RAF Gibraltar commemorated the Battle of Britain by re-naming their headquarters building after one of the brave RAF Fighter Pilots who fought during the historic campaign.Rene Mouchotte
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach along with TV personality/presenter Jan Leeming unveiled the name change from Jaguar Building to The Rene Mouchotte Building.
Rene Mouchotte lost his life aged only 29. Prior to joining the RAF he was a World War II pilot of the French Air Force, who escaped from Vichy French-controlled Oran to join the Free French Forces. After the 1940 Armistice pilots were ordered not to escape 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 propellers had been disabled, however, they managed to land in Gibraltar using a map taken from a geography book and he later sailed to England and joined the British RAF.
He was shot down and killed in combat with Focke Wulf 190’s JG 2 during Ramrod S.8, escorting Flying Fortresses on the first daylight raid to Blockhaus d’éperlecques in Pas de Calais on 27th August 1943. His body was later washed ashore on 3rd September and 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 3rd November following a memorial service with full military honours conducted at Les Invalides in Paris.
Rene had accumulated some 1.748 flying hours, including 408 operational hours flying 382 sorties. He had claimed 2 (and 1 shared) aircraft destroyed, 1 'probable and 1 damaged. After the war, his diaries and flying logs were complied into a book by Andre Dezarrois which was publish in France in 1947 as „Mes Carnets”; in 1956 it was translated into English as ‘The Mouchotte Diaries’.
Vice Chief of the Defence Staff – Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach unveiled a name change to the Royal Air Force Gibraltar headquarters building on Saturday 17th Sept 2013 to the Rene Mouchette Building.
Jan has a deep interest in the short but brave life of Rene Mouchotte following a Battle of Britain Memorial at Capel-le-Ferne where she was asked if she would like to sponsor a name plaque on the wall; she was given the name Rene Mouchotte. Jan researched his history and felt compelled to share his story with the world which is what prompted her to produce a documentary for the BBC which was shown on 'Inside Out' about the life of Rene Mouchotte Jan said:
“I have never thought of coming to the Rock before and I am absolutely thrilled, this is the 70th anniversary of Rene’s death and to have a building named after him on the Rock where he escaped to from Oran when the Vichy capitulated to the Germans. It is just wonderful.”
RAF Station Commander Wing Commander Jim Holland opened the ceremony and said: „We are very honoured this weekend that Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach has been able to come back here two years after he opened this building. I thought it was very fitting as he opened it that he should rename it as well.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach was delighted to be in Gibraltar to be part of the Battle of Britain Commemorations and said: : “It is great to be back in Gibraltar, to recognise Mouchotte as a famous aviator and also to remember our heritage here at RAF Gibraltar.”
He spoke about how people not only in Gibraltar but worldwide were aware of the Royal Air Force’s history in Gibraltar and reflected back to March 1943 when Gibraltar had 254 airplanes on the airfield which is a stark contrast to the now commercially used RAF Gibraltar of today.
During the ceremony a commissioned painting by artist Mandy Shepherd was also unveiled and Jan Leeming’s documentary on the life of Rene Mouchotte played in the background bringing the story to life.
As part of the commemoration weekend two RAF Typhoons were in Gibraltar and visitors were able to climb up and have a good look inside. The Typhoons conducted a sortie on Saturday night and a majestic fly-past took place over the Gibraltar Officers Mess in honour of those who lost their lives.
The weekend concluded with a church service to remember those who had fought in the Battle of Britain and subsequent conflicts in order to keep our nation safe.
Source / Author: RAF