|Unit: GAO 583
French aircraft manufacturer Bloch provided the Armee de l'Air with the MB.81 air ambulance. They were painted white on all the surfaces, only the part of the fuselage right behind the engine was left unpainted for practical reasons. The planes were marked with a tricolour on the rudder and red crosses on fuselage and wings. The MB.81 shown here served until 1941 in Syria for Vichy forces. It was enlisted in the GAO 583 recce unit (which was equipped with Potez 25 and 63.11 aircraft) and carried its emblem on the fuselage.
The Bloch MB.81 was a rugged little hospital plane with the capacity to carry one passenger, in or out of a stretcher. Developed in response to a government sponsored competition in support of the new doctrine of 'aerial first aid'. It was employed exclusively in the overseas colonies, specifically North Africa and Syria. Unlike the MB.80, it's prototype, the MB.81 had a closed cockpit and a somewhat larger cargo space. The MB.81 first flew in October of 1932. This was the Bloch company's first design which made it out of prototyping.
The MB.81 entered service in 1935, and was used intensively throughout North Africa and the Middle East. It was being used as late as July, 1941 in the battle for Syria between the Vichy French and the British/Free French.
The MB.81 also saw service with the Armée de l'Air during the Battle of France in 1940. The nationalization of French military companies by the newly elected leftist government in 1936 severely damaged the aircraft industry. Many of the more advanced designs being worked on were seriously delayed, and development was hampered by organizational inefficiencies from the poorly implemented nationalization. In addition, there was a lack of higher output engines comparable to those installed in the latest Luftwaffe fighters. As a result, by 1938 France had placed orders with other countries to get more planes, including large orders with the US.