News Release - Issued by Yorkshire Air Museum
Monday 15th September - Paris.
The British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, welcomed the families of 11 French Air Force pilots who escaped France to fight with the RAF during the Battle of Britain in 1940, at a ceremony to present British wartime medals including the coveted Battle of Britain clasp.
The ceremony was organised by the Yorkshire Air Museum & Allied Air Forces Memorial at Elvington, York and took place at the British Embassy in Paris where 41 newly minted British WWll medals were presented by Air Vice Marshal Malcolm Brecht CBE Chief of Staff Capability, HQ Air Command.
Afterwards, a formal ceremony took place under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to commemorate the Battle of Britain and was supported by military representatives from USA, France, Czech Republic, Australia and Poland.
Director of the Yorkshire Air Museum, Ian Reed said afterwards, "It was a very moving ceremony, especially for the families of the 11 French airmen, 9 of whom were killed in action defending our country". Following a similar ceremony two years ago we were asked to research and organise a further Anglo/French event which took about 20 months to locate the families from across France and Italy", he said. “The medals had not been issued after the War”.
The Museum worked closely with the Museé de la Liberation at Les Invalides in Paris and the Defence Attaché in Paris, Air Commodore John Maas CBE, on the project.
NOTES: 13 French Air Force pilots escaped Occupied France in July 1940 and risked their lives to get to Britain where they joined the RAF. The French Vichy Government condemned the young pilots to death and many were killed trying to get to Britain. Those who did, kept their identities secret whilst they flew with the RAF, in order to protect their families back in France.
The French Air Force lost over 2000 airmen in the weeks following the German invasion during May and June 1940.
In 2012 The Yorkshire Air Museum arranged for the medals of Commandant Rene Mouchotte and Col Henry Lafont, two famous French fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, to be returned to their families. Following this the Museum was asked to organise the event for the remaining French pilots.
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