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Veterans set off to re-enact Cockleshell Heroes mission

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IT WAS an epic journey that Winston Churchill believed shortened the conflict by six months.

The daring Second World War canoe strike saw commandos complete a strategic attack on German shipping in the French port of Bordeaux.

The strike, known as Operation Frankton, was immortalised in the film The Cockleshell Heroes.

Now 72 years later, amputee servicemen and veterans, brought together by charity the Pilgrim Bandits, are to re-enact the daring raid.

Also in the group is Sarah Holmes, from Fareham, whose great uncle, Corporal George Sheard, was one of the original WW2 commandos and died during the mission.

Mrs Holmes, 46, said: ‘I got asked if I wanted to join them.

‘I’d never been in a canoe before in my life so I decided to go for it.

‘I can’t wait, they are a great bunch of guys and very inspirational.’

Nine injured servicemen are part of the group, including Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson MBE, who lost both legs and suffered severe brain damage when he was caught up in a Taliban bomb blast while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2006.

L/Bdr Parkinson said: ‘I’m excited and honoured to be following the Cockleshell Heroes.’

Mr Parkinson praised the Pilgrim Bandits, which organised the expedition to honour the fallen of WW2 and provide a demanding, confidence-building excursion for severely-injured serving soldiers and veterans.

Mike Witt, CEO of the charity said: ‘Our lads and lasses will receive no special treatment – it’s a hardcore, gruelling trip designed to commemorate and highlight the sacrifice of so many.

‘If all goes according to plan we will arrive in Blaye where members ditched their clippers for the escape route on D-Day.’

The team left from Portsmouth yesterday on the ferry to France.

They will commence the raid from June 2, canoeing 60 miles up the River Gironde, finishing in Blaye, France on D-Day, June 6.

To donate or to follow their progress go to pilgrimbandits.org/

 

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