Ren Mouchotte Documentary 28Th Jan 2013

Jan Leeming

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RENÉ MOUCHOTTE - Documentary 28th Jan. 2013

Date: 27th January 2013

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE – DOCUMENTARY

This time tomorrow I will be preparing a very small party for the half dozen people who have helped and encouraged me in my long trek to get a documentary made about this interesting man.  (Those in France will have to wait till I go over there next time)

I can’t believe that I first ‘met’ René in mid 2007. My first year was occupied mainly with reading his diaries and following up references on the Internet. As I collated more and more information I began to feel that this man and his war time feelings and exploits should be shared with a wider audience.

Year two - I approached endless Production Companies to see if they might be interested. Two were, and that meant a twelve month wait, nearly six months each time for a response from Commissioning Editors (the Gods of Television). At every turn I was frustrated but nearly blew a gasket when the negative reply from Yesterday was that René wasn’t ‘famous enough’!!! (I watch Yesterday and felt that a placement here would have been appropriate) And what is ‘fame’ – if you look at so many of the famous today, I’m grateful that René wasn’t seen in that category.

After the rejections I slowed down for a while and then in 2011 I visited Middelkerke in Belgium and spoke with the young archivist who filled in more details of his interment first in the ‘Field of Honour’ at the local cemetery and then his repatriation to France six years later. In July, I took advantage of a stay with my friends in Paris to visit the Mouchotte family tomb in the famous Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris. By this time, knowing the married name of his sister I saw that a memorial plaque to her was not in the tomb though there was one to her husband – in other words it proved that she would not have been buried in a tomb belonging to her husband’s family. She had to be alive. I returned the next day and left a letter (translated by my friends) in the tomb. In November I had an email from one of her sons in law and an invitation to visit Madame Quentin Mouchotte. Hiring a cameraman, I went to Paris the day after her 101st Birthday and interviewed her in her beautiful apartment full of memorabilia of her brother as well as the portraits and fans of her famous Grandfather Duvelleroy.
Because of being in Paris I also went to the funeral of Henry Lafont – another Free French pilot who had escaped from Oran with René when the Vichy capitulated to the Germans. They stole a partially decommissioned plane, limped to Gibraltar and thence came by sea to the UK.

At Lafont’s funeral it was noticed that the cushion bearing his medals had a notable omission – his Battle of Britain Medals.  Were René's missing too?

My friend Ian Reed – Director of the Allied Air Forces Museum at Elvington just outside York – got to work and obtained the official papers which the families completed. We received the medals in February 2012 and though Ian was working hard to attain an official presentation we eventually took them to Madame Quentin in May because she was in failing health. She died 3 weeks later. Hubert de Lisle, one of her sons in law who’d given me endless help was kind enough to suggest that she’d kept going in the hope that she would see the medals and a documentary. Sadly the latter was not to be confirmed whilst she was still alive but if you believe in a hereafter then she knows!

An official presentation of the medals to the Mouchotte and Lafont families took place in the British Ambassador’s residence on July 13th in the presence of the Ambassador and the two Chiefs of the Air Staff – Sir Stephen Dalton and Col. Jean Paul Palomèros.

After the ceremony I was almost at the point of giving up and contenting myself with the thought that I’d write a small book about my journey and publish it for myself and a few friends.

Then through a friend of a friend, and because of René's  involvement in the South East the commissioning editor of the BBC gave her consent to a short insert into the Regional opt out programme ‘Inside Out’. I’m pleased to say that the original designated ten minutes crept up to 15 and the producer Matthew Wheeler has done a tremendous job in editing all the material into the time. He and I know there’s enough material to richly fill a half hour but I must be thankful for small mercies and I am. It may only be half the programme but at least the story will now reach a wider audience and it might encourage more to look at the remarkable story of the Battle of Britain in general. Had it not been for that victory life might have been very different for us.

I do hope you will enjoy the programme if you are able to receive it. I still hope that some enlightened being will allow this interesting and heroic man’s story to be made into a half hour documentary viewable by a wider audience.

Just a reminder of how to view if you are outside the SE Region – and to let you know that the story occupies half the programme.

SEARCHING FOR RENÉ – BBC 1 SE Region ‘Inside Out’ – 28th January 7.30pm and on BBC HD. Anyone in the UK will be able to watch on the iPlayer for 7 days immediately after broadcast. But they will also be able to watch as it is transmitted on Sky (channel 963), Freesat (channel 959) and Freeview (channel 858).

There was also a full page article in the Kent papers but unfortunately, even though I had it reduced to A4 I’m unable to print it on the web. However they did use my favourite photo of René – the one I have in a frame at my flat.

 


 

RENÉ MOUCHOTTE -  Documentary 28th Jan. 2013

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