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Cockleshell Heroes

Discussions about those units who make up the Commando’s.
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Rover
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#16 Post by Rover »

Daniel,

Perhaps it would be a good idea if you absorbed the information from the previous post on this subject, prior to any further comments.

Currently I get the impression that you donot understand the information you are being given, or if you do are more interested in ignoring anything that does not fit your particular 'knowledge'.

Again please look at the information given.

Your remark;

[/quote]I think Operation Frankton could have succeeded, with a little more patience in planning, with no un-necessary loss of life.
[/quote]

I can only attribute to the intake of wine!

Rover

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#17 Post by Rover »

Daniel,

As you think things could have been done better!
Perhaps you would care to place yourself back in September 1942 and with the assets available and the situation as it was explain how?
Note: the "black crow of despair" was still in the fledgling stage!

Nevertheless, it seems 8 men died needlessly. To send men on a mission "doubting any would return" is confirmation of the fact.
Two died of drowning.
Two captured and shot.
Four betrayed to the Germans, by the French. Also shot.

As regards being defensive. Yes.
There being none alive to defend themselves.

You started by saying that ;
I confess I have not read any material, nor researched, nor do I claim to have any great knowledge of the operation.
then continue to say that it was all wrong and it could have been better!!
Not a very educated opinion.

Both Timex and I have pointed out various aspects regarding why Operation Frankton was as it was.
Facts which it would seem you chose to ignore!

Sorry, but I am getting the feeling that you are not interested in any intelligent exchange but more with going off at a tangent.

I wish you well with your wine.

Rover

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Re: Cockleshell heroes

#18 Post by Sisyphus »

Danielchristopherlee wrote: I do not claim that my opinion is fact; rather, I feel it is nevertheless valid to discuss it. But personally, I would not be able to live with myself if I sent men on a mission doubting any of them would return.

We must learn from the past so we do not make the same mistakes in the future.

So are you a Royal Marine ?
Quite right DCL. I'd be interested to hear your views on the events at Balaclava, Gallipoli, Arnhem, Hastings, the Battle of Cannae, Salamis, Thermopylae........................

By the way, you seem to have a particular interest in whether people are Royal Marines or not. Is this somehow relevant to the discussion?

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#19 Post by druadan »

Daniel, may I first say many thanks for bringing some genuine discussion back to this forum, which has been on the decline for a couple of years now.

I do not know a great deal about Op Frankton, indeed a lot less than yourself, Rover and Timex. However, here's my 2p. Reference your post:
Just a thought to add. If they had been parachuted in with their kit they could still have entered the water further downstream and kayaked to target.
Parachuting in those days was somewhat hit-and-miss to say the least. There was little chance of a precise landing; troops were often lucky to hit the right DZ, let alone a specific area of it. That's if the planes made it there. Then you have the added complications of dropping five canoes plus kit to ensure it is still serviceable at the other end. IF all that goes to plan, you've then got ten blokes who have to cover at the least a few miles carrying all their kit, plus the canoes, with little conventional fighting strength and increased chance of detection. What would the outcome be if they were captured in possession of the canoes and limpet mines? Probably more severe than a simple firing squad, as the enemy attempted to discover this new tactic. With these points in mind, for my own mind I believe that entering from the sea did hold a greater chance of success than attempting to infiltrate via land.

Of course another option would be to have the canoes pre-placed by the Resistance, so that only the men would have to be infiltrated. But of course this would mean trusting the Resistance not to betray the plan - secrets of that magnitude would probably not be trusted to an unofficial foreign force in enemy territory.

With regards to doubts as to how many men would return; was it not a feature of the entire war that loss of life was acceptable where the returns warrant it? In the grand scheme of things, with thousands dying by the day, ten lives for five ships would have appeared a small price to pay. In the modern day this would be unacceptable, where the loss of a single soldier's life is very newsworthy, and frowned upon by a large portion of the public, but during bloodshed of that scale it was but a drop in the ocean.

I would be interested to hear a convincing argument for another plan leading to the same result with less risk. If it makes you feel any better, I am a serving Royal Marine; it is up to Rover if he enlightens you as to his own past, but suffice to say he is qualified to comment.

Pride can result in stubbornness, but it also aids many positive qualities - Royal Marines are renowned for their esprit de corps, which grants them among other things the all important cheerfulness in the face of adversity, and the courage to fight and if necessary give their lives for the men next to them.

Wholley

#20 Post by Wholley »


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#21 Post by Sisyphus »

druadan wrote:Parachuting in those days was somewhat hit-and-miss to say the least. There was little chance of a precise landing; troops were often lucky to hit the right DZ, let alone a specific area of it. That's if the planes made it there. Then you have the added complications of dropping five canoes plus kit to ensure it is still serviceable at the other end. IF all that goes to plan, you've then got ten blokes who have to cover at the least a few miles carrying all their kit, plus the canoes, with little conventional fighting strength and increased chance of detection. What would the outcome be if they were captured in possession of the canoes and limpet mines? Probably more severe than a simple firing squad, as the enemy attempted to discover this new tactic. With these points in mind, for my own mind I believe that entering from the sea did hold a greater chance of success than attempting to infiltrate via land.

Of course another option would be to have the canoes pre-placed by the Resistance, so that only the men would have to be infiltrated. But of course this would mean trusting the Resistance not to betray the plan - secrets of that magnitude would probably not be trusted to an unofficial foreign force in enemy territory.

With regards to doubts as to how many men would return; was it not a feature of the entire war that loss of life was acceptable where the returns warrant it? In the grand scheme of things, with thousands dying by the day, ten lives for five ships would have appeared a small price to pay. In the modern day this would be unacceptable, where the loss of a single soldier's life is very newsworthy, and frowned upon by a large portion of the public, but during bloodshed of that scale it was but a drop in the ocean.

I would be interested to hear a convincing argument for another plan leading to the same result with less risk. If it makes you feel any better, I am a serving Royal Marine; it is up to Rover if he enlightens you as to his own past, but suffice to say he is qualified to comment.

Pride can result in stubbornness, but it also aids many positive qualities - Royal Marines are renowned for their esprit de corps, which grants them among other things the all important cheerfulness in the face of adversity, and the courage to fight and if necessary give their lives for the men next to them.
druadan,

Very well put. I can hardly think that there is anything more to say on the subject.

Mind you, that you are a serving Royal Marine doesn't, I think, add much to your valid argument.

I'm just curious why Dcl is so interested to know why the opinions expressed are those of ex-RM or not. :-?

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#22 Post by druadan »

Mind you, that you are a serving Royal Marine doesn't, I think, add much to your valid argument.
Sisyphus, another valid point :wink:

Daniel, I'm afraid most of that is above my level of knowledge to answer; I simply threw up my immediate thoughts given what little I know of capabilities during WW2 and what I like to think of as a reasonable grasp of realistic operational capabilities/goals.

Forgive me for the cutting and pasting, I'm also knackered and slightly shiters.
Where did the HUMINT for the Operation come from ? Who was on the ground in Bordeaux at the time?
I would hazard a guess that you've to a certain extent answered your own question - links between the Resistance and British forces. Of course if the place was used as a regular port by the Germans following the occupation, this would be a hard fact to hide. There may well have been no need for HUMINT at all - although I'll reiterate that my knowledge is sketchy, so if you are aware that HUMINT was indeed received by the British I retract the above.
How did INT know the ships would still be there when the RM's arrived and not set sail before ?
Again my knowledge lets me down; was it not used regularly by the German fleet? Did the operation target specific vessels?
Who took photos of the damaged ships after the raid?
I don't really see the pertinence of the question. I assume phots exist, else you wouldn't have asked. It could have been the Germans, the Resistance, or in fact anyone with a camera and a view.
How did the RM's know exactly which ships to target? Where there other ships nearby at the time? Where they given aerial photo's of the ships or did the INT come from somewhere else?
Again I find myself apologising for lack of knowledge. Were specific ships targetted? Or did they just pick the best/most accessible targets once in the area? I don't know how good aerial photography was in WW2, but if that's a viable option you have also potentially explained the above two questions.
I think maybe betrayal by the Resistance was more or less out of the question. It would have jeopardised future relations with the MOD who were trying to help France and so was not in their own interest.
So there was no infiltration of the Resistance at all? No successful 'pressure' on certain members to reveal plans? I'm sorry, but I fail to believe that; with members of the government and military on both sides defecting to the other, I think it impossible that the same was not true of the Resistance.
On an individual level, however, I am beginning to wonder about Lord Mountbatten. Forgive me if I do not have my facts right.

Apparently he had something to do with the planning of the mission, yet had his doubts whether any would return; then after said that of all the missions in WW2 none were more daring and imaginative than OP Frankton.

Was he blowing his own trumpet after planning the mission, sending guys off and not believing they would come back?
Daring tends to mean risky. Imaginative it certainly was, being an untried tactic. You imply an oxymoron, but there does not appear to be one. A daring and imaginative mission could well result in the loss of all involved.
Perhaps they could have packed the kayaks and gear in metal tubes with a lot of padding,as they did when dropping weapons for the Resistance. They could have done a couple of test or dummy drops to see if all arrived safely and to test the trustworthyness of the Resistance on the ground. The gear could have been stashed by the Resistance in various places, making detection of everything all at once more difficult. It could have been arranged for the gear to be taken to a RDV point beside the Garronne river at a set time.
All of this increases the risk of compromise. A single kayak dropped in the wrong place or discovered by the Germans before it is collected would alert them to a waterborne attack, tightening their watch on the waterways. As few were used or suitable for shipping, this would not have been a particularly difficult task.
The men could have been dropped in just a few hours before the mission,gone to the RDV point and completed the mission in the same way using their Kayaks. I know what you mean abut DZ's, but with the kit already there it would not have been a problem.
Even assuming the kit arrived safely and was successfully moved to the correct locations, you still have the problem of putting a small force onto the ground accurately.

I fear Daniel that you suffer from the common misconception that the term 'military precision' is in any way accurate. Even in ideal conditions, the logistics of an operation as you suggest are at best difficult, let alone in enemy territory. Too many factors are outside the control of the team.

You've perked my interest in this, sadly I don't have the time for in depth reading on the subject, but I look forward to further comments. My feeling at the moment is that, whilst I can see why you hold your opinions, you lack the experience of how things tend to play out and require too many moving parts - remember the motto, 'no plan survives the first contact.' Therefore the first contact must be put off as long as possible to give any plan a greater chance of success.[/quote]

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#23 Post by timex »

Chris, read through this extract from Wiki. It shows how in the beginning the Resistance wasn't that big or organised enough to carry out a fairly large scale Op like Frankton. (This doesn't detract from the great heroism shown by some of the French).

Few things not mentioned, one is how badly strained the relations were between Churchill and DeGaulle, another is the 2 seperate factions of the Resistance (the other being the Communists who were not really trusted much by the Brits or for that matter their own countrymen!!).

One of the questions you asked was how good the Int was prior to the Op, from what I can remember reading over the years the RAF constantly flew Long range Recce missions from the UK all along the French coastline. Also by this stage of the war we had an Enigma coding machine so we were able to read every German radio transmission.

Finally I would suggest that the "points" you made have been answered to a fairly comprehensive degree, all of us as Booties feel protective about our Corps and the things we have done. So please dont be too upset if we fail to agree with you about Frankton.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Res ... _movements

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#24 Post by sterion66 »

hey, i can't find the video on that link any longer so i'm assuming it's a broken link or you have to be registered maybe? What are you thoughts on it anyway? Good movie worth watching?

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#25 Post by Sully »

Hi Chris

I've read the C E Lucas Phillips book about this and the book Cockleshell Commando by Bill Sparks and whilst I can't remember the why's and wherefore's, what leapt out of both was the incredible professionalism, courage and character of those involved. The loss of life was tragic but the audacity of the raid gave people hope at a very dark time and the heroism of those involved has inspired generations of Royal Marines and soldiers of all kinds ever since. That can't be a bad thing on any level.

On a sour note I always found it a great shame that the destruction of the shipping by bombing from the air was ruled out because of the potential loss of civilian life but four of the raiders were betrayed by some of those very civilians and shot by German soldiers.

Just my tuppence worth.

Sully
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Op. Frankton

#26 Post by sneaky beaky »

Hi All,

I have just read the three pages of this thread and I am intrigued about the mysteries surrounding it.

It was a raid to instil confidence in the British to show that we could raid the Enemy Coast. It had no real strategic value. Yes, they showed that we could sink enemy shipping - but not a lot!!

It was a morale booster, much like the Dambusters Raid.

Last year, I went to the Frankton ceremonies, along with a few other interested parties, which take place on and around the 12th. of December, which was around the time that the Frankton operation took place.

The local population of Bordeaux take a great pride in celebrating this raid.

Local shoolchildren are brought long to the site where two of the raiders were executed.
They were wearing pictures of the two guys round their necks

We were there for three days and they really appreciate the raid.
There are about five different sites where there are plaques commemorating different events, from the place where they were shot to the place where they were captured.

The French treated us like royalty. We were wined, dined and treated most hospitable. And Daniel, none of us were sick over the person in front of us.

We met one of the very few people who had actually met one of the Cocleshell heroes as a young girl, on a fishing boat and went on to be the Mayor of her town, twice, who gave a glowing report of the event

Daniel, try to be a bit more positive!

PS. Listen to Rover. He knows what he is talking about!!

Sneaky
Former RM of 23 years.

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#27 Post by sneaky beaky »

Hi Daniel,

I will be over for this years commemoration of the Frankton Op. about the 12th. of December.
If you see some "old farts" in Green Berets outside Hangar 14 - please come over and say hello. There will be about 6 of us but it would be nice to meet you. I might even persuade "Rover" to attend!!
Now that would be a meeting of minds!

Yours,

Sneaky Beaky
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#28 Post by Chas »

Daniel,

Thank you for an interesting debate which you handled with dignity.
As a point of interest many ideas were put forward to Combined Ops to deal with Bordeaux problem. Mounbatten appreciated the risk factor and ordered the operation to go ahead. Despite the sad loss of life it was a marvellous morale booster at the time. The RMs' were well trained and as volunteers and they understood the risks and were aware of Hitler's order to kill all commandos after extracting information by any means. In present times many people look at alternative military tactics for past actions in hindsight. However the insertion method was the best at that time for that specific raid.
Salut et bonne chance, mon ami.
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#29 Post by Chas »

Daniel, :D
No need to keep one's trap shut. This is a democratic forum. No one has shouted, " ta geule". Also to quote Napolean; 'Ne pas oser, c'est ne rien faire qui vaille.'
My French nickname is Le braconnier. :wink:
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#30 Post by Chas »

Daniel, :D
Future correspondence best by private e-mail so as not to clutter forum.
At 70, ' Helas maintenant cest seulement la chasse pour le gibier'. :wink:
Chas.
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