Fort Capuzzo.
19/6/40 Unknown Fiat CR42 shot down over Sollum.
19/6/40 Unknown Fiat CR42 shot down over Sollum.
29/6/40 Plt Off V C Woodward Fiat CR32 shot down over Fort Capuzzo.
29/6/40 Plt Off V C Woodward Fiat CR42 shot down over Fort Capuzzo.
29/6/40 Fly Off P R W Wickham * Meridionali Ro37 shot down 3m W of Sidi Aziez.
29/6/40 Fly Off P R W Wickham * Fiat CR32 shot down 3m W of Sidi Aziez.
30/6/40 Fly Off P R W Wickham * Fiat CR42 shot down 3m W of Sidi Aziez.
30/6/40 Unknown Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
30/6/40 Unknown
1/7/40 Sgt W Vale Fiat CR32 shot down over Fort Capuzzo.
4/7/40 Unknown N5779
Fiat CR42 shot down near Sollum.
4/7/40 Fly Off E H Dean N5782 Fiat CR42 shot down near Sollum.
4/7/40 Fly Off Worcester * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Fly Off Worcester * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Fly Off Worcester * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Fly Off Worcester * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Fly Off Bennet * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Fly Off R H Smith * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Unknown * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Unknown *
4/7/40 Unknown * Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Flt Sgt Cottingham N5765 Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Flt Sgt Cottingham N5765 Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Plt Off E J Woods N5781 Fiat CR42 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
4/7/40 Flt Sgt Cottingham SIAI-Marchetti SM79 shot down over Monastir Airfield.
15/7/40 Sgt W Vale SIAI-Maerchetti SM79 shared shot down over Mersa Matruh.
24/7/40 Unknown Fiat CR42 shot down
24/7/40 Plt Off V C Woodward Fiat CR42 shot down.
24/7/40 Plt Off V C Woodward Fiat CR42 probably shot down.
24/7/40 Flt Lt MT St J Pattle Fiat CR42 shot down over Sollum.
25/7/40 Flt Lt M T St J Pattle Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
25/7/40 Flt Lt M T St J Pattle Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
25/7/40 Flt Lt M T St J Pattle Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
25/7/40 Sgt Slater Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
25/7/40 Sgt Slater Fiat CR42 shared shot down with Fly Off V C Woodward over Bardia.
25/7/40 Fly Off V C Woodward Fiat CR42 shared shot down with Sgt Slater over Bardia.
25/7/40 Fly Off V C Woodward Fiat CR42 shot down over Bardia.
Pilots marked * served with 112 Squadron and were attached to 33 Squadron at the time the claims were made.
Colours and markings
The Gladiators of 33 Squadron were overall aluminium with roundels in the normal six positions. After War was declared the aircraft received a camouflage scheme of two-tone dark earth/dark green uppers and black/white undersides. Squadron codes were light grey and were carried before the fuselage roundel.
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