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Wirral hails Cockleshell Heroes
MAYOR Cllr Dave Mitchell will lead a special Wirral salute to the legendary Cockleshell Heroes of World War Two this weekend.
He will lay at wreath at the Woodside Ferry, Birkenhead where Lord Paddy Ashdown, an ex member of the Special Boat Service, unveiled a local authority memorial to the 10 Royal Marines – including Birkenhead-born Corporal Albert Laver – who carried out an audacious raid on German ships in Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in France in December 1942.
Paddy Ashdown, who has written a book about the mission, said at the unveiling: "This was one of the most dangerous and daring raids of World War Two and pitted 10 Royal Marines against 10,000 German troops.
"The young men who took part knew there was a very good chance they would not return and they were prepared to risk their lives at a time when our nation's survival was at stake."
Cpl Laver was only 22 when he signed up for the top secret mission. He was eventually shot by the Germans for his part in the raid, which was credited for shortening World War Two by six months.
Cllr Mitchell will lay a wreath at the memorial at 11am on Sunday in a special ceremony organised by the Royal Marines Association.
Cllr Mitchell said: "I am delighted to take part in this annual remembrance in honour of these brave men – and of course Birkenhead’s own son Corporal Albert Frederick Laver."
The Woodside Ferry commemorative plaque was made after Paddy Ashdown had written to local authorities in the home towns of the men who took part on "Operation Frankton" requesting them to provide a permanent memorial.
Wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill acknowledged that the action helped shorten World War 11 by six months.
The Marines faced the task of paddling up the River Gironde in their Cockle Mark 11 canoes, moving by night and hiding by day.
They succeeded in sinking one ship and severely damaging four others and doing enough damage in the port to greatly disrupt use of the harbour for many months.
Corporal Laver was one of six Marines captured by the Germans and shot. Two Marines drowned and two did not make the mission because their canoe was damaged.
The remaining two made it back to the UK after completion of the raid.
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