THE legacy of a Second World War hero has been commemorated with a blue plaque in his hometown.
Cockleshell Heroes leader Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler was honoured yesterday at his family home in Catherington.
Lieutenant Colonel Hasler was the commanding officer for the celebrated Royal Marines commando mission – codenamed Operation Frankton – a six-day canoe voyage to mine German ships in the port of Bordeaux, France.
Lt Col Hasler, who died in 1987, aged 73, was one of just two surviving Cockleshell Heroes from the 1942 mission.
Former SBS commando Lord Paddy Ashdown attended the unveiling at Glamorgan Road, alongside Brigadier Richard Spencer, deputy commandant general of the Royal Marines.
He said: ‘It was a remarkable experience. Operation Frankton was a unique operation that had huge strategic effect in terms of enabling the battle of the Atlantic to continue, which kept the supplies coming into our country.
‘For a local community to embrace any of its heroes in all their guises is heartwarming for those of us who continue to serve.’
Lord Ashdown added: ‘The unveiling was a highlight in my involvement with Blondie’s story and a great moment for the community in Catherington.’
Catherington Village Residents’ Association raised money for the plaque, along with Horndean ward councillor Sara Schillemore, who donated £500 from her community fund.
She said: ‘I’m absolutely stunned by the number of people who turned out and grateful to see so many still interested in Blondie’s story.’
After the exploits of Lt Col Hasler and his 12 men – who trained in Portsmouth – became public knowledge, Winston Churchill praised their valiant efforts by saying that Operation Frankton helped shorten the war by six months.
Retired navy commander Bill Evershed, who knew Blondie, spoke at the event, saying that Lt Col Hasler ‘carried the loss of his men all his life’.
He said: ‘It was a great privilege to be a part of the unveiling. If Blondie had been here today he would have been intrigued but he would not want any fuss about his achievements.
‘I wish for him to be remembered in Catherington as a unique character. He was one in 1,000.’