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Cockleshell Heroes' raid commemorated

Cockleshell Heroes’ raid commemorated
10 May 2017
A team of former Servicemen is to retrace the journey of the Cockleshell Heroes to mark the 75th anniversary of the raid.

Members of the Pilgrim Bandits Charity will paddle from the Bay of Biscay up the Gironde estuary and river to the French port of Bordeaux from May 27 to June 2.

The eight will be joined by former Wren Sarah Holmes, the great niece of one of the original WW2 commandos George Sheard.

Immortalised in the film The Cockleshell Heroes, Operation Frankton was a strategic attack on German shipping in Bordeaux in December 1942, carried out by a small unit of canoe-sculling Royal Marines.

Royal Naval Submarine HMS Tuna sailed from Holy Loch in Scotland with six clippers (canoes) and 34 commandos on board. In horrendous weather and, despite a previously undetected minefield, HMS Tuna surfaced ten miles from the mouth of the Gironde estuary in the Bay of Biscay.

Whilst unloading one clipper was wrecked so only five set out. Fighting against strong winds and tides, which resulted in the loss of another canoe, the remaining four crews paddled non-stop for five nights (sleeping during the day) to cover the 60 miles upstream to Bordeaux.

With the arsenal of limpet mines they had carried, the commandos successfully destroyed two German naval trawlers, 12 E boats, 12 patrol boats and six M-Class mine sweepers. Just two men survived the mission. Eight were executed and two more died of hypothermia.

The Pilgrim Bandits expedition is designed to honour all the fallen of WW2 and commemorate the huge achievement made by all those that took part in Operation Frankton.

Those taking part include former Royal Marine and double-leg amputee Vincent Manley.

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