Mouchotte And Lafont Families Battle Of Britain Medal Presentation Paris

Jan Leeming

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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.

MOUCHOTTE AND LAFONT FAMILIES - Battle of Britain Medal Presentation - Paris

Date: 13th July 2012

In case you haven't been following my 'Search for René' - a very brief resumé.

In 2007 I sponsored the name of the Free French Pilot René Mouchotte on the Wall of Remembrance at the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel le Ferne.

Discovering that he'd written diaries throughout the war which were not meant for publication but were published after his death - I purchased a copy in English through the Internet.  It was a fascinating read and I began a search to find out all I could about this heroic man and his family.

I visited Belgium, where his body washed up on the shore in September 1943, and spoke to the Archivist who could not have been more helpful.

On learning the married name of René's sister I set about trying to trace her.  My French is far from fluent and I was getting nowhere until July 2011 when I left a letter in the Mouchotte Tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.  In November one of her sons-in-law contacted me and a date was set for me to meet and interview her in December.

Whilst in Paris, Ian Reed, Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum informed me that Col. Henry Lafont had just died and a funeral would be held at Les Invalides in Paris.  We both attended and another contact I'd made along the way, Col. Pierre-Alain Antoine, noticed that the BOB Medals were absent from the cushion carrying Lafont's medals.

Ian Reed set about rectifying this and obtained the correct paperwork for both the Mouchotte and Lafont families and the medals were in his possession in February.  Some interest had been shown by the BBC in producing a documentary about René but eventually this fell through.  René's sister was 101 and in poor health so Ian and I took the medals over to her in May.  Thank goodness we did because she died on June 5th.  When we showed her a film which Ian had put together she thanked us profusely for allowing her to see and hear the brother she last saw in 1939.

Ian also worked at getting an official Presentation of the medals to both families and his efforts paid off.

On Friday, 13th July, at the Residence of the British Ambassador in Paris, in the presence of both Chiefs of the Air Staff - Sir Stephen Dalton and Gen. Jean-Paul Palomeros - the medals were presented to the Mouchotte and Lafont families.  Sir Peter Ricketts the Ambassador had only just returned from Chamonix (because of the Avalanche disaster) but he didn't disappoint us. (He actually addressed me in French which I thought a great compliment)  All three very important men gave us an hour of their time and the joy on the faces of all present was palpable.

A representative of both families gave a short address and I was also invited to give a speech.  I'd prepared a short one in both English and French (translated by Ian's French PA Sandrine) and because the audience were predominantly French that's the language in which I delivered it which was a bit hair raising.

Am waiting for the photos from the official photographer as I didn't feel it would have been appropriate to take my camera.  Will post them when they arrive.

The Mouchotte family proudly displaying René's BOB Medals.  What a shame his sister did not live long enough to enjoy this momentous occasion. But at least she had the pleasure of seeing the medals in May.

MOUCHOTTE AND LAFONT FAMILIES - Battle of Britain Medal Presentation - Paris

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