Ren Mouchotte The End Of The Road

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 - the end of the road?

Date: 1st November 2011

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - the end of the road?

Well life is made up of successes and disappointments but I must admit I’m rather gutted by the rejection of the excellent proposal, put in by Quintessence on my behalf, with regard to a Documentary about René Mouchotte detailing my quest for more information about this honourable man.

I find the reason for rejection absolutely amazing when you think about the amount of rubbish on television these days. The otherwise excellent Yesterday Channel turned down the Documentary proposal because Mouchotte was not ‘Famous’ enough. Apart from the fact that the whole story is remarkable, adventurous (he and his friend Charles Guerin 'appropriated' a partly decommissioned Goeland plane in order to fly from Oran to Gibraltar to join the British force)  and full of integrity,  that he was the first Frenchman to command an RAF Squadron, was highly respected by the British and formed an elite and formidable fighting squadron - Alsace - ( I have ennumerable photos, memorabilia etc)  - what constitutes Fame? I find the word desperately overused and almost anyone can be ‘Famous’ for a few minutes these days.  (People refer to me as Famous - I'm not.  I am well known by virtue of my television work but I've done nothing remarkable enough to earn a place in any Hall of Fame) I wonder if the decision was made by a person/s too young to have any idea of the deprivations of a war which, had it not gone our way, would have seen us living in a very different world from the one we inhabit today.

On the 'Not Famous Enough' issue, hardly anyone had heard of the amazing Polish pilots in the War until a Documentary Film was made about their exploits.  The same is even more true when you think of the 'Forgotten Pilots' the 'Spitfire Women' - I wonder how many knew of their exploits until the Documentaries were made.  Even Geoffrey Wellum - his memoirs languished in a drawer for over 30 years and it wasn't until his excellent book 'First Light' was published that we were aware of his reputation as an Air Ace at the tender age of 19.

I'm sure that if a Documentary were made about René Mouchotte, it would be a most colourful and interesting programme - I have three file boxes full of information, photographs and information about him.  

It was on 15th May 1943 that René and Sq. Ldr. 'Jack' Charles shared the prize for the downing of the 1000th Enemy Aircraft and a dinner was held in the Sergeant's Mess at Biggin Hill. Colin Smith of Vector Fine Art very kindly gave me a copy of this menu signed by René as well as 'Sailor' Malan, Al Deere, Pierre Clostermann among many other signatures. Later a Ball to celebrate the event was held at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London and among the guests were Steward Granger (my favourite film star when young) and Dame Vera Lynn. Gilbert Harding went down to Biggin to interview the two pilots and there must be documentation of the Ball. So he's not Famous enough and yet a Ball was held in his honour at a landmark London hotel in the middle of a war with austerity and rationing.

Last night I watched a repeat of the  Documentary 'The Battle of Britain' shown last year to commemorate the 70th Anniversary.  I am proud to say that I have met most of  those deligthful Veterans. Today they are called Famous and yet at the time they were fighting and dying for Britain they were doing their job and just getting on with it.  They were respected and admired but no one called them Famous.  All I want to do is bring to the small screen the story of a Frenchman who had a rather 'remarkable' war and whose arrival on our shores and his death were both rather dramatic.  If I had the money I would make the documentary myself but even then there would be no guarantee of a transmission.  I have so much material that even if I am unsuccessful with a documentary, I shall bring all the material together and do one of these 'self-publishing' exercises.  I simply cannot let all my efforts, my joy and excitement,  go to waste in 'finding and sponsoring René' and the whole Free French team on the Wall of Remembrance at Capel.

If only my French were a hundred times better, I would approach a French Production Company. After all, the French didn’t have that many ‘heroes’ in World War 11 and in 1914 they will be celebrating the Liberation of Paris.

I was momentarily knocked for six but I shall continue my efforts to get a Documentary made.

Call me superstitious but something strange happened a couple of days ago. I am a great Romantic and months ago purchased a ‘Cross of Lorraine’ Ring from the USA. It was in silver with a gold cross - not very expensive but I had to pay Customs which annoyed me. I wore it for a week and then it ‘disappeared’. I decided that I wouldn’t replace it until I got the go-ahead for the making of the documentary. Not only did I meet two gentleman in the same day who heard my story and recommended me to a British producer who might help but I then saw the Ring dangling from a Ring Tree on my Chest of Drawers which I must pass at least half a dozen times a day. I like to think it’s a sign from on high that I must continue my efforts.

A photo of Rene taking shortly before he disappeared on 27th August 1940 only six days after his 29th Birthday. It was taken by Pierre Clostermann - René's Wingman.

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - the end of the road?

What do you think? Send your feedback to contact@jan-leeming.com.