Injured servicemen hoping to recreate daring war mission take to canoes

IT WAS a daring Second World War mission that inspired a film that honoured the courage of those who took part.

So it is no wonder that injured servicemen who are recreating the Cockleshell Heroes mission wanted some practice out on the water in Hampshire before they recreat the epic mission.

Next month they will retrace the steps of Royal Marines, who, in December 1942, canoed 60 miles up the River Gironde in Nazi-occupied France and attacked German ships anchored at Bordeaux.

Winston Churchill claimed the mission, codenamed Operation Frankton, which sank one vessel and badly damaged four others, shortened the war by six months by crippling the strategically important harbour.

Admiral Louis Mountbatten described the mission as the most courageous and imaginative of all the raids carried out by Combined Operations.

The men’s courage inspired the 1955 film The Cockleshell Heroes, but now, 70 years on, injured servicemen are attempting to repeat the feat.

Sapper Jim Wilson, 31, from Lymington, who had both legs blown off by a Taliban bomb in 2011, is among those hoping to take part.

Those involved took part in the third training session on the Beaulieu River on Saturday to see if members of the team could cope with the amount of canoeing required and the flow of the current. They rowed ten miles in four hours successfully.

The expedition, involving 18 injured servicemen, has been organised by New Milton-based charity Pilgrim Bandits, which helps injured servicemen take part in gruelling challenges.

The team also has an eight-strong support crew.

Their final training session before the event will be at Poole Harbour before the expedition at the end of April.

The challenge will involve rowing around ten to 15 miles a day.

James McMullin, Hampshire representative of the Pilgrim Bandits, said that this was a chance for the amputee participants to see how the strain on their bodies would affect them and practise different techniques.

“It went really well,” he added.

“They powered through and got through it so they did well – probably better than some of the able-bodied people.”

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