Battle Of Britain Memorial Day Capel Le Ferne

Jan Leeming

Shoreham 2007

Shoreham Airshow 2007
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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Jan's Blog

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.


Date: 10th July 2011


This is the fourth year I’ve had the privilege of attending this very special day. Last year was the 70th Anniversary of the Battle and Prince Michael of Kent was in attendance. I wondered how the event would stand up this year but needn’t have worried.

I think the publicity and spotlight on the event last year has put it firmly as a date in the diary for many folk.  Hundreds of the public attend and many bring their picnics.  This year I noticed a Drinks Marquee and another selling souvenirs. I hope good funds were raised for the Trust.

We were blessed with a perfect day - sun and just enough breeze to be comfortable.
I’ve made many contacts over the years and have learned more and more about the Battle because of my work on a potential documentary on the life of Rene Mouchotte - the first of my sponsored pilots on the Sir Christopher Foxley Norris Memorial Wall. I’ve now ‘adopted’ the whole team.  

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust are trying to raise funds to open a learning centre at Capel to help people understand the significance of the Battle and to perpetuate the memory of those gallant men - some little more than boys - who fought and died that we might be free.

It is a very emotional day - more so because every year there are Fewer of The Few. I remember in 2007 seeing a tiny woman in a black uniform with dyed black hair. At the time I didn’t ask who she was and by the following year she was no longer with us. She was Diana Barnato Walker who was one of the famous ATA women - the Air Transport Auxiliary - delivering planes all over Britain wherever they were needed.  Many of these women were killed in the course of their duties.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Joy Lofthouse. She laid a wreath on behalf of the ATA and, because she wasn’t in uniform, I assumed she was purely a representative and far too young looking to possibly have flown in the BOB.   However, engaging in conversation with her she told us she joined up at the age of 16 and had a great time and almost wished the war hadn't ended  - I think she said she was type rated on twelve different planes - some achievement.

I renewed acquaintance with Wing Commander Neil and his lovely wife - they actually worked with René Mouchotte at Biggin Hill but Mrs. Neil told me he was a very reserved person - funnily enough I got that impression from reading his Diaries.

Recently I acquired several copies of René’s Carnets reasoning that, if the documentary comes to fruition, then I shall need to hand out copies to the production team. I also got hold of another of the French versions. Imagine my astonishment when on opening this aged and yellowing book there was a little ‘business card’ with the name Madame O. Mouchotte printed on it. There was also some fairly undecipherable writing in French. I’ve had it translated and think the family to whom the message was sent must have found the card and attached it to the Diaries at a later date because Madame O. Mouchotte died in 1938 and the diaries were first published in 1947. But of all the secondhand copies I could have bought, why that one. It was rather akin to my sponsorship of a French pilot - why of the thirteen names on the wall was I allocated Rene Mouchotte - the only Frenchman and, as far as I know, the only pilot to write extensive diaries about his day to day experience of the War. And remember, those diaries were never meant to be published - they were written for his own private remembrances.   Many of the pilots who survived the War have written their own books and that is why I have concentrated on 'my' Frenchman.

But I digress. The BOB Trust are having a Draw for a Mini and when I have the link, I’ll post it on here. Meanwhile, the tickets will be £10 each and the Draw will be at the End of Battle Dinner on Thursday 27th October.  

I also met all the British Legion Standard Bearers who were bemoaning the fact that they don’t seem to be able to attract young recruits - don’t know what the answer is there.

Last year a lovely Veteran gave me his very special blue rose - and again this year Flight Lieutenant Bill Green found me and presented me with the Blue rose. I feel very honoured.

It is so moving and sad that each year the Few visibly dwindle. There were 19 at the first Memorial I attended in 2007. Yesterday there were 15 - several in wheelchairs and more with walking sticks. It is a very moving experience to watch them slowly make their way to the Memorial and lay their wreaths. It's very much 'lump in the throat' time.

Please don’t misunderstand - I don’t glory in war. It is a brutal, murderous and horrid event but, so long as human nature is human nature, there will always be wars of one sort or another and we have to defend ourselves. We owe so much to the sacrifice - and it was sacrifice - of those brave, mostly young, men who defended us in those crucial few months in the Battle of Britain. Without the positive outcome of that Battle, we might be living under a very different regime today.

We had an emotionally stirring Flypast of a WW2 Spitfire and Hurricane - majestic against the clear blue sky.

It is truly correct that ‘Never in the Field of Human Conflict was so much owed by so many to so Few’. 

A very big supporter of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust is Malcolm Triggs and he always documents the day.  He's just sent me this photograph.

Yours truly sitting on the Prize.   On my right are Geoffrey Wellum (First Light) and Bob Foster, on my left  Nigel Rose, Bill Green (who for two years has presented me with his Veterans' Blue Rose) Tony Pickering, Keith Lawrence. Behind are just a few of the many many Standard Bearers of the British Legion.


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