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France: Navy Air Bases' pennants

Last modified: 2010-11-13 by ivan sache
Keywords: navy air base | saint-mandrier |
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Saint-Mandrier Navy Air Base

The paeninsula of Saint-Mandrier (an island until the 17th century) is located forms the southern part of the Bay of Toulon. Mandrier is said to have been a soldier appointed by Wisigoth King Alaric II (late 5th century) to watch the coast; living as an hermit (in Latin, mandarius), he used to heal the poor. The legend reflects the double, military and hospital function of the peaninsula.
Built in 1669 on the peaninsula by convicts from Toulon, the Saint- Louis hospital was used mostly as a lazaret and a quarantine station, to avoid spreading epidemics brought by seaman to the big town of Toulon. Closed in 1785 and reused during the Revolution, the Saint- Louis hospital was completely revamped during the Restauration, with a chapel built by convicts in 1825-1829. Following the increase of the Saint-Anne hospital in Toulon, the Saint-Louis hospital was eventually closed in 1936.

Following the set up of the Navy Air Force by Decree of 20 March 1912, 26 centers (centres d'aviation maritime) were created. The center of Saint-Mandrier, organized in the center of the (then) small village of the same name on 1 August 1916, housed the first hydroplanes of the Navy Air Force.
Closed on 12 April 1921, the hydroplane center was recreated on a neighbouring, bigger site on 1 August 1933, as the Saint-Mandrier Navy Air Base (Base aéronavale [BAN] de Saint-Mandrier). The base specialized in embarked hydroplanes, whose squads were merged on 1 October 1938 into the First Embarked Hydroplanes Flotilla (1e Flotille d'hydravions embarqués). The flotilla was disbanded on 1 August 1940; on 11 August, the disarming of the base, renamed BAND ("D" for désarmée, disarmed) was ordered. In August 1944, the Germans failed to destroy the base before surrendering.

Resettled on 3 September 1944, the BAN Saint-Mandrier was officially recreated on 1 January 1945. Deemed obsolete, the hydroplanes were progressively replaced by helicopters; the last hydroplanes left Saint- Mandrier for scraping on 31 December 1959. The helicopters were used in military operations but also in several search and rescue operations at sea and on land.
In 2000, the reorganization scheme of the armed forces included a dramatic decrease in the number of military sites. It was announced that the helicopter unit would progressively leave Saint-Mandrier for the neighbouring base of Hyères. All the "Super Frelon" left on 1 June 2001, followed in October 2003 by the last helicopters. The BAN Saint- Mandrier was officially closed on 1 January 2005; the last detachment left on 24 March 2006.

The obverse of the pennant of the BAN Saint-Mandrier is white with the badge of the base. The badge shows St. Mandrier as traditionally represented, with a Roman helmet, shield, cloak and lance, placed on the shield of arms of Toulon, "purple" with a yellow cross (the pictures must show a faded, blue flag). The chief of the shield, is charged with the "penguin" of the Navy Air Force. The shield is modelled on the base's badge, adopted on 16 October 1947.
While the badge of the Saint-Mandrier base is crowned as it should be, its representation on the base's pennant is not.
The reverse of the pennant is "purple" with the "penguin" and the golden writing "B.A.N." (above the anchor) and "SAINT-MANDRIER" (below the anchor).

Source: Net-Marine website

Ivan Sache, 23 March 2009