POSTPONED - Jan Leeming - Searching for René Mouchotte: An Illustrated Talk by TV Presenter & Newsreader Jan Leeming

22 November 2023 

This talk has been postponed to Spring 2024.

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 Rent'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 Rene'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. 


Jan Leeming will be signing copies of The Mouchotte Diaries, a book on the French airman co-authored with well-known Battle of Britain author Dilip Sarkar which will be available to purchase on the evening.


Although best known as a BBC Newsreader in the 1980's, Jan's career has been much more varied and exciting. Born in Kent, she's now been a resident for 25 years.

She went to New Zealand and Australia in the early 60's and became the first Woman Newsreader in Sydney where she fulfilled her dream of an acting career. A personal tragedy drove her back to the UK where, unable to find enough theatre work to pay the bills, she returned to TV and worked for 15 years in documentaries and Light Entertainment programmes for various channels, many now defunct - Granada, HTV

West, Westward, also BBC Plymouth, Bristol and Scotland At HTV West In Bristol, for 7 years, Jan co-hosted the nightly News Programme and presented her own show 'Women Only'. She was heavily involved in Corporate work in the 80's and 90's and has appeared on innumerable programmes as a guest - Blankety Blank, Top Secret, Cash in the Attic, Come Dine with me. In 2006, Jan took part in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. She has worked with Cheetahs at Spier Sanctuary in Cape Town which led to her participating in the BBC Series 'Safari School.  More recently she was one of 8 retirees who took part in the first of several series of the BBC's 'Real Marigold Hotel' Her proudest achievement was years of research into a WW2 Free French Pilot, René Mouchotte, whose name she sponsored on the Battle of Britain Memorial Wall at Capel le Ferne, near Folkestone. This research resulted in a BBC SE Documentary and more recently Jan was thrilled to be active in having his Diaries republished in English with a Foreword by Lord Ricketts and an Epilogue detailing her extensive 15 year search into this enigmatic man who lost his life in 1943 fighting for Freedom.


Jan has been a Volunteer at Canterbury Cathedral for 12 years and more recently has been giving talks on the Black Prince and Archbishop Thomas Becket.

Jan is passionate about Animals and supports several Animal Charities.

She has two rescue Papillons - one came from Battersea and the other from Papillon rehoming. She has one son, Jonathan, who lives in Australia.

This talk has been postponed to Spring 2024