Amputee servicemen and veterans to retrace gruelling journey of The Cockleshell Heroes (From Bournemouth Echo)
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Amputee servicemen and veterans to retrace gruelling journey of The Cockleshell Heroes
AMPUTEE servicemen and veterans are training to retrace a daring World War II commando raid that Sir Winston Churchill believed shortened the war by six months.
Nine injured soldiers, including Ben Parkinson, who suffered devastating wounds, including the loss of both legs above the knee and severe brain injuries, while serving in Afghan-istan, will retrace Operation Frankton.
The December 1942 attack on German shipping at the French port of Bordeaux was later immortalised in the film Cockleshell Heroes.
The team working to retrace the gruelling 75-mile journey – carried out by a 34-man unit of canoe-sculling Royal Marines – has been brought together by New Milton’s Pilgrim Bandits Charity, an organisation established by a small group of special forces veterans in 2007.
They will be training this week at Rockley Park in Hamworthy, courtesy of the Haven Group who have assisted with preparation and accommodation.
Mike Beard, the charity’s chief operations officer, said: “While we can in no way re-enact Operation Frankton, we can retrace the miles of slog and pay homage to those 34 brave men that made up the detachment.
“Our lads 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 the original members ditched their clippers for the escape route on D-Day.”
Other injured servicemen in the team include ex-Cpl Andy Reid, who lost both legs and his right arm in Afghanistan; double amputee Cpl Ricky Furgusson MC; double amputee Sapper Jimmy Wilson; double amputee Royal Marine Vinney Manley; single amputee Sgt Colin Hamilton and Royal Marine single leg amputee Jay Hare.
The ten kayaks being used by the Pilgrim Bandit’s 28-person detach-ment have been donated by Dragon’s Den businessman Duncan Bannatyne, through his charitable trust.
Only two men survived the original wartime mission, in which the commandos succeeded in destroying two German Navy trawlers, 12 E-boats, 12 patrol boats and six M-Class mine sweepers.
Eight of the commandos were executed by the Germans, while two more died of hypothermia.
The expedition is set to take place next year.
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