No. 33 Squadron (RAAF)

About This Unit

No. 33 Squadron (RAAF)

During February and March 1942, the RAAF formed four transport units: Nos. 33, 34, 35 and 36 Squadrons. No. 33 Squadron was established on 16 February at Townsville, Queensland, under the control of North-Eastern Area Command.

Equipped with four ex-Qantas Short Empire flying boats that had been transferred from No. 11 Squadron, along with several smaller types including de Havilland Dragons and Tiger Moths, Avro Ansons, and Vultee Vigilants, it was used for a range of general transport tasks and air sea rescue. 

The squadron suffered its first loss on 27 February, when one of the Empires crashed on landing at Townsville; the six crew members were killed. A second Empire was destroyed at its mooring during a Japanese air attack on Broome, Western Australia, on 3 March; another Empire was impressed from Qantas to replace the lost aircraft. Two months later the commanding officer, Squadron Leader Charles Gurney, was killed while co-piloting a Martin B-26 Marauder of the 19th Bomb Squadron USAAF that crashed after attacking Rabaul. One of No. 33 Squadron's tasks was search-and-rescue; it lost another Empire on 8 August 1942, when it sank in heavy seas off the coast of New Guinea while trying to rescue survivors of a torpedoed ship.

No. 33 Squadron transferred to Port Moresby in January 1943, providing air transport to Australian forces involved in the New Guinea campaign. Transport needs were so desperate in New Guinea that even the Tiger Moths were employed, delivering a total of 77 kilograms (170 lb) per trip. In September–October 1943, the squadron began taking delivery of fifteen Douglas C-47 Dakotas to replace its assortment of aircraft.  By the time it transferred to Milne Bay on 1 January 1944, it was operating Dakotas exclusively, and continued to do so for the rest of the war. The squadron relocated to Lae on 15 January 1945. Following the end of hostilities in August 1945, it was tasked with repatriating service personnel and former prisoners of war. No. 33 Squadron returned to Townsville on 11 March 1946, and disbanded there on 13 May.