The colourful history of British Military Canoes of World War II now on display

Thursday, 04 December 2008
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A Cockleshell Canoe. Image Credit: wikipedia.orgIf you are visiting Cornwall, England sometime between now and the end of February, stop by the National Maritime Museum. They have a new display opening December 8 which focuses on the use of kayaks in the Second World War.

The most famous incident was turned into the 1955 movie called The Cockleshell Heroes which told the story of a raid in Nazi territory at Bordeaux Harbour in 1942. The plan was to try to sink several Nazi boats with limpet mines. Two of the ten soldiers who took part in the attack drowned and a further six were executed by the Germans but the mission was considered a success.

"I think the public will be surprised by what they see," predicts Captain George Hogg, a trustee of the museum whose discussion of the show frequently highlights the astonishing effectiveness of these small vessels. "The idea of building an 18ft canoe [kayak] with a motor in it to take two guys and a whole load of limpet mines is unusual. When you see The Cockleshell Heroes raid you think ‘my god, what guts those guys had.'"

What was really cool about the design of the boats back then was that they could fold up small enough to pass through the torpedo loading hatch of a submarine from where they were often launched. They were versatile, and nimble that enemy forces struggles to spot on the water.

It looks like a fantastic display so if you are in the area, stop in to the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall, England.

British Military Canoes of World War II runs from December 8, 2008 through to February, 2009.

Update: I just found out that there is a new book out on the mission that you should take a look at. MOST SECRET: The Cockleshell Canoes



Image credit: wikipedia.org


David Johnston

David Johnston

David Johnston has been introducing people to the sport of sea kayaking for the past 15 years. He is a senior instructor trainer with Paddle Canada and teaches for several paddling schools in Ontario, Canada. Full Bio.

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