Mouchotte, René, born into a wealthy family on 21-08-1914 in Paris, into a wealthy family. René’s passion had been aeroplanes and a picture of Georges Guynemer, the WW1 ace adorned his bedroom. He began his military service in October 1935 with the French Air Force at Istres, where he was promoted to corporal (April 1936), master corporal (March 1937) and sergeant (April 1937); he qualified as a pilot in February 1937. In January 1939, he transferred to the reserve and resumed civilian life. Recalled in September 1939, he was posted to training establishments at Salon-de-Provence and Avord as a flying instructor. Despite several requests to join a fighter squadron, he was transferred to Oran in May 1940 for a conversion course to twin-engined aircraft. After the Armistice, the pilots on the base were ordered not to escape to join the Free French and the aircraft were placed under armed guard. Despite this, Mouchotte and five comrades escaped in a twin-engined Caudron Goéland aircraft, only to find that the controls for the variable-pitch propellers had been disabled, making the take-off hazardous. A remarkable image above showing Charles Guerin (L) and René Mouchotte (R) at the controls of the aircraft they stole to escape to Gibraltar However they did manage to land in Gibraltar and later transferred to the Free French armed trawler, Président Houduce and sailed to England. Photo above in Gibraltar, on 03-07-1940, from left, René Mouchotte, Charles Guérin, Georges Heldt, Henry Lafont et André Sorret. Henry Lafont (10-08-1920 in Cahors – 02-12-2011, age 91) was a French aviator. He was the last surviving French veteran of the Battle of Britain. Over 1000 French aeroplanes arrived in Oran, but after the Armistice, severe punishment threatened those who tried to fight on or join the British. René’s escape put a price on his head. All the Free French were condemned to death by the Vichy Government, and like many French combatants at that time, they either changed their name (like General Leclerc) or simply became anonymous to protect their families at home.
After arriving in Britain Mouchotte trained at RAF Old Sarum and RAF Sutton Bridge on Hawker Hurricanes, before being posted to No. 615 Squadron RAF at RAF Northolt in northwest London. He carried out his first operational sortie on 11-10-1940. The squadron moved to RAF Kenley in December 1940 and in August 1941 Mouchotte participated in the shooting-down of a Junkers 88. In November 1941 he transferred to RAF Turnhouse, where the Free French No. 340 Squadron RAF was training on Spitfires; he became a flight commander in February 1942 and subsequently squadron commander of No. 65 Squadron RAF, the first RAF squadron to be commanded by a non-Commonwealth officer. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 01-09-1942.
Finally he took command of No. 341 Squadron RAF (Groupe de Chasse n° 3/2 “Alsace“) with the Biggin Hill Wing. On 15-05-1943, S/L ‘Jack’ Charles (611 squadron) and Mouchotte both destroyed a Fw 190 of I./JG 2, as the Biggin Hill Wing’s 999th and 1,000th kill claim. Edward Francis John “Jack” Charles, survived the war and died in Vancouver, 05-11-1986, age 67.
René Mouchotte and other Free French Battle of Britain pilots. Nearly all were killed
Death and burial ground of Mouchotte, René.
Mouchotte in his UK-Spitfire-Mk-IXc-MH417 was shot down and killed in combat with Fw 190s of JG 2 during Ramrod S.8, escorting Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid to Blockhaus d’Éperlecques in the Pas de Calais on 27-08-1943, age 29. Rene’s last words on the radio were “I am alone…..” His body was later washed ashore on 3 September and was buried in Middelkerke, Belgium. After the War in 1949, his body was exhumed, repatriated and buried in the family tomb at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris on 3 November after a memorial service with full military honours conducted at Les Invalides in Paris.
In the hall of the town hall in Middelkerke, Netherlands, is a statue for our French Commander René Mouchotte, pilot. In addition, his photo with the text: “Commander René Mouchotte born in Paris 21.08.1914 / shot near Saint-Omer 27.08.1943 / washed up and buried in Middelkerke 03.09.1943 / transferred to Paris 03.11.1949”.
He had accumulated some 1,748 flying hours, including 408 operational hours flying 382 war sorties. He had claimed two aircraft destroyed (with a further one “shared”), one “probable” and one damaged.
Rene’s sister had not seen her only brother since the day he left for war in 1939. She had only heard of his death by secretly listening to the BBC radio during the Occupation and had kept the news from her mother. In May 2012 Jan and Ian were able to show her the film taken in 1943 and hear her brother’s voice for the first time in 70 years. She died three weeks later.