Plans to recreate daring 'Cockleshell heroes' mission in Hampshire

Daily Echo: A scene from the film The Cockleshell Heroes A scene from the film The Cockleshell Heroes

TWO of Britain’s top political figures will launch a Hampshire-based attempt to recreate one of the most daring missions of the Second World War.

Paddy Ashdown and Caroline Flint will outline plans by the Pilgrim Bandits to salute the men whose courage inspired the film The Cockleshell Heroes.

Lord Ashdown, ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats, is a former Royal Marine who made a TV documentary about the courageous raid.

Ms Flint is a former Government minister who represents the town where one of the men taking part in the re-enactment comes from.

Codenamed Operation Frankton, the original mission was carried out in December 1942.

A group of Royal Marines were handed the task of canoeing 60 miles up the River Gironde in Nazi-occupied France and attacking German ships anchored in the port of Bordeaux.

Using limpet mines they sank one vessel and badly damaged four others, crippling the strategically important harbour for months.

Winston Churchill claimed it shortened the war by six months while Admiral Louis Mountbatten described the mission as the most courageous and imaginative of all the raids carried out by Combined Operations.

Pilgrim Bandits, which helps severely injured servicemen, aims to stage a partial re-enactment of the raid later this year.

Sapper Jim Wilson, from Lymington, who had both legs blown off by a Taliban bomb in 2011, is among those hoping to take part.

Other members of the team include Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, the most seriously injured solder to survive the war in Afghanistan.

Ben comes from Doncaster, the town represented by Ms Flint.

Both she and Lord Ashdown will be at the House of Commons on Tuesday to launch the expedition.

Mike Beard, the charity’s chief operating officer, said the expedition aimed to provide a confidence-building adventure for injured soldiers.

He added: “While we can no way re-enact Operation Frankton, we can retrace the miles of slog and pay homage to those brave men.”

Last year, the New Milton-based Pilgrim Bandits successfully re-enacted another wartime raid.

In 1943 a group of commandos managed to enter a heavily guarded factory in Nazi-occupied Norway and disrupt the manufacture of heavy water, which the Germans were using in the race to develop the atomic bomb.

Their bravery was later immortalised in the film The Heroes of Telemark.

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