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Free French Spitfire Hero (Hardback)

The Diaries of and Search For René Mouchotte

Aviation > Aircraft > Spitfires & Hurricanes Aviation > WWII Military P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWII

By Jan Leeming, René Mouchotte DFC, Dilip Sarkar MBE
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 50 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399040273
Published: 16th November 2022



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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 in

AirMail - Royal Airforces Association - Autumn 2023

4 out of 5

As featured on Army Rumour Service

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

As featured in

Kent 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.

Read full review Here

The History Fella

Article: Fascinating book tells of French spitfire ace

Malvern Gazette

As featured in

The Shuttle (Kidderminster)

Article: Fascinating book tells of French Spitfire ace

Worcester News

About Jan Leeming

In 2007 the well-known former BBC newsreader, TV presenter and celebrity, JAN LEEMING was moved to sponsor a name on the Christopher Foxley-Norris Memorial Wall at the Battle of Britain Memorial. Having French ancestry, Jan decided to sponsor a Free French pilot. She chose René Mouchotte; a decision which launched her on an emotional journey of discovery.

About René Mouchotte DFC

Commandant RENÉ MOUCHOTTE DFC, CdG, was a French Air Force pilot who, following the German invasion of his homeland in 1940, flew from Oran to Gibraltar to volunteer for the Free French forces. Serving in the RAF’s Fighter Command, he rose to command a fighter wing before being shot down and killed on 27 August 1943.

 Dilip Sarkar MBE

About Dilip Sarkar MBE

Dilip Sarkar has now written over sixty well-received books. Having enjoyed a privileged relationship with many of The Few, he is a globally acknowledged expert on the Battle of Britain, currently working on a career-topping eight volume official history for The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust and National Memorial to The Few. Described by the late Dr Gordon Mitchell, son of the Spitfire’s designer RJ Mitchell, as an ‘aviation detective’, Dilip Sarkar did actually begin his professional life as just that – a police detective. His evidence-based approach and ability to discover new material is well-known – in 2023, for example, he was responsible for having Air Chief-Marshal Sir Keith Park, a New Zealander, officially recognised as one of The Few. Made an MBE for ‘services to aviation history’ in 2003, Dilip was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society in 2006, achieved First Class Honours in Modern History as a mature student in 2010, and in 2024 was made both a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and member of London’s Royal Air Force Club. During his long career, Dilip has exhibited and spoken internationally at such prestigious venues as Oxford University, the RAF Museum, IWM Museum, and Airborne Museum, Oosterbeek; he has worked on many TV documentaries, on and off screen, again internationally, and has an engaging presence on YouTube and Facebook in particular.

Died on this day - René Mouchotte

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.

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