The mission was to place Limpet Mines on German ships in Bordeaux Harbour, 62 miles along the Gironde River in France. On the night of 7th December 1942, five Cockleshell Canoes set off from Submarine HMS Tuna at the mouth of the river. Only two reached the harbour and carried out the raid. They scuttled their ‘Cockles’ and escaped with the aid of the French Resistance. Only two men survived and returned to Britain, Major Hassler and Bill Sparks. All those captured were executed.
The MkII Cockleshell Canoe, of which the only surviving Canoe named ‘Cachalot’ is on display in the Combined Military Services Museum, was used on Operation Frankton. The Cachalot canoe was found at Sato Works, Isle of Wight, where it had been produced. It is believed to be Cachalot, the sixth canoe on the raid, which was damaged whilst being taken through HMS Tuna’s hatch. This meant that Cachalot’s part in the raid was over. She was returned to Saro Works for repair. The work was never carried out, and the canoe remained in store at Saro until it was rediscovered and rescued forty years later. It has not been restored with the aid of the original plans and documents.
The equipment carried on board included 8 limpet mines, magnetic holders, limpet mine placing rod, sponge, and escape kits, 2 grenades, clothing, food etc. 2 Colt .45” Pistols, a torch, 1 silent Sten Gun per three Canoes, maps, cargo bags and camouflage net, which brings the total weight of equipment to 150 lbs.
This canoe was one of the six canoes used on the famous Cockleshell Heroes Raid (Operation Frankton) in December 1942. The canoes were transported by Submarine to the mouth of the Gironde river in occupied France. They’re mission- to place limpet mines on ships in Bordeaux harbour 70 miles upstream. Manned by Commandos Ellery and Fisher, Cachalots canvas side was damaged whilst passing through the submarines hatch. Cachalots mission was over. The five remaining canoes went on to complete the mission. Sadly, only two Commandos survived. This canoe is the only known example of the early MKII canoe design, built at Saro Works, Isle of Wight for the raid.