As we approach the 7th of December, We solemnly commemorate Operation Frankton, a courageous mission that unfolded 81 years ago. This daring endeavour, known as the Cockleshell Heroes, was executed by the Royal Marines in December 1942 to disrupt German shipping in Bordeaux, a crucial U-boat hub.
Under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler, ten elite commandos set out on canoes launched from the submarine HMS Tuna on December 7, 1942.
Tragically, the harsh reality of war unfolded during the first night of the raid, claiming two lives to hypothermia. By the next morning, two more Marines were captured, and two others, separated from the group, decided to abandon the mission to reach neutral Spain—only to face betrayal and a subsequent capture by the Germans.
In the face of adversity, only two cockles reached the harbour, but they succeeded in damaging six merchant ships using limpet mines. The sacrifice of these brave individuals is further underscored by the fact that all six Marines captured by the Germans were executed under Hitler’s notorious Commando Order, despite each one wearing military uniform.
The legacy of Operation Frankton lives on, immortalised in the film “The Cockleshell Heroes,” released in 1955. However, the true heroism of these Royal Marines is best remembered through the annual commemorations. In 2022, on the 80th anniversary, ceremonies were held in both Portsmouth and Bordeaux to honour the ten individuals who, in the darkest days of World War II, paddled 60 miles up the Gironde in kayaks codenamed ‘cockles’ to deliver a decisive blow against the Nazis and their shipping operations.
Ex-Forces team recreate Cockleshell Hero expedition for Charity 2/12/2022.