Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Kayaks go to War!

Remembering another December 7th. Sixty-nine years ago, over 2,400 military personnel lost their lives when the Japanese Imperial forces launched a surprise attack against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941. Let us never forget their sacrifice.

I thought it would be a fitting tribute on this day to share with my readers another sacrifice made by brave men who set out in canoes and kayaks to take the battle to the enemy during World War Two. It is the story of The Cockleshell Canoes and Operation Frankton.

Most Secret: The Cockleshell Canoes - British Military Canoes of World War Two

"The gripping story of the development of the Cockleshell Canoes. Used most famously in December 1942, when a small group of twelve men in six canoes were dropped off by submarine 80 miles from the inland port of Bordeaux. Taking a couple of days to get to Bordeaux, the men laid limpet mines on a series of German ships, sinking one and seriously damaging others. These men became the Cockeshell heroes, named after the canoes they sailed in.

But the story of the Cockleshells is more than that of this dozen brave men, most of whom died in what was a suicide mission. Over 4000 canoes were made and the contribution they made to the war was immense, but has remained untold until now. In this new work, Quentin Rees, lucky owner of two of the Cockles, tells the story of the development and use of these 4,000 canoes, from Combined Operations to SOE."

About the Author
Quentin Rees, owner of two cockleshell canoes, has researched the history of the vessels for over twenty years. He lives in Torbay.

Thank you Cockleshell Heroes!

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  1. Cool story, I hope it finds wide coverage. I shared it with my son the history buff. Turns out he already knew it, so I didn't impress him. : ( But I never knew it.

  2. Thanks! I didn't know about the Cockleshell Canoes and the brave souls who paddled them either. I actually stumbled upon their story by accident. Makes you sit up a little straighter in that kayak cockpit!

  3. Hi Guys,

    Just read this... I need to apologise on behalf of someone in my publishers who is not too hot on geography or history in providing the blurb you got a hold of.. sorry.. I actually live in Torbay not Falmouth . I shall send mike some other details you will be interested in.. and I am sure he will put right the info thats wrong so you can be kept well informed...

    ref PenobscotPaddles and son... then impress him with what he doesnt know about this raid... Cockleshell Heroes -The Final Witness ISBN 9781848688612. It tells you the true story.. and as the Dailiy Telegraph UK said 'The Truth At Last'. if you have any questions let me know..

    Quentin Rees

  4. P.S.

    One thing is for sure, when you read what the boffins got up to you will be amazed!. One canoe was equally at home underneath the water as it was above - really... this one could be sailed, paddled, had an electric motor and was said by its designer as a possible carriage vehicle for the atomic bomb!.. Just so you know the code name for these canoes ( they should have been termed kayaks but the military called them canoes ) was 'Cockle' there were a number of different marks.. the most successful has air sausages on the outside and were removable. I own two... One is a 'Cockle' Mark 2 ( the type use on the Cockleshell Heroes Raid) - the only one in private ownership out of only six known of in the world! Just so you know this 'collapsed' VERTICALLY along its 15ft length. Was a two man canoe. It could be erected in 60 seconds.. its an amazing piece of kit. The other is a 18ft aluminium sectional canoe that can be paddled and sailed which has outriggers and goes through the water like a battleship. When sailing dingies come in because its too windy this is in its element.. it needed to be because it was ocean going and used in Far East. It has ( inc outriggers)FIVE sections. The bow, centre and stern sections all are bulkheaded and were made by aircraft engineers TO AIRCRAFT SPEC/ STANDARD! You should see the riveting . Its a 'cockle' mark 7.

    The MArk 2 was designed a year before by a chap on the ISle of Wight.. in the Solent called Fred Goatley... He produced another canoe the Mark 2** ( a three man version of the MK 2 ) as well as other craft which are all related in the HEROES book...

    hope you enjoy

    Quentin Rees


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