Cockleshell Heroes - 9pm BBC2 1st nov 2011

Discussion in 'Books, Films, TV, Radio' started by Alain, Nov 1, 2011.

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  1. Alain

    Alain Junior Member

  2. kiwigeordie

    kiwigeordie Senior Member

    A great exploit! I remember the movie made in the 50's (?) and seeing it as a kid of maybe 8 or 9 but never seen it since.
    Pete
     
  3. Goodygixxer

    Goodygixxer Senior Member

  4. spconnolly007

    spconnolly007 The 'Shiny Seventh'

    I visited the Maldon Military Services Museum last weekend with my son and there is a display there devoted to Operation Frankton with original equipment on show including a 'Cockleshell Heroes' canoe, worth a visit.
     
  5. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    A superb account and valour and determination to see a task through to the end.Followed the trail of this party using a Michelin 1-200000 map from Blaye to Ruffec.Took a photograph of my young son outside the bar restuarant which we thought where Hasler and Sparkes made contact with the resistance and enjoyed their first hot meal in days....a bowl of off ration soup with seconds.

    Another year we went down the Medoc and called in at all the places listed in the book where they holed up during the day.

    I always think of the party when sailing from Pont de Grave to Royan as the sun set in the West and viewing the Phare de Cordouan near where the lads took to the canoes.
     
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Paddy Ashdown: My tribute to the heroic raiders who took on 10,000 Nazis – in a canoe
    Lord Ashdown, a former Special Forces Commando, on his admiration for the Cockleshell Heroes, who took part in Operation Frankton, one of the most daring and audacious raids of the Second World War - to blow up enemy ships in Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in 1942.

    Lord Ashdown, a former Special Forces Commando, pays tribute to the Cockleshell Heroes.
    By Lord Ashdown8:00AM GMT 01 Nov 20115 Comments
    On a cold starlit night in December 1942, a British submarine, HMS Tuna, surfaced off the mouth of the Gironde estuary in south-west France. Ten Royal Marines under Major “Blondie” Hasler disembarked in five collapsible canoes and paddled off into the darkness: this was the start of Operation Frankton, probably the most daring assault on the Nazi-occupied mainland of the Second World War.
    The mission was next to impossible. After navigating the treacherous tidal waters of the Bay of Biscay, Hasler’s men were to enter by stealth the most heavily defended estuary in Europe, to dodge searchlights, machine-gun posts and armed river patrols, paddle 75 miles upstream to the port of Bordeaux, and plant limpet mines on enemy blockade runners.
    If they managed to achieve all this while evading death and detection by more than 10,000 German troops, their escape route was, if anything, even more treacherous. It was too risky for the submarine to wait; the Marines would have to ditch their canoes and escape Nazi-occupied France on foot, over the Pyrenees. It was a suicide mission in all but name.
    The story of Operation Frankton, and what became of those extraordinary young men and their inspirational leader has been in my bloodstream since I joined the Royal Marines at the age of 18. Their exploits laid the foundations of the Special Boat Service, of which I was later privileged to become a member. That is one of the reasons why, over the last 18 months, I have so enjoyed writing a book – A Brilliant Little Operation, which will be published by Aurum Press next August, to mark the 70th anniversary of their raid – and making a BBC documentary about them which will be shown this Tuesday.
    Some parts of this story have been told before, most famously (and inaccurately) in the 1955 film The Cockleshell Heroes. In the Fifties, it was told in the style of a Boy’s Own adventure, a tale of derring-do to cheer up bankrupt Britain during those years of gloom after the War. However, after months of research and interviews with some of the surviving participants, a more complex story has emerged.

    This was not, by any means, a perfect mission: only two Marines survived, Hasler and Bill Sparks. Of the remaining eight, two died of hypothermia after their canoe capsized, and the other six were captured by the Germans at various points, interrogated and shot. And although Hasler and three of his men did eventually, incredibly reach the port of Bordeaux undetected, the damage their mines inflicted on the German shipping there was relatively minor and quickly repaired. What’s worse, we now know that, as well as Hasler’s Combined Operations raid, a second secret British mission, ordered by the Special Operations Executive (SOE), was active in Bordeaux at the same time, in the same place and with orders to attack the same ships. If there had been better communication in London, Operation Frankton may not have been necessary at all.
    So this multi-layered story is not just about the outstanding courage and spirit of the Cockleshell Heroes. It is also a tale of deceit, duplication and cock-up in Whitehall.
    Despite this, Operation Frankton was important in three significant ways.
    First, the audacity of the raid shocked the Germans to the core, forcing them to deploy more troops to defend their coastline. Second, it proved an inspiration to the French Resistance: there was a vast ramping-up of sabotage attacks once news of Frankton spread. Third, as a result of the two overlapping British missions working at cross purposes, the SOE and Combined Ops started to work together in ways which had a profound impact on D-Day.
    Was this worth the lives of eight remarkable young Marines? It is difficult to justify any person’s death. But I think in the climate of the War at the time, yes it was.
    So why should modern audiences be returning to Operation Frankton now, almost 70 years on? Some might argue that the Second World War is a period of European history best left behind. I disagree. As George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I was once asked in which age I would most like to have lived. My answer was either the age of Nelson and Wellington, during the Peninsula War, or the Second World War. The latter was truly our finest hour; of course we should remember it.
    In this age of easy living, when we are seldom asked to choose between ourselves and something greater, these Marines ought to be an inspiration. We hear Cameron, Clegg and Miliband talking about the “something for nothing society”. Well, we have a thing or two to learn from those who were prepared to sacrifice their lives for a higher cause. The story of the Cockleshell Heroes is not about glory. It is ultimately about humanity, and offers a profound lesson for our age.
    The Most Courageous Raid of WWII will be broadcast on Tuesday 1 November on BBC Two at 9pm; Scot, 11.20pm

    Paddy Ashdown: My tribute to the heroic raiders who took on 10,000 Nazis – in a canoe - Telegraph
     
  7. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Threads merged.
     
  8. TomTAS

    TomTAS Very Senior Member

    Hi All,

    Saw this and another great WW2 programme lets hope there are more of this...

    Cheers
    Tom
     
  9. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    I thought it was an excellent documentary and that Paddy Ashdown was a surprisingly good Presenter. Saying that, I shouldn't be too surprised really though as Timewatch usually does make for good television.
     
  10. La-de-da-Gunner Graham

    La-de-da-Gunner Graham Senior Member

    I thought it was an excellent documentary and that Paddy Ashdown was a surprisingly good Presenter. Saying that, I shouldn't be too surprised really though as Timewatch usually does make for good television.

    It surprised me too. It was a very good programme. The bravery of those men...

    Keith
     
  11. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    What saddened me was the lack of liaison between the various commands i.e. SOE and Combined Operations - led to the waste of resources and lives.
     
  12. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    You had to laugh at the comment of M.R.D Foot that on the secrecy involved in working for SOE that you "couldn't tell your wife, your children or your mistress"
     
  13. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Agree it was a very good documentary with excellent reconstructions. Paddy Ashdown was a better presenter than I would have given him credit for, apart from a little too much hyperbole at the start. I thought this a much better documentary than the Operation Jericho one last week.

    Ashdown spent a lot of time at the National Archives over the last year so wonder if he actually involved himself in the research for this programme? More to his credit if he did.

    Lee
     
  14. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Ashdown spent a lot of time at the National Archives over the last year so wonder if he actually involved himself in the research for this programme? More to his credit if he did.

    Lee

    Lee

    Paddy Ashdown is in the process of writing a book on the raid. From the Telegraph article posted by Jedbugh yesterday..

    "I have so enjoyed writing a book – A Brilliant Little Operation, which will be published by Aurum Press next August, to mark the 70th anniversary of their raid"
     
  15. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    I must admit that the hype alarm went off as he finished his intro with the comment about the raid's contribution to D-Day, but it all turned out OK in the end. Fancy placing the limpet mines above the waterline, though!

    It will be interesting to see who will be presenting the remaining programmes. Hopefully, Timewatch is going back to using 'relevant' rather than 'generic' presenters after that Omaha one with Richard Hammond.
     
  16. PsyWar.Org

    PsyWar.Org Archive monkey

    Lee

    Paddy Ashdown is in the process of writing a book on the raid. From the Telegraph article posted by Jedbugh yesterday..

    "I have so enjoyed writing a book – A Brilliant Little Operation, which will be published by Aurum Press next August, to mark the 70th anniversary of their raid"

    Ah that'll teach me for not reading the other posts properly. I'll put his book on my 'to read' list.

    You had to laugh at the comment of M.R.D Foot that on the secrecy involved in working for SOE that you "couldn't tell your wife, your children or your mistress"

    That made me snigger too. It also reminded me of an amusing comment about SOE in one of the Naval Intelligence Department histories:

    "SOE became a thorn in the flesh... being very young, was a little blinded by the cloak and dazzled by the dagger... Some time was to pass before the fierce young animal became house trained".
     
  17. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Hopefully, Timewatch is going back to using 'relevant' rather than 'generic' presenters after that Omaha one with Richard Hammond.

    Idler

    I take your point but I suppose that depends on your personal taste with regards to the Presenter. Michael Palin presented the Timewatch programme on the Last Day of WW1 and although not particularly 'relevent' to the subject was very polished, professional and smooth in his delivery to the camera. That for me makes the viewing experience all the more enjoyable.
     
  18. idler

    idler GeneralList Patron

    'Relevant' may not have been the best description, but I didn't want to use 'expert' as there have been plenty of good, non-specialist presenters. I do remember the Palin one and, watching it, it never crossed my mind that he wasn't a good choice.
     
  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Tonight, at last.. A programme about the Cockleshell Heroes / Operation Frankton. For me one of the best stories of WW2.
    The programme is on at 9pm tonight on BBC2.
    Alain.

    La Resistance Francaise: Cockleshell Heroes / Operation Frankton / M. Mariuad - Ruffec

    As illustrated,C E Lucas Phillips account is the best reference for this raid.Comprehensive detail enables one to follow the raid from launching the canoes,the journey down the Gironde with day stop on the top side of the Medoc and the other day stops on the mud islands which are a feature of the higher Gironde.The planting of the limpets,(unlike the programme I thought that they were placed below the water line with a pole device.).Then the withdrawal of Hasler and Sparkes up the Gironde,abandoning their canoe at Blaye and making their way across country to Ruffec for prearranged help.They did not get much help on this trek apart from hospitality from poor farmer who lived in one room with alarge number of children.One room with an earth floor,they recieved a hot meal and a drop of wine.(I wonder why this man was not searched out and publicly thanked after the war.)

    There was no mention of this in the programme played by the those helpers at Ruffec.The intention was that the escapers should contact Mary Lindell at Ruffec but she was away at the time and her son Maurice's mobility was impaired by a broken leg.Eventually contact was made from their stop at the bar restaurant and they stayed holed up in a cottage outside Ruffec, with the utmost security, for three weeks until arrangements were made to pass them to Lyon.From there, the two were passed to Spain,quite a long journey, then on to Gib.

    From Gib,Hasler was flown home but Sparkes had to come home by sea,I think it was Liverpool and there he had to go through extensive security checks to prove who he was.He could n't turn round and say I am returning from a special operation in Bordeaux.

    Overall cordination for any task whether it be wartime or not is esential to get maximum benefit from resources available.Coordination and liaison was lacking for the simple reason that departments had their own agendas underpinned by "only informing those who had a need to know"

    As regards support from other departments,there is no better example of Arthur Harris's hostility with transfering Bomber Command aircraft and crews to Coastal Command to counter the U Boat threat diverting resources away from their primary task.

    SOE duty and support using Bomber Command aircraft and crews was also done reluctantly by Harris.He was more critical of the help when he found that aircraft and crews had been lost over Holland, a direct result of the failure to detect the Nordpole game conducted by the German Abwehr.

    Overall the programme did not illustrate the full story.
     
  20. Alain

    Alain Junior Member

    Overall I thought the programme was good, but needed to be 2 hours long to tell the whole story of how Hasler and Sparkes got back to England. In the book mentioned by harry above the journey to Ruffec is an excellent story all on its own and full of humour!
    The lack of liason between SOE and Combined Operations beggers belief and it seems a strange coincidence that the attacks were almost planned for the same day. Nice to see an interview with the fisherman's wife who had helped and fed them on the 1st day. I've spent many a summers day at the beach at Meschers looking out into the estuary picturing in my mind their voyage, incredible story. Alain.
     

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