The Most Courageous Raid of WWII

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Duration: 1 hour

Lord Ashdown, a former special forces commando, tells the story of the 'Cockleshell Heroes', who led one of the most daring and audacious commando raids of World War II.

In 1942, Britain was struggling to fight back against Nazi Germany. Lacking the resources for a second front, Churchill encouraged innovative and daring new methods of combat. Enter stage left, Blondie Hasler.

With a unit of twelve Royal Marine commandos, Major Blondie Hasler believed his 'cockleshell' canoe could be effectively used in clandestine attacks on the enemy. Their brief was to navigate the most heavily defended estuary in Europe, to dodge searchlights, machine-gun posts and armed river-patrol craft 70 miles downriver, and then to blow up enemy shipping in Bordeaux harbour.

Lord Ashdown recreates parts of the raid and explains how this experience was used in preparing for one of the greatest land invasions in history, D-day.

  • Remembering the secret mission of Cockleshell Heroes

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    In March 2011, a memorial to the Royal Marines who canoed almost 100 miles behind enemy lines in a daring World War II raid was unveiled in France. BBC News reports on what the secret mission entailed, and why it was so important.

    Read the full story on BBC News
  • BBC TV blog

    BBC TV blog

    Martin Davidson, the BBC's Commissioning Editor for History and Business, reveals the secret lives and untold stories of WWII explored in a series of Timewatch specials, including The Most Courageous Raid of WWII.

    Read the full post on the BBC TV blog


Paddy Ashdown
Francis Whately
Francis Whately
Executive Producer
Dominic Crossley-Holland


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