Battle Of Britain Memorial Service Rene Mouchotte

Jan Leeming

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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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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.

BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL SERVICE - RENE MOUCHOTTE

Date: 6th July 2008

BATTLE OF BRITAIN MEMORIAL SERVICE.

This was the 68th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain ( and 2008 marks the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the RAF)  The Ceremony takes place at Capel Le Ferne  about halfway between Folkestone and Dover. This is the area over which much of the Battle of Britian was fought from July to October 1940.  There is a very impressive Memorial. It takes the form of an immense three bladed propeller, each blade 38 metres long, cut into the cliff top.  In the centre, the stone figure of a lone pilot is seated on a sandstone base on which are carved the badges of the squadrons and units who fought in the Battle of Britain.

The Service is a glittering affair with not only the top Brass from the UK but also representatives from the Armed Services in Australia, America, Canada etc.  Those who have them wear their Decorations and the Ladies are invited to wear hats.  I bought one yesterday but the weather forecast was such, and the hat so big, I thought I could have been swept away by the wind and landed in France!  So I went comfortably clad and hatless.  Many of the women in attendance looked very glamorous.

Sir Donald Sinden, Nick Owen, Diane Keen - to mention a few of the personalities - were in attendance and of course, the stars of the occasion were the few remaining veterans and, like last year, I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to a 93 year old.  OK, he sometimes lost the thread of his stories but he was very interesting.

The heavens opened at the end of lunch, just before the Service began and for a while it was a possibility that we would have stayed in the luncheon marquee and had the service there but in the end it all took place outside.  The Service is relatively short and very moving but, for me, the event which brings the tears to my eyes is the old veterans marching so proudly.  When you think of the thousands of young men, some hardly out of their teens, who were killed, maimed, blinded and burned, in doing their duty for their country, and you look at so many of the 'feral' youth of today, you wonder where it all went wrong.  But, I suppose the War was so long ago that it is an irrelevancy to the modern youth.  Few of them would even stop to think that, had it not been for the deaths of brave servicemen, England would be a very different country - a conquered nation.

Better not get me on to the subject of the lack of morals, shame, respect and basic  honesty - or I'll 'tub thump' all day.

At the Memorial Site there is also an impressive Granite Memorial Wall listing the names of almost 3000 who fought in the Battle of Britian.  Donations towards the cost of the wall are still being sought and members of the public are invited to sponsor a pilot for a minimum donation of £30.  Last year, I filled in a form, sent a cheque, and thought no more about it.  Then I received a letter asking if I had any special request.  Being of Huguenot extraction I replied that it really didn't matter but if there were a French pilot's name which needed sponsorship then I'd be very happy with that.  So I sponsored Rene Mouchotte  - the First Frenchman to command a squadron of the RAF.  He was shot down over Belgium in 1943 and his body was washed up on a Belgian beach.  Later his family had him re - interred in France in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery NE of Paris.  I've visited that incredibly interesting Necropolis but my purpose many years ago was to see the tomb of Heloise and Abelard - 12th Century Lovers with an amazingiy romantic  story - even more amazing because it was true.  You will also find the tombs of such illustrious people as Chopin, Bizet, Oscar Wilde, Edit Piaf, Jim Morrison and the list goes on and on.

Now I want to go back and find the tomb of Commandant Rene Mouchotte.  

If you look him up on the Internet, there's masses about him and you will find that there are many streets in Paris and other cities named after him just as there are streets named after Jean Moulin.

Many years ago we visited the War Museum at Caen and I was fascinated to learn more about Jean Moulin - the French Resistance Fighter.  The reason being that we had our holidays in Provence for a decade and on the road into Salon we travelled along the Rue Jean Moulin.  On the side of the road was a very haunting sculpture in memory of him and I could never decide whether it was a figure parachuting down to earth or a figure being tortured and hanging from chains.  Jean Moulin was betrayed and died at the hands of the Germans.  (A little note of interest, I thought he looked like the film star James Mason)

Anyway, if you want to know more about these two brave men, who fought for our freedom, then do a Google search on the Internet.

Better sign off now.  Take care,  Jan

P.S.  I am beginning to get a little feedback through the Website, so I repeat if there are any questions, about my life in Television and Theatre, or work with Cheetahs etc. please press the Contact button and Simon will always pass on requests.  If you don't  get in touch, I'm going to run out of subjects about which to write!!!!!

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