33 Squadron RAAF was formed in Townsville on 16 February 1942.  They were initially based at Mount St. John, the site of the old Robinson's Zoo.  The crews were billeted at St. Patrick's College on the Strand.

On 16 February 1942, four ex QANTAS S23 "Short" Empire Flying Boats were reassigned from 11 Squadron in Port Moresby to 33 Squadron:-


     A18-10 Centaurus *
     A18-11 Calypso
     A18-12 Coogee **
     A18-13 Coolangatta




* Centaurus was destroyed in a Japanese bombing raid at Broome on 3 March 1942.

** Coogee later crashed in Cleveland Bay on 27 Feb 1942 with the loss of all 5 crew members


Following the loss of Coogee and Centaurus, another Empire flying boat, "Clifton" (A18-14) was impressed from QANTAS.

Initially 33 Squadron's main role was Search and Rescue.  Later on their role changed to Transport and Medivac duties. 

Over time 33 Squadron aircraft comprised the following:-

D.H. 84 Dragon
Empire Flying Boat
Tiger Moth

33 Squadron RAAF was based at the Stock Route airfield which is now Dalrymple Road.  It was in the section of Dalrymple Road where the large electricity steel tower lines run beside the road back to Duckworth Street.   It was a satellite airfield to Garbutt airfield and aircraft would often taxi between the two areas.

33 Squadron was comprised of Ansons, Dragons and Moths.

On 8 August 1942, Short Empire Flying Boat A18-11 "Calypso" piloted by Flight Lieutenant Mike Mather, hit some submerged debris about 100 kms east of Daru Island during a landing on the open ocean while attempting to pick up survivors from the MV Mamutu which had been sunk by Japanese submarine RO-33 on 7 August 1942 with the loss of 114 lives. A18-14 and A18-11 were both tasked with searching for survivors. The bottom was torn out of "Calypso" and it began to sink quickly. Rigger George Edwards was killed in the crash, and the other seven crew members managed to escape in two rubber dinghies and made it to shore three days later. Some of the crew members were Len Henderson, Dudley Thrift, Frederick Darmody, Harold Howes and Stanley Williams. William Griffin, a survivor of the MV Mamutu, joined the seven crew members on the dinghies. They landed near the Fly River on 10 August 1942 and walked to Kikiri (now Kikori) and were then taken by lugger to Port Moresby on 28 August 1942.

The squadron moved to Port Moresby on 25 December 1942.

The squadron relocated from Lae to Townsville on 11 March 1946 where the squadron was disbanded on 13 May 1946.


Crash of Tiger Moth A17-589
on flight from Horn Island to Daru



"..And Far from Home"
"Flying RAAF Transports in the Pacific War and After"
By John Balfe

Pages 33 -34

No. 33 Squadron was formed next, at Townsville in February 1942 and sent in December to Port Moresby with a gaggle of two Qantas Empire Flying Boats captained by Qantas pilots, five Ansons, some Dragons and three Tiger Moths. After the sorry experience of inferior aircraft against the Japanese in Malaya, this circus must have felt at long odds in New Guinea until re-equipped early in 1943 with C47s. However, they flew most creditably and in their first month carried a full 27000 kilograms of freight and many fighting troops to forward battle posts. No. 33 was widely engaged in supply dropping, including at Myola, was at Milne Bay as soon as the Japanese were thrown out, and flew almost its entire service in the islands.

No. 36 Squadron, which had been formed in Melbourne with airline DC2s, moved to Townsville in 33 Squadron's place and began daily flights with men and materiel across the Coral Sea to New Guinea..............


E-mails from Cecile Sartori whose uncle
F/Lt Frank Mulcahy served with 33 Squadron



I'd like to thank Bruce Williams for his assistance with this web page. Bruce is the son of Stan Williams, a crew member of Short Empire Flying boat A18-11 "Calypso".


Can anyone help me with
more information on 33 Squadron RAAF?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

I need your help


 Peter Dunn OAM 2020


Please e-mail me
any information or photographs

"Australia @ War"
8GB USB Memory Stick

This page first produced 5 July 1998

This page last updated 20 February 2020