The Remarkable Story of the Cockleshell Raid
Date of publication: February 2012
During the Second World War, it is hard to imagine a situation where the British High Command could think that one of the only ways they could attack Hitler was to send ten canoeists with limpet mines to paddle one hundred miles up the Gironde estuary, in the middle of winter, in an attempt to sink German blockade ships in Bordeaux harbour. Yet this is precisely what happened in 1942. The man who gave the go-ahead for the audacious commando raid - Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of Combined Operations - fully anticipated that all ten men would die in the attempt.
Mountbatten wasn't far wrong - two ripped their collapsible canoes as they were manhandling them out of the submarine; two drowned when their canoes capsized entering the Gironde estuary; and a further six were captured by the Germans and later executed. By complete chance, the two canoeists who managed to escape - Major 'Blondie' Hasler and Marine Bill Sparks - stumbled into the arms of the French resistance. Once in their care, Hasler and Sparks made their way across France and into Spain, crossing the Pyrenees in the company (though they did not know it) of a Gestapo agent intent on bringing down the resistance network.
Operation Suicide will be the first account of this enthralling raid for over fifty years. In utilizing primary source material, including detailed German records captured by the British in 1944 (which remained censored until 1976), Robert Lyman brings to life one of the most courageous and dramatic events to take place in the darkest days of the Second World War.