Free French Air Forces remembered at WWII commemorations
Ceremony commemorating the allied air forces of the Second World War was also an occasion to remember brave French fighter pilots who died for their country
10 September 2015
A ceremony that took place at the former Elvington air base – now the Yorkshire Air Museum – on Sunday 6 September 2015 commemorated the allied air forces as well as the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
Organized by museum director Ian Reed and under the authority of the Royal Air Force’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Andrew Pulford, it was an opportunity for the senator for French nationals living abroad, Olivier Cadic, Honorary Consul Jeremy Burton and the French Embassy’s air attaché, Colonel Patrice Morand, to pay tribute to French airmen of the Free French Air Forces integrated into the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
Twelve French fighter pilots took part in the Battle of Britain including Commandant Mouchotte, who had the honour of being the first Frenchman to command a group of RAF fighters. Considered deserters and sentenced to death by the Vichy Regime, these brave pilots were among the first to respond to General de Gaulle’s appeal to carry on fighting. Their example inspired others and it was subsequently two fighter groups, Alsace and Ile de France, as well as two bomber groups, Tunisie and Guyenne, that would progressively be formed across the Channel.
A veritable French air base in the United Kingdom, Elvington had more than 2,000 French personnel, permitting 2,447 raids by Halifax bombers between June 1944 and November 1945. One in every two crews never returned.
The presence of Commandant Mouchotte’s niece and of Mr Paul Bogaert, president of the Association des Anciens et Amis des Groupes Lourds (French Heavy Bomber Veterans Association), added to the solemnity of the ceremony, which was brought majestically to a close by the Red Arrows.