Paddy Ashdown rose to fame as an MP and popular leader of the Liberal Democrat party. Before that, however, he was a member of the Royal Marines’ elite Special Boat Service (SBS). Here he tells the story of Operation Frankton, the remarkable canoe raid on German ships in Bordeaux Harbour in 1942 that was the catalyst for the formation of the SBS. The daring mission, led by ‘Blondie’ Hasler, was to paddle ‘Cockleshell’ canoes 100 miles up the Gironde River and into the harbour to sink the German ships at anchor. Only two men made it back alive.
Lord Ashdown has always been fascinated by Operation Frankton and recalls meeting Hasler once as a boy. He has researched unseen archives to write the definitive story of the raid, uncovering Whitehall rivalry and breakdowns in communication that made the success of the raid even more remarkable. Ashdown has also fronted a BBC TV documentary on the Cockleshell raid.