The "Escadrilles"

The fin of a MIRAGE III E revealed during its cleaning the badges of its three successive asignments :
- The " Gypaète " (Egyptian Eagle) of the EC 1/3 - The " Sioux " of the EC 1/4 - The " Sanglier " (Wild boar) of the EC 3/3

" Humorous, poetic, sometimes aggressive, the badge is for every unit the expression of its individuality " General Philippe MAURIN.


You arrived in the most important part of this site, that for whom you came, doubtless! You will thus find here a small study on the "Escadrilles" currently in service in the French Air Force Fighter and Reco Squadrons.

Another part of the site propose you to discover ALL the "Escadrilles" of the French Air Force since its creation,
in a simplified form, obviously. To go there, click ...



The "Escadrille" is the smallest part of the Air Force. It is " the atom " which makes the " matter " of the French Air Force and it is for it that the staffs are going to become identified in first. During the First World War, the airmen felt the need to recognize in the air their companions from the same "Escadrille" and thus the first distinguishing signs appeared on planes. At the beginning, it was rather coloured strips or geometrical symbols, but very quicly appeared more complex drawings, based on figures of animals, characters, etc. Due to the cohesion and the " Spirit of Corps ", the staffs identified themselves with their badge, which became a symbol of membership in the same "family". And so was born, all along these war years, the idea of "Traditions" attached to a unit, an idea which perdures today.
In the modern French Air Force "Escadrilles" always exist, most issued from those of the 1914-1918 and having preserved the original badge. Sometimes, the drawing evolved, it even changed for some of them, but the spirit remains faithful to the traditions bequeathed by the ancients, in a strict frame officialized by the command. It is very important to respect the Traditions ! These "Escadrilles" are grouped together mostly by 3 in "Escadron", formerly grouped together in "Escadre". Thus you can speak about the "1ere Escadrille de l'Escadron de Chasse 1/2" (1st "Escadrille" of the Fighter Squadron 1/2, wich is the First " Escadron " of the 2nd " Escadre "). This organization was reshaped at the end of the 90s and the level ""Escadron"" was abolished, Squadrons becoming actually autonomous units. The naming stayed nevertheless , it is the reason for which one always speaks about the EC 1/2, consisted in three "Escadrille".
The tradition name of "Escadrilles" also comply with a strict but simple rule: It consists of a group of letters and a number (for example "SPA 102 "). The letters come from the abbreviation of the plane's name which the unit was equipped at the end of the First World War, in our example a " SPAD ". You will find the following abbreviation :
"AR" for Avions Renault - "BR" for Breguet - "C" for Caudron - "CAP" for Caproni - "CEP" for Caproni built by Esnault-Pelleterie - "F" for Farman - "HD" for Hanriot-Dupont - "HF" for Henry Farman - "LET" for Letord - "MF" for Maurice Farman - "N" for Nieuport - "R" for Rep - "RXI" for Caudron R XI - "SAL" for Salmson - "SPA" for SPAD - "SOP" for Sopwith - "V" for Voisin
The number corresponds quite simply to the sequence number of creation of the "Escadrille", the SPA 102 being the 102nd "Escadrille" created during the war.
There were created more than 500 "Escadrilles", most having been dissolved at the end of the hostilities. Some "Escadrille" make nevertheless exception for this rule. They are those which were created after 1918, mostly during the Second World War. At this time the organization of units was quite the same than today except that one spoke about " Groupe " in the place of "Escadron". "Escadrilles" created then will take the name of their rank in the Group, for example " 1ère Escadrille du Groupe de Chasse I/9", name that they preserve in their traditions today, even if our example " 1° Esc. GC I/9 " became " 1° Esc. EC 3/4 "! There are other types of exceptions which I let you discover all along your navigation. You will see that it is much less complicated than it appears!

For every "Escadrille", you will find its metallic badge such as it was approved by the SHAA (" Service Historique de l'Armée de l'Air ", Historical Service of the Air Force) and weared on the uniforms, with its heraldic definition, its symbolism or a small anecdote on its creation. You will have then access to the history and to some pictures of planes having carried the badge. In order to facilitate your searches or to diversify your navigation within this site, I propose you three methods to access to the information. To look for an "Escadrille", you will have so the choice among:

In a synoptic table are gathered thumbnails representing the badges of "Escadrilles" painted on the fin of planes. These photos were taken between 1985 and 1998, and the graphics of badges sometimes changed or does not correspond exactly to the metallic badge. But this method can be useful to identify the unit of a plane seen on a picture or during an air show.

Also on tabular form, you will find here the French Air Force " Escadrons " with their own badge, with the "Escadrille" which compose them. This method is useful for those that know a little the distribution of "Escadrille" in "Escadrons", or that want to know more about it on this subject.

This method will allow you to find an "Escadrille" which you know the badge but which you forgot the name. You just have to look for in a list of keywords those describing the badge as precisely as possible to go to the page of the required "Escadrille".

Every method leads to the same place in the site, namely the page of the "Escadrille". On this page you will find 2 "clickable" links under the shape of two thumbnails:


The SPAD in sepia color will lead you to the history of the "Escadrille". This history is treated on tabular form, indicating chronologically the various naming of the "Escadrille", its units of membership, its geographic locations and the used aircraft, plus some different observations. Some histories are not complete, I count then on you to help me to complete them. These are indicated by a small panel "Works":


The MIRAGE will lead you towards a page where you will find some pictures representing planes which raise the badge of the "Escadrille" which interests you. You will find there planes of all the times, but with systematically a plane at currently in use. This plane will be indicated by a small orange-coloured flashing light in the top of the picture :   


Wherever you are in the chapter "Escadrille", you can at any time return to one of the research methods by using buttons in the frame in the top of this screen, or in quite other part of the site by clicking buttons in the left frame.

If you want to go to the part of the site where are ALL the "Escadrilles", then click here :


But before beginning, I suggest you to click the button below:












I want to thank all the persons who supported me during the years of searches which ended in the realization of this site. Foreseen originally to be published in the form of a book, circumstances wanted that this work is born under this computer shape. The future will say if the choice was good.

I would like to bring here a precision concerning the credits of the used pictures. I tried as much as possible to quote the authors or the owners of photos, but the images circulate so in the environment of the collectors that it is sometimes difficult to determine with certainty the origin of a photo. The mention " Collection X " does not so constitute a copyright but only indicates the possession of a copy. If some persons feel hurt not to have been quoted, that they forgive me!

Concerning the history of units, I do not claim to hold the absolute truth. I was only compiling data by trying as much as possible to check several times my information and by consulting the official sources when I was able to have there access. I shall be always delighted to receive comments or corrections, everybody will take advantage of it!

I shall not quote here the numerous sources which I used in my researches, specialized press and aeronautical books, it may be too tiresome because the list is very long! A special mention for :
- " L'AVIATION FRANCAISE 1914-1940 " by Commandant (Major) Moreau-Bérillon
- " AIR ACTUALITES " (French Air Force journal)
- " AIR FAN "

I thank (quite particularly among others):

J.-C. MERMET - J. MUTIN - D. NISI for the loan of some of their photos.
H. BRUN for his knowledges and his corrections
" The Traditions Officers "
of the Squadrons, at least those that deigned to answer my mails :-(
Impossible to forget the personnel of the S.H.A.A. well on
SABINE for her patience and her understanding..
ISIS the she-cat for its help in the typing of texts when it runs on my keyboard !

     I do not thank " WHO YOU KNOW " for the multiple crashes of my computer!

A CD-ROM version of the part " Escadrille " of this site will soon be available.
Please , contact me!


And I'm always looking for photos of French military planes, especially vintages !


Copyright P. GAUBERT 2000





























Clique !