Ren Mouchotte Searching For Ren Middelkerke Belgium

Jan Leeming

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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.

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - Middelkerke, Belgium

Date: 20th October 2012

MIDDELKERKE

Last year I visited Middelkerke in order to see the little Memorial to René which I knew was in the Town Hall. When I asked permission to take a photo the man in the cubicle came round and immediately took me to the office of the Archivist – a very young man called Simon. As soon as I mentioned René, his eyes lit up and he was able to immediately put his hands on various documents to do with René’s death, his grave in the local cemetery and the exhumation documents.

It wasn’t until our interview last week that I discovered Simon had only been in post for a couple of months. However he has an interest in WW2 and knew of the Raid on Epérlecques – the mission which ended in René’s death – so he was already familiar with the name of René Mouchotte.

We filmed our interview in the newly opened and fascinating Museum housed in the old Post Office. Simon was an interviewer’s gift – succinct and very knowledgeable. Then I learned something else which shocked me. The stretch of beach on which René’s body was found had also been the depository for around 90 other deceased airmen, sailors, and soldiers – all had perished and been carried by the current to Westende. And so there was a Field of Honour for the fallen in the local cemetery at Middelkerke. Many of the dead, like René, were repatriated but there’s still a small corner, beautifully maintained by the War Graves Commission, containing around 30 headstones. Some like those at other War cemeteries just had a simple inscription stating that it was the grave of an Unknown Soldier, Sailor or Airman. Some had names etched on them but what stood out so poignantly was the youth of these men – most late teens and very early twenties.

Simon furnished us with one piece of documentation which none of us knew existed and that was a letter from René’s mother thanking the Burgomeister for the honour they’d paid her son in dedicating a memorial to him. Simon has sent me a copy and I shall in turn send a copy to the family.

Well the filming is now done and I can say that I am extremely grateful that it is not my job to edit the programme. For one thing I am too close to the content to be able to ‘cut’ anything and for another I simply couldn’t get it down to the ten minutes or so which it will be allocated in the Regional Opt-out ‘Inside Out’ programme slot.

Matthew knows he has enough interesting material to make a half hour documentary but the problem is the difficulting of placing ‘stand alone’ programmes. The programme designers like to have series. However, there was a time only a few months ago when I really had run out of places to go to offer this story so perhaps someone will smile on me and we will get the half hour I truly believe René Mouchotte deserves. But I am incredibly grateful for small mercies and extremely thankful that the BBC has taken up the story and run with it.

The programme will probably be included in an ‘Inside Out’ in December. If not, then it will go out next year which is the 70th Anniversary of René’s death.

Ian Reed - Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum - is doing everything possible to engender some interest on the French side and I've written a half hour script for them to peruse. The French didn't have that many 'heroes' in WW2 so you'd think they'd grab the opportunity to have a programme about René on the 70th Anniversary of his death. However, so many of the folk in TV these days are very young and to them WW2 means absolutely nothing. Ah Well, we will see and I shall continue to offer prayers for further success.

Nothing exciting on the horizon so I may not have too much to write about in the next few weeks. I shall have to find another project - without René to work for, life is going to be rather empty. But I shall now concentrate on improving my French with the aid of the Michel Thomas course I've just purchased.

A Bientôt, Jan

The Field of Honour at Middelkerke Cemetery

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Searching for René - Middelkerke, Belgium

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