The "Touraine’s" roots reach back to its two squadrons created during the First World War, V 101 and V 113, specialized in night bombings, which gave the group the distinctive sign of the owl and the bat founded on the current coat of arms.
It was reconstituted on October 1940 with an endowment of Leo 45 (Lioré-et-Olivier) planes, Potez 29 and different Farman types.
In 1943 the group received the name as of 1/15 "Touraine". The unit took part in war at Syria, though in January 1944 it moved to Mediouna (near Casablanca, Morocco). Upon liberation and due to the importance of the tasks facing the transport and repatriation of prisoners in Germany, the 1/15 was retrofitted with the C-47 Dakota. On 15th of December 1944 the unit returned to the Valence airfield in France until the end of the war - before joining Orleans-Bricy in 1953.
After WWII the Touraine group was very present in Germany, but also in Indochina during temporary deployments. It was actively involved in the Berlin Airlift in 1947, where the unit changed its name to GT 1/61 "Touraine" as a part of the 61st Transport Wing created a few months ago.
In November 1954 "Touraine" received the famous Noratlas aircraft. With its new aircrafts it participated in operations at Suez as well as in Mauritania, many deployments to Algeria and further trips around the world including the famous polar expeditions to Greenland.
While the Noratlas was still in use until the late sixties, the “Touraine” was designated in 1967 to be the first squadron implementing the new C-160 Transall. Therefore the it opened new horizons for military airlift. Apart from military operations, the C-160 therefore participated in numerous humanitarian missions worldwide.
During the last years, the squadron has - among others - participated in humanitarian airlift in Kosovo, tactical operations in Afghanistan and various interventions in Africa like “Licorne” in Côte Ivory.
On 24th of April 2012 the first A400M had - still as a testing aircraft - its first landing at Orleans Air Base.
In order to provide a smooth service from the C-160 over to the A400M - and therefore in cooperation together the MEST/EMATT - the squadron was disbanded from EATC service, although it was foreseen that the squadron would be converted into the first French A400M squadron planned for September 2014.
Finally on 17 September 2014, 1/61 "Touraine" was officially reactivated on the Orleans Bricy 123 Air Base by the French Airchief, General Denis Mercier. It is now the only squadron equipped with A400M Atlas - and its initial logistical capacity goes to the benefit of the EATC.
Text and Pictures: SIRPA Air