Ren Mouchotte Dfc Legion Dhonneur

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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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.

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - DFC & LEGION D'HONNEUR

Date: 27th August 2020

Those of you who might have followed my blogs for a long time will know how hard and passionately I worked on research about Cdt. Squ. Ldr. René Mouchotte and after 6 years of trying, finally had a short documentary broadcast on BBC SE. Proud to say the viewing figures for 'Inside Out' that Monday trebled. The programme was then given to and shown by BBC South and BBC North - so probably a million people saw it. I didn't set out to make a documentary but after sponsoring René's name on the Battle of Britain Memorial Wall and then discovering so much about him, learning more became a passion which took me to Middelkerk in Belgium, Dunkerque near Calais and to Paris - to meet his sister the day after her 101st Birthday and to visit the family tomb in the amazing Necropolis at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

My quest began when I discovered that Mouchotte's Diaries had been published in France 6 years after his death and then translated into English. I obtained a copy and couldn't put it down - I've since read it 6 times. René was an amazingly good man who, despite longing to be in his homeland, sacrificed all by escaping from Oran Airfield (closed down by order of the Vichy Government) in a stolen light aircraft and making his way, with 5 others, to Gibraltar. From there he and his friends were transported to England. He quickly won acclaim for his excellent battle and flying skills and headed up an all French Squadron.

I'm writing this today because it is the Anniversary of his death a mere week after his 29th Birthday. His Wingman - Pierre Closterman abandoned him and his final words were 'I am alone with the Bombers'. Contact was lost and his body washed up on the beach at Middelkerk in Belgium a week later. This beach had the sad accolade of receiving 90 bodies washed up during the war because of the tides - soldiers, sailors and airmen.

René's body was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in the Commonwealth section of Middelkerk Cemetery. After the war and extensive research, his remains were exhumed and his name was found on a vest. He was repatriated and given a Military Funeral at Les Invalides in Paris.

His family and I have discussed his death. His body was found intact but without his heavy flying boots .We can only conclude that his aircraft was shot down, he baled out into a dingly but wasn't located. Perhaps the dingy deflated and René would have jettisoned his heavy boots. Of course there was no autopsy so no one knows if he died of exposure or drowning.

I have made several pilgrimages both to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne and to his tomb at Pére Lachaise.

His Diaries make for interesting reading. They aren't stories of Derring-Do - he was a very modest man - but of his longing to return to his homeland and his desire to do his duty as well as very human reactions to the barbarity of war and seeing his best friend die as his plane is sucked into the sea.

Writing this blog has made me realise it is time I read 'The Mouchotte Diaries' again. The man is an inspiration - if only there were more like him.

RIP - René Mouchotte

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - DFC & LEGION D'HONNEUR

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