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Book A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War 2

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A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War 2

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of World War 2.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Paddy Ashdown(Author)

    Book details


The complete story of the remarkable canoe raid on German ships in Bordeaux Harbour – by the man who himself served in the Special Boat Squadron.

In 1942, before El Alamein turned the tide of war, the German merchant fleet was re-supplying its war machine with impunity. So Operation Frankton, a daring and secret raid, was launched by Mountbatten’s Combined Operations and led by the enigmatic ‘Blondie’ Hasler – to paddle ‘Cockleshell’ canoes right into Bordeaux harbour and sink the ships at anchor.

It was a desperately hazardous mission from the start – dropped by submarine to canoe some hundred miles up the Gironde into the heart of Vichy France, surviving terrifying tidal races, only to face the biggest challenge of all: escaping across the Pyrenees. Fewer than half the men made it to Bordeaux; only four laid their mines; just two got back alive. But the most damage was done to the Germans’ sense of impregnability.

Paddy Ashdown, himself a member of the Royal Marines’ elite Special Boat Squadron formed as a consequence of Frankton, has always been fascinated by this classic story of bravery and ingenuity - as a young man even meeting his hero Hasler once. Now, after researching previously
unseen archives and tracing surviving witnesses, he has written the definitive account of the raid. The real truth, he discovers – a deplorable tale of Whitehall rivalry and breakdowns in communication – serves only to make the achievements of the ‘Cockleshell’ heroes all the more heroic.

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Book details

  • PDF | 416 pages
  • Paddy Ashdown(Author)
  • Aurum Press Ltd; PB Reissue edition (2 May 2013)
  • English
  • 5
  • History

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Review Text

  • By Lindsey Clare Gee-Turner on 21 March 2017

    Another good War book - see elsewhere on my Profile page for The Cruel Victory & Game of Spies by same author. It's difficult to decide which you like best but you learn something from all of them - I think Game of Spies my favourite! Very good writer - wonderful style.

  • By S J TALLOWIN on 20 June 2017

    Very well written & a great read which included many details that I did not know. Recommended

  • By Mike 46 on 14 September 2017

    Very underated story. Very indepth book

  • By Huw Gibby on 4 February 2013

    I bought this book as I'd seen the film about the Cockleshell Heroes which really inspired me. This book is an amazingly detailed in-depth account with almost everything verified. It starts off rather slowly and you have to get through a lot of background Ministry information and quite a lot of Forces jargon, and I initially thought that the amount of detailed & cross-referenced verification was spoiling what is a great true story. Don't be put off by this as it really does set the scene. You soon understand why it took Paddy Ashdown 2 years to write this book as the subject is very close to his heart because of his own involvement in the Special Forces. He is clearly determined to write the definitive record which will stand the test of time, with the most careful & accurate research, including the Marine Museum's records, German & French records & interviews with as many people who were involved as was possible. The tension builds slowly as you read the book with details of all the training etc & the description of the tensions involved in the actual raid & the subsequent escape stories make the book a great read. The definitive book on this daring raid and highly recommended!

  • By Alan Holman on 5 February 2014

    A very brave team from ‘Britain’s finest’ that truly deserves a place in British military history.When I read the objective of the mission and the conditions under which they were to operate, I couldn’t help thinking that the odds of success were minimal and this was another ‘Bridge too far’ type of operation.To be launched from a submarine, off a heavily guarded coast in freezing weather, with the most basic of survival equipment, was really pushing their luck. They had to penetrate deep into enemy territory with their overloaded flimsy canoes in the middle of winter. Furthermore they had to sleep eat and live in their canoes whilst remaining soaking wet throughout the mission. Back up or support was out of the question.The success of the mission can be largely attributed to the leadership skills of Hasler combined with the courage, stamina and discipline of his men. Hasler had the unique advantage of small boat experience and sleeping under the stars from an early age. I almost believe he relished the opportunity to conduct this type of mission.Having kayaked thousands of miles myself through some of the remotest places on earth I would not change places with these guys. Most of my kayaking has been is tropical areas where being wet and sleeping on river banks is more tolerable. With an abundance of sunshine, drying clothes was seldom a problem. I’ve slept in swamps and very uncomfortable places but this in no way compares with what Hasler’s team had to put up with. The occasional death threats to me were usually in the form of wild animals or violent river conditions. However, apart from the harsh living conditions Hasler’s team lived under, the constant threat of a bullet in the back of the neck must have been there. And of course the threats didn’t end with the canoeing mission. They had to get all the way to Spain, living on a shoe string, with the firing squads hunting them down. It’s not altogether surprising that only 2 of the team finally got through to safety.It was good to read about the post war follow up trips to France to thank all those involved. Some of the resistance fighters and their families paid the ultimate price for providing food and accommodation to the team. We must carve their names with pride.


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