Operation Frankton Memorial
Location: Bordeaux, France. Scale: 0.3 Ha, Status Complete
7-12 December 1942
The Memorial commemorates Operation Frankton, more popularly known as ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’, the epic WWII raid on enemy shipping in Bordeaux, in November 1942.
A team of ten courageous Royal Marines was launched by the submarine HMS Tuna, into the Atlantic Ocean at night, from which they paddled 60 miles up the river Gironde, to Bordeaux, to cripple or destroy six enemy ships. Of the ten marines four made it to land. Only two men survived the raid: The commanding officer Herbert Hasler and his no.2 in the canoe, Bill Sparks, assisted by courageous French citizens at a very high risk of arrest, deportation and execution.
The memorial tells several stories: Four blocks of Portland stone symbolically followed the journey from the UK to France where, when viewed from the front, stand shoulder to shoulder standing up for freedom and overlooking the Gironde. From the side the memorial reveals that the stones are separated creating a dynamic ensemble that expresses HMS Tuna and the Cockershell heroes as they rise from the water. The rear composition is more confrontational in appearance and is reflective of this clandestine operation, where the marines emerged from beneath the water, planted limpet mines and successful neutralised the cargo ships.
The words of Lord Mountbatten, the commander of Combined Operations, are carved into a Purbeck stone at Royal Marines Poole (current headquarters of the SBS): "Of the many brave and dashing raids carried out by the men of Combined Operations Command none was more courageous or imaginative than Operation Frankton".
We are very proud that the surviving families of both CO Halsler and Marine Bill Sparks attended the memorial's opening.