Free French Spitfire Hero (Hardback)
The Diaries of and Search For René Mouchotte
My Search for Rene Mouchotte by Jan Leeming
René Mouchotte was born on 21 August 1914, at Saint Mande, Paris. He joined the Armée de l’Air for his period of military service in 1934, obtaining his flying brevet.
Though Mouchotte returned to civilian life, he was called up at the outbreak of war in 1939, becoming a Sergeant-Pilot instructor in North Africa. When France capitulated in June 1940, Mouchotte and fellow pilot Charles Guerin decided to make their way to the United Kingdom. Along with four other French pilots, Mouchotte made the short flight to Gibraltar on the morning of 30 June. From there he travelled on to Britain, being accepted into the RAF soon after their arrival.
The Battle of Britain was already several weeks old when Mouchotte was posted to 245 Squadron, then based at Aldergrove, on 11 September 1940. A week later he transferred to 615 (County of Surrey) Squadron at Prestwick. Flying Hurricanes, it was with 615 Squadron that Mouchotte became a flight commander, shot down a Junkers Ju 88, and earned a Croix de Guerre. He moved to Turnhouse as Deputy ‘A’ Flight Commander with 340 (Free French) Squadron. He was promoted to captain in March 1942 and awarded the DFC.
On 18 January 1943, Mouchotte returned to Turnhouse to form and command 341 Squadron, which transferred to Biggin Hill. On 15 May 1943, Mouchette and Squadron Leader E.F.J Charles shared the sector’s 1000th victory. Two days later, Mouchotte destroyed a Me 109.
Mouchotte failed to return from a bomber escort to the proposed V2 launch site at Eperlecques, near St. Omer, on 27 August 1943. He was reported ‘Missing’. Later evidence emerged that his body had been washed up on the beach at Middelkerke, Belgium, on 3 September and that he was buried in the town’s cemetery.
Commandant René Gaston Octave Jean Mouchotte DFC, CdeG – one of ‘The Few’ of the Battle of Britain – became one of the most famous Free French pilots of the Second World War, during which he served alongside such notables as the legendary Group Captain ‘Sailor’ Malan and the Wing Commander Al Deere. It is Commandant Mouchotte’s diaries, written between 1940 and 1943, that form the basis of this book. The diaries are introduced and contextualized by the renowned aviation historian Dilip Sarkar, who also forensically examines the story behind Biggin Hill’s 1000th ‘kill’ and the circumstances of René’s last flight, adding new detail to both events.
The TV presenter and newsreader Jan Leeming also reveals her journey into Mouchotte’s courageous and inspirational story – one that began with sponsoring a name on the Sir Christopher Foxley Norris Wall of Remembrance at the Battle of Britain Memorial, Capel-le-Ferne; leaving a letter in the Mouchotte Family Tomb in the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris; a meeting with René’s 101 year old Sister Jacqueline; the realisation that his Battle of Britain Medals had never been forwarded to his family - an omission which was happily rectified. Jacqueline lived long enough to receive the medals which, after her death were presented to the Mouchotte family by the British Ambassador Sir (Lord) Peter Ricketts at the Ambassador’s Residence in Paris. Finally after many years of research and perseverance, Jan had a documentary about her Search for René Mouchotte broadcast in 2013 on BBC South East; BBC South and BBC North. Later that year she was invited to Gibraltar where the RAF HQ was renamed Mouchotte Buildings.
As featured inAirMail - Royal Airforces Association - Autumn 2023
4 out of 5Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)
As featured on Army Rumour Service
As featured inKent Life - March 2023 Issue
His is a very fine story told throughout this book in a diary format and it really is interesting and my favourite kind of read. This book will be of interest to aviation fans and I would say it would interest most people as it is a very intriguing read.The History Fella
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Article: Fascinating book tells of French spitfire aceMalvern Gazette
As featured inThe Shuttle (Kidderminster)
Article: Fascinating book tells of French Spitfire aceWorcester News
27th August 1943
Commandant René Gaston Octave Jean Mouchotte DFC, CdeG – one of ‘The Few’ of the Battle of Britain – became one of the most famous Free French pilots of the Second World War, during which he served alongside such notables as the legendary Group Captain ‘Sailor’ Malan and the Wing Commander Al Deere.