More on the book Cockleshell Canoes by Quentin Rees

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Mark 7 military canoes. Photos supplied by Quentin Rees
and published with permission

Quentin Rees’s recent book Cockleshell Canoes is a thoroughly researched and well illustrated celebration of a group of people who have become part of canoe history.

Some, such as Blondie Hasler and the team of commandos who took part in the daring Operation Frankton are already well known. Commemorated in a major film titled Cockleshell Heroes, it was an attack by ten commandos in canoes on Bordeaux Harbour in occupied France during December 1942. British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill believed the mission shortened World War II by six months, and Admiral the Earl Mountbatten deemed it as the ‘most courageous and imaginative of all the raids ever carried out by the men of Combined Operations Commands‘.

Sadly, most of the brave individuals involved were eventually captured and shot by the Germans, who at that time regarded commandos as equivalent to spies.

However, the roles of many others have previously remained unsung. In this book Rees has weaved together real-life testimonies from the stories of the courageous soldiers who used the canoes, their military commanders, and the canoes’ inventors and designers, and tells of an epic journey of progress that took canoe development took from Cornwall, all along the Southern English Coast and beyond – even to the tropical island of Ceylon.

The canoes proved to be valuable in many of the theatres of WWII, and thousands of the various models were sent worldwide, often being used by the various Special Forces, including by the the espionage specialists of Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Click here to buy a copy from Amazon – The Cockleshell Canoes: British Military Canoes of World War Two Cockleshell Hero canoes at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall.

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4 thoughts on “More on the book Cockleshell Canoes by Quentin Rees”

  1. UPDATE/STOP PRESS

    This book was first published FOUR months ago in December 2008. The second reprint is MAY 2009! 320 pages and 143 photos including new pictures of previously unseen canoe the MK10.

    Heavy weight REVIEWS on 'The Cockleshell Canoes'

    This from Prof. Eric Grove – Review in Navy News May 2009.

    ' this volume really is one of the most original, interesting and informative to have appeared recently'

    'an excellent and ground breaking work',

    'described in great detail'.

    From 'The Croaker' April 2009 issue by M.J.A.

    'Clarity of delivery'.

    'Rees writes well and his narrative flows'

    'a stimulating and revealing tract'

    'fascinating and detailed accounts'

    Globe and Laurel – March – April 2009 issue by G.A.D

    'remarkable book',

    ' this great and important military and maritime story – which he tells very well',

    'good looking and man sized book' with 'stunning photographs'

    'Navy News' is a Uk based magazine highly rated. highly subscribed.

    'The Croaker' is a Subscription only magazine especially for Special Forces past and present ONLY.

    'The Globe and Laurel' is a magazine of the Royal Marines.

    The Navy News does a free on line edition – review is on page 44.

  2. I actually own a Mark 7, an original. My father helped develop the alloy they were made from and bought it for its scrap value from his firm at the end of the war. Anyone interested in it please feel free to contact me on di-woodward@hotmail.com

  3. “The canoes proved to be valuable in many of the theatres of WWII, and thousands of the various models were sent worldwide, often being used by the various Special Forces, including by the the espionage specialists of Special Operations Executive (SOE).”

    Were these the canoes used by the Australian Z Force commandos in their numerous operations in the war on Japan? Although some raids are the stuff of legend, only in recent times I believe has the bulk of available information about Z force been declassified – and there are some recent books. There is but one small plaque to their memory, if I recall correctly, affixed to rocks above the tide line near where some trained at Broken Bay near Sydney. I knew an old fella in the wet tropics of Queensland once thirty years ago who, it was said, had been assured his post WW2 job and career in local government for life upon volunteering to Z force as a teen. He acted as unsackable, as he must indeed have been, but he was a giant of a character – and there were others equally noteable. They’d endured dark times on those dark waters in those dark jungles – but they were astonishing guys. I was privileged to work with them for a time and learn something of their perpective. By god they had big, big hearts, and were so tough and true.

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