The Cockelshell Heroes - Operation Frankton survivors reach their target
Updated: Mar 5
Of the six two man canoes that had been brought to the French coast by HMS Tuna on the 7th December, only five had been launched because one canoe was damaged getting off the submarine. Two canoes were lost during the first phase when making their way to the river mouth – they encountered unexpectedly heavy seas and a strong tidal race. The three remaining canoes made their way up the Gironde estuary to the harbour basin of Bordeaux. As they lay up in hiding during the first day one pair of crew were discovered and captured by the Germans.The remaining two crews continued in their journey upstream for the following four nights, making slower progress than expected because of a strong ebb tide. Each day they hid up in the undergrowth beside the river as the Germans mounted a search for them. The attack was postponed until the night of 11th/12th December. On that night Major Hasler and Marine Bill Sparks in canoe ‘Catfish’ and Corporal A. F. Laver and Marine W. H. Mills in canoe ‘Crayfish’ made the attack they had been planning for the past few months. The Germans appeared to be taken in by their camouflage and they went on to attach their limpet mines. Six ships were badly damaged as consequence of their attack. The four men then made their some way down river before sinking their canoes. They then set off on foot across occupied France in separate pairs. Laver and Mills were caught by the Germans two days later. Hasler and Sparks eventually met up with the French Resistance whose members helped them to escape to Spain, where they arrived after walking over the Pyrenees in February 1943. They arrived back in Britain in April. All the surviving members of the crews who had been captured by the Germans were executed under the Commando Order.
More 'Dits' here:
or read Or Read Lord Paddy Ashdown's book:A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War 2 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brilliant-Little-Operation-Cockleshell-Courageous/dp/1781311250/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1481708484&sr=1-1&keywords=a+brilliant+little+operation