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Operation Frankton. 75 Years on.

Discussion in 'RM Public Relations' started by Rover, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Some may wonder why this post is not in the Special Forces thread!

    I would point out that although today’s SBS are classed as Special Forces, those who undertook the raid on Boudreaux were 'Blue Beret' Royal Marines.

    The RMBDP being one of the founder units of the Royal Marine Special Boat Service.



    http://forces.net/news/marking-anniversary-operation-frankton
     
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  2. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    Bill Sparks DSM. One of the two survivors of the raid on Bordeaux:

    bill_sparks.jpg
     
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  3. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Bill Sparks. The last time he launched and paddled away from a submarine.

    Bill Sparks. The last time he launched and paddled away from a submarine..jpg
     
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  4. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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  5. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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    Operation Frankton: Grandsons complete HUGE challenge to remember Cockleshell Heroes

    EXCLUSIVE: TWO grandsons have completed a mammoth eight-day physical challenge to follow in the footsteps of brave Royal Marines who helped to shorten World War Two.

    By Vickiie Oliphant

    PUBLISHED: 10:03, Sat, Oct 14, 2017 | UPDATED: 15:56, Sat, Oct 14, 2017


    Operation Frankton: Six men carried out the Cockleshell Heroes fundraiser

    In December 1942, Britain’s Cockleshell Heroes slipped out of a Royal Navy submarine, paddled 105 miles upriver in collapsible canoes, and blew up Nazi shipping in the docks of Bordeaux.

    Sir Winston Churchill is said to have credited the raid – known officially as Operation Frankton – with shortening the war by six months.

    But only two survived the horrendous mission - leader Major Herbert “Blondie” Hasler and William “Bill” Sparks.

    Now, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid, two of Marine Sparks’ grandsons have completed a monumental challenge in retracing his steps.

    Mike and Rich Heard were joined by Matt Lardner, Alun Davies, Mike Hale and Juan Greyling to take part in their gruelling eight-day challenge earlier this month.

    Echoing the World War 2 raid, the team paddled around 100 miles up to the Gironde estuary into Bordeaux, where they then followed the survivors escape route - walking more than 100 miles along the ‘Frankton Trail’.

    Mike, 40, said: “Given our relationship with the original mission, it has always been something that has been discussed in our family - every few years we talk about it and it always gets put on the back burner.

    “But this year I turned 40 and had a sort of bucket list I wanted to do, and this was on it, so I asked my uncle Terry and my brother and they said ‘lets do it’.”

    The team canoed for four days and walked for another four

    The team hope to raise £10,000 for Weldmar Hospicecare in Dorset

    After getting in touch with keen friends and colleagues, the Frankton 75 team was born - and the crew of six spent the next few months training for their tough challenge.

    Mike said: “We were doing the challenge for eight days, but were away for ten. For four days we were canoeing and the other four days was the walk - and the walk was the toughest.

    “Everyone had been concerned about their paddle fitness, as we didn’t think the walk would be an issue, so we focussed on that.

    “But we were walking 30 miles a day and it just took its toll on us, we had blisters and ligament tears… but the paddle was really good.

    It was emotional finishing the paddle to Bordeaux but it was worth it despite all the injuries and the blisters.

    Mike Heard, Bill Sparks' grandson

    “Following some of the route was just amazing and seeing some of the building that are still there was mind blowing.

    “It was emotional finishing the paddle but it was worth it despite all the injuries and the blisters.”

    Bill’s grandsons weren’t just completing their challenge in memory of their grandfather.

    They also hope to raise £10,000 for Weldmar Hospicecare in Dorset, who cared and comforted Bill’s son-in-law Michael – Mike and Rich’s father – in his final days after a short battle with lung cancer.

    The heroes paddled 105 miles upriver in collapsible canoes

    The Frankton 75 Cockleshell Heroes team was supported by friends and family

    Mike said: “They were amazing. They couldn’t do enough my dad or the whole family, and the whole team has a connection to the charity in some way or another.

    “On the one hand we had this military legacy that was always in the background, and on the other we knew that if we were going to do it for charity we would do it for Weldmar.

    “And the response has been fantastic, we’ve been all over fundraising and people have been so generous.”

    Bill Sparks died in 2002, aged 80, as the last remaining survivor of Operation Frankton. After the raid, he served in Burma, Africa and Italy and later worked as an advisor for the film Cockleshell Heroes with Mel Ferrer and Trevor Howard.

    The team spent weeks preparing for the canoe to Bordeaux

    He also published The Last Of The Cockleshell Heroes and Cockleshell Commander and had three sons and a daughter with wife Violet.

    Sadly, tax regulations cut his pension and he was forced to sell his military medals in order to keep his place in his retirement home.

    But his legacy will live on long after his death. The Cockleshell Heroes – lead by Major Herbert “Blondie” Hasler – did far more than just cripple six enemy ships.

    Their heroic actions critically dented the Germans’ sense of invincibility at a time where it seemed they were winning at every turn.

    To donate, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/frankton75inthefootstepsofourgrandfather

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/86...x-marines-world-war-2-charity-Weldmar-Hospice
     
  6. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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  7. arny01

    arny01 Ex Pongo.

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    Absolutely amazing!!
     
  8. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    Totally inspirational!

    Alan
     
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  9. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    I'm always on the look out for books for my godson. One I came across dating from 1991 contains interviews by the author with former Royal Marines, one of whom was Bill Sparks DSM. Below is an excerpt from that interview. I think it's a poignant postscript to Op Frankton:

    "Just as war brings its devastation and hardship, all too frequently the aftermath of war is no better. Governments and politicians forget, families stifle their tears, and heroes are expected to fade gently away. After the war, like his father before him, times were hard for Bill Sparks. Jobs came and went: bus driver; police lieutenant in Malaya; labourer on building sites; Christmas postman; insurance agent and shoe repairer. After years of dead-end job hunting, his fortunes finally changed and he found his way into London Transport, retiring as a bus inspector.

    When Bill's pension was cut by twenty pounds a week he knew he was in trouble, for he stood to lose the cosy £72,000 home he and his second wife Rene had retired to in the Sussex countryside. He knew his medals were worth money. An old friend from his service days had told him they were worth at least £20,000. There was nothing else for it - the medals had to be sold to keep a roof over their heads.

    There was a feeling in certain Marine quarters that Bill's collection of medals should be given to the Marines Museum at Eastney. Bill did not see it that way. His hard-won medals were hid to do with as he wished. As he explained later, 'Some years ago I was asked if I would bequeath them to the museum. I said no, I'm afraid not. I know the Corps didn't like me selling the medals, but selling them saved my home. Now I don't have to work for the rest of my life.'

    Understandably there was a great deal of bickering and consternation on the Marine grapevine, when it became known that Bill's medals were to be auctioned at Sotheby's. An ex-Marine Major turned up on Bill's doorstep, confident that his £11,000 bid would not be refused. He departed empty-handed, for the canny Eastender knew that it was a paltry offer and that his DSM would fetch far more at auction.

    On Thursday, 30 June 1988 Item 208 in the catalogue of Orders, Medals and Decorations for auction at Sotheby's read:

    The Unique and Important 'Cockleshell Heroes' DSM Group to Corporal W.E. 'Bill' Sparks, Royal Marines (8) comprising:
    Distinguished Service Medal, Geo. VI (Mne),
    1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, Burma Star, Defence Medal, War Medal.


    An anonymous bidder paid £31,000 for them.
    Bill sparks had saved his home and had enough for a small pension, which would keep him and his wife comfortable for the remainder of their lives. To this day, Bill's benefactor and owner of the Cockleshell Hero's medals remains unknown."

    Source:
    The Royal Marines by John Robert Young, published 1991.
    Page 150.


    RM_JRY.jpg
     
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  10. Caversham

    Caversham Former RM Commando, Moderator

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    I was around when the flack was flying about Bill and his medals. The pressure on him to donate them to the Corps museum was huge and opinion is still divided on this matter. Even his son, who was serving at the time, was brought into the row. All very unsavoury.

    I had the pleasure of meeting him on a couple of occasions and each time he was wearing the medals. Originals or replicas meant nothing to me whatsoever, just to be in the company of a Corps' legend was good enough, especially as he was one of the most unassuming men around.

    RIP Bill.

    Alan
     
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  11. Chelonian

    Chelonian Moderator

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    The probability is that the medals you saw were the originals rather than replicas. Your comment illuminated a very dim memory of something I'd read so I took another look at Bill Sparks's Daily Telegraph obituary from December 2002. Here's an extract:

    "Two years later Sparks's invalidity pension was cut by £1,000 a year and, despite media coverage and family disagreement, he decided that he had to auction his medals.

    "I have tried not to feel bitter about this," he told The Telegraph. "But when I went to the DHSS and explained my case, I was told absolutely nothing could be done. How can I feel anything else but bitter and disappointed?"

    The sale raised £31,000 at Sotheby's from an anonymous bidder. But the pain was alleviated when the new owner placed the eight medals in Sotheby's vault with instructions that Sparks was to be permitted to wear them whenever he wished.
    "

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/1415009/Marine-Bill-Sparks.html
     
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