Cockleshell Hero canoes at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall

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A new National Maritime Museum Cornwall display explores the evolution of fighting canoes used by the British in World War II.

The oldest canoe in the collection, the Mark II, was made famous by Operation Frankton in December 1942, which was the basis for the film The Cockleshell Heroes.

The real Cockleshell Heroes were Royal Marine Commandos, who got their nickname from the canoes that they used, which were known as cockles. They were difficult to spot at night  and easy to hide, launch attacks and seek out suitable landing places, and could even be used to and could be used to land and collect secret agents. Collapsible types could be carried and launched from submarines.

A brief description of the raid and a collection of relevant links appears at the Wikipedia.

I should explain that much of the information now available and some of the artifacts on show is available thanks to the painstaking research work of  Quentin Rees, who has recently published a book on the topic: The Cockleshell Canoes: British Military Canoes of World War Two.

The exhibition, which runs until the 26th April 2009, includes two other canoes in the exhibition are built of aluminium for use in the tropics, and the display is said to bring together three of the rarest military canoes of the time.

4 thoughts on “Cockleshell Hero canoes at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall”

  1. I have a genuine Cockleshell canoe. My father helped develop the alloy from which it was made and, at the end of the war, bought it from his firm. If anyone is interested in it please do not hesitate to contact me on

  2. We have just lost to an auction the ww2 commando canoe at the west highland museum and are looking to replace it as it’s a central display of the commando exhibition just wondering if any on can point us the the right direction regards Tom mcdonald (

  3. We go around the country showing our WW2 canoes. We tell the history and the important job this small band of brave men did. We do not have any money nor do we ask for any, but if anyone has any item be it a wrist compass or a canoe as long as it is genuine and to do with any of the WW2 Cockles we would be happy for any donation.

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