Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Heroes remembered

Two nice stories amid the depressing (for an Englishman) rugby World Cup coverage.

The Cockleshell Heroes remembered:

Six two-man crews disembarked into heaving seas from the British submarine HMS Tuna on a moonless night late on Dec 7, 1942. The Cockleshell Heroes were: Major H E 'Blondie' Hasler, Marine W E Sparks, Lieutenant J MacKinnon, Marine J Conway, Corporal A F Laver, Marine W N Mills, Marine Ellery, Marine E Fisher, Sergeant S Wallace, Marine R Ewart, Corporal G Sheard and Marine D Moffatt.

One of the six Cockle MkII kayaks was immediately damaged beyond repair, and a second soon capsized in the huge, ice-cold Biscay surf with the crew drowning. Deathly chaos.

Another canoe also capsized but remarkably the crew made it ashore, only to be captured and summarily executed. Another crew then became separated after hitting an underwater obstruction and sinking near Bordeaux. They were captured by the Gestapo at La Reole and taken to Paris.

The four remaining men pressed on and, thanks to their brilliant boat-handling skills, reached their targets after four arduous days, laying low during daylight and paddling by night against strong tidal currents and having to take long detours to avoid mines and coastal defences. Not all the limpet mines attached to targets detonated but four cargo ships were flooded and a Sperrbrecher (mine-sweeper) was damaged.
And former Welsh RFU president, Sir Tasker Watkins, VC honoured:
The Wales team observed a minute's silence before the Canada game for the former Welsh Rugby Union president, while the French press recalled at length his extraordinary Victoria Cross in Barfour, Normandy in August 1944. New Zealand coach Graham Henry also fondly recalled the man whose inspirational VC citation he used to pin on the Wales dressing room when he coached them at the 1999 World Cup.

No comments: