Thursday 7 December 2017

Operation Frankton - "The Cockleshell Heroes"

Today, 7th December, marks the 75th anniversary of the start of Operation Frankton, one of the most daring and imaginative sabotage ventures of World War Two. There is a commemorative monument in Saint-Georges-de-Didonne, near Royan.

France was occupied and so,
The harbour of Bordeaux
For the Germans proved a valuable location.
Britain came up with a ruse:
Royal marines in small canoes,
Would plant limpet mines and thus cause devastation.

They would sneak up the Gironde,
To the port that lay beyond.
Five "cockles" and ten crew - all highly trained.
Dropped off-shore by submarine,
In a bid to stay unseen,
They'll hide by day, so secrecy's maintained.

One pair drowned, (it is assumed).
Two other pairs were doomed.
They were captured by the enemy and shot.
Though they must have been afraid,
Their comrades weren't betrayed.
Four paddled on to carry out the plot.

In line with what was hatched,
The devices they attached -
(Each one of these had carefully been primed).
Then they slip off undetected.
The explosives they'd connected,
Later detonate at 9pm as timed.

The effect was as predicted,
Much damage was inflicted
On the half a dozen ships that had been mined.
The exploits of the four
Helped abbreviate the war
By six months, as Churchill later on opined.

© Maggie Ballinger 2017

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