Ren Mouchotte Searching For Ren The Documentary

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.

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - the Documentary

Date: 15th October 2012

 RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René – the Documentary

Apologies for there not being any blogs recently but I’ve had my head down working hard on scripts, permissions and suggestions for filming schedule. Have also written a half hour script for French TV and Ian Reed – my colleague who is Director of the Yorkshire – Allied Air Forces – Museum has been pushing that through the good offices of his lovely French PA – Sandrine.

Last week was totally taken up with filming. On Monday we were at Biggin Hill and Capel le Ferne and on Wednesday travelled via Eurotunnel to Calais and on to Paris, filmed in Paris on Wednesday and then drove on up to Belgium and Westende where René’s body was washed ashore on September 3rd 1943 a week after he went missing.

Let me give you a breakdown of the filming and even more interesting facts which came to light.

BIGGIN HILL

Part of the old quarters at Biggin are still MOD property. Last year when I was taking a photo of the sign – Mouchotte Close – I was stopped by a Lt. Col who asked what I was doing on MOD property. After explaining about my research into René Mouchotte, I was invited in for a cup of tea and told that all the folk who resided in Mouchotte Close were given an opportunity to read a copy of his Diaries and then they signed the book and passed it on.

Currently living in the Close is another Lt. Col who very kindly agreed to be interviewed. He hadn’t been living there for long but he was familiar with Mouchotte’s name – why? - the Airfield named after René at Cambrai was where the tanks came to a halt in the first World War and my guest was from the Royal Tank Regiment.

Then we moved onto St. George’s Chapel and the current mess of the local ATC where I was reminded of the fact that as the time drew near to the downing of the 1000th German plane, the chaps were refusing to go on leave so high was the drama.

In the Chapel we filmed the lovely Book of Remembrance which bears the names of all those who flew from Biggin and were killed in combat during World War 2. (The Book took three years to illuminate and was a gift from the parents of a pilot killed when stationed at Biggin) On the Sunday closest to the day of death, the names are read out at the service. We also filmed the Reredos, the Scramble Bell and the floor which looks like parquet and indeed it is with one amazing difference – it is made from old wooden propellers off dismantled planes.

The lovely Curator at the Chapel- Laurie - then came to tell me he had arranged for me to sit in a Spitfire Mark IX (The Spirit of Kent). It was in a Mark IX that René met his death so it was a poignant moment.

Then we drove down to the Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le- Ferne where we filmed the Memorial and the lovely Wall of Remembrance as well as two interviews with a Professor of Modern History and the Secretary of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust whose wife picked the name of René Mouchotte from the 13 names of the Free French etched onto the Wall of Remembrance.

Gosh, what a windy and cold place is Capel. After two and a half hours of filming I was so cold my teeth were chattering. I think I’ve only ever been that told once before when I visited Siberia!!

The guys didn't think I'd be able to climb into the cockpit - just watch me!  I wasn't going to miss this opportunity so took off my shoes, hitched up my skirt and got in.

 



 

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - the Documentary

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