Orchid Article Rene Mouchotte Diaries

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.

 

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Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.

ORCHID ARTICLE - RENE MOUCHOTTE DIARIES

Date: 16th July 2008

 ORCHID ARTICLE                      

Jonathan and I subjected ourselves to an Interview about his Testicular Cancer in order to publicize Orchid and it is to be published in The Mail on Sunday this coming weekend - 20th July.  I wouldn't usually advertise the paper - they've done the dirty on me too often along with most other newspapers.  BUT we did it so that Orchid will get that much needed publicity.  It should be in the Health Section of the paper.  Anyway, if they publish them, there should be some 'embarassing' pictures for Jonathan as he was as a baby.  Poor thing - he will get awfully teased.

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RENE MOUCHOTTE DIARIES

I received the Copy of  The Mouchotte Diaries 1940 - 43 and can hardly bear to put it down.  I expected a dry tome listing engagements, wind speeds and other Flying information.  Instead I've received  a book which almost reads like a novel.  Rene never intended for his diaries to be read by anyone but himself.  However someone must have realised their potential and they were translated from the French by Philip John Stead.  They read beautifully and I don't know if this is due to the literary style of Mr. Stead or whether Rene Mouchotte had a natural gift for words. There is so much humanity in his writing.

It is an exciting story of how he got away from France after it was overrun by the Germans, how he stole a plane to get to North Africa and how he finally realised his wish to  reach England and fly with the Airforce.  He became a very valuable part of the Free French Movement and was the first Frenchman to be given a Squadron to Command.  He writes about his fears for his mother (whom he obviously loved dearly) and his frustration at not being able to tell her that he was 'safe' in the UK.

He writes with a great deal of humour and love for many of his fellow flyers both French and English.

I am not a reviewer and simply cannot do him justice but if you are interested in the 1940 - 45  2nd World War  written about by a very brave combatant, then I strongly suggest you get hold of a copy (I got mine off Amazon).

 I have made some notes which I will write down next week when I have time and point you to the pages which touched me for various reasons.

I've done an Internet search and found out where  his Tomb is situated in Pere Lachaise Cemetery outside Paris, and have actually got a picture of it.  Now Doreen and I are planning a visit to Paris specifically to go to Pere Lachaise.  I've been there before - last time it was to see the Tomb of Heloise and Abelard the 12th Century lovers - this time it will be to pay homage to a very brave man who died on August 28th 1943.  His body was washed up on the beach in Belgium on September 3rd and he was buried in Belgium. In 1949 a determined search was made by the French and British Air Ministries and the U.S. Air Force to find the bodies of their flyers killed in action and among others they found and identified Rene Mouchotte buried in Grave 87 and marked as unknown.  His remains were taken to Paris and formally identified then he was buried in the family vault in Pere Lachaise,.  I am only précising the full story of the recovery of his body which in itself is fascinating.

I would dearly love to find out if he has any family left in France.  He didn't mention any siblings only that Suzanne would remain with his mother (a girlfriend or fiancée perhaps) so unless his mother had siblings who married and had families, he may have been the last of the line. 

In his diaries he recounts meeting Churchill and de Gaulle.  He was also highly decorated with both French and British honours.

Next time I am passing Capel Le Ferne, I shall visit the Memorial Wall again to see if any of his French colleagues also have their names inscribed there.

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I have been fortunate enough to fly with the Red Arrows, Wingwalked for the RAFA Charity last year at the Shoreham Air Show and may be going up with the Blades this year at Shoreham (4 Ex Arrows).  I was made to do a Tandem Jump as one of the Trials in I'm a Celebrity, Get me out of Here.  I've flown in many light aircraft, helicopters and even a Chinook and might be going up in a Spitfire (one of very few two seater Spitfires and owned by John Romain based at Duxford )  So you  could say I have more than a passing interest in Aviation!

I'm going to Farnborough this Friday with another member of a Company with which I am associated  - in fact to give me my grand title I am Director of Communication and Media Relationships for Inspire (you can look them up on the Web).  So I might just see you there if you are a Flying Afficionado.

God Bless, Jan

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