TEN SET OUT
ONLY TWO RETURNED
DARING EXPLOIT IN CANOES
LONDON. The adventures of specially-trained Royal Marine volunteers who paddled in two canoes, officially called "cockles," 50 miles up the Gironde River to attack enemy shipping at Bordeaux, have now been pieced together as a diary, from reports received in the Admiralty. Ten Marines in five cockles were beached at night from the submarine Tuna at the entrance to the Gironde on December 7, when Germany held the whole French coast. The crew of only one cockle — Major Haslar and Marine Sparkscame back. , , , The two cockles which reached the objectives, covered 91 miles in five nights, their crews hiding on land by day.
Here is the diary:— The cockles, Catfish, Coalfish, Conger, Cuttlefish, and Crayfish were launched in calm weather from the Tuna. They paddled for an hour and a half, and ran into a The Coalfish was lost without trace.
Soon after, in another tide race, the Conger capsized. The crew were towed in lifejackets further inshore and left to !*nd.
In negotiating the narrow passage between the anchorage for vessels and the mole at Le Verdon, the Cuttlefish lost formation and was not seen again. The other two cockles, balked once from landing by submerged stakes, were beached at daylight on a small sandy promontory and were hidden in the scrub. Soon after, French fishermen landed from small boats and were joined by women from the shore, and made their breakfast on the beach. Concealment becoming impossible, Major Haslar spoke, and found them friendly. On the second night the crews manhandled their cockles across three-quarters of a mile of sand and mud for launching. This was impeded by an outlying sandbank. The weather became colder, and water froze on cockpit covers. They hid in a field during the day, undisturbed except by cows. On the third night an early start was made to catch the flood tide.
They landed, only to find an A.A. site 50 yards away. They did not find another suitable spot uutil 7.30 a.m. . ,
They lay in the long grass all day, unseen by a man and his dog, who passed within 100 yards. The boats were launched at 6.45 on the fourth night. After two miles, they passed under a pontoon pier opposite Bassens South, and found a small gap in the reeds through which they could force a path. Daylight showed two good-sized ships lying alongside, immediately opposite, four cables away. The men spent the evening fusing mines. The Catfish on the fifth night got safely past the entrance to the basins on the west bank, in spite of lights on the lock gates. Eight mines were planted—three on a cargo ship of 7000 tons, two on the engine room or a small transport, and one on the stern of a tanker.
While turning near the transport to go down stream, the Catfish was seen by a sentry on the deck, who shone his torch on her. Major Haslar succeeded in pulling the cockle into the shelter of the ship, letting her drift silently with the tide.
The sentry, puzzled, walked along the deck, following them with his torch until they passed from sight under the bows.
Meanwhile the Crayfish reached the east bank of Bordeaux without finding any targets, so returned and attacked two ships at Bassens South, placing five mines on a larger cargo and three on a smaller one.
On the way back, the cockles made as great speed as possible, using double paddles.
Nothing more has been heard of the Crayfish and her crew. Major Haslar and Marine Sparks • got safely home to England. For their share in this daring exploit, Major Haslar was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Marine Sparks the Distinguished Service Medal.
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TEN SET OUT, Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 169, 19 July 1945
TEN SET OUT Auckland Star, Volume LXXVI, Issue 169, 19 July 1945
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