By the next time I speak to you the Cockleshell Expedition will be over and we will have tried in our way to honour the memory of those who went before and those who took part in the DDay landings on June 6.
Our last training session went very well and I didn’t find myself upside down in the water once. Honestly.
The most worrying thing is that the driver of my minibus has been advertising on Facebook to see if anybody can lend him a good map of France! Being a gunner, like myself, I might have hoped he had a better sense of direction.
While we were on the estuary in Bournemouth the team had to rescue a family of four, whose row boat had overturned and was being pulled under by the current. Amazingly, while they were fully equipped with mobile phones and cameras, not one of them had a life jacket. It shows how near you are to disaster at all times, but really, you should be better prepared than that.
Still, we were very proud of ourselves and gave them a good lecture on the stupidity of what they had done. I must be getting old!
Our boats were bought for us by the Duncan Bannatyne foundation. They are perfectly suited to our needs, light and very strong.
The original boats had to be collapsible so that they could fit into the submarines. They had to pack into these tiny boats everything that they could possibly need. Tools, food, water, ammunition. They even had to sit on the limpet mines that they were carrying.
This picture shows me with a boat built to the original plan and accurate in every way. Also laid out is the kit that they carried.
The memory of this raid is very important to many people because of the incredible bravery it represented. There are Cockleshell Associations in this country and in France.
Colonel Haslar who led the raid, is remembered for his bravery and now all injured Royal Marines are placed in Haslar Company as they recover. It’s important that we all do our absolute best.
There is one lady taking part in the mission with us. Her name is Sarah and her great uncle was one of the very brave man on the original mission. He didn’t make it back and Sarah never met him, but is honoured to be doing this in his memory.
Well it’s nearly time to put all the training into practice. We paddle in daylight, and with experts who know the river like the back of their hand. But it will still be hard work – a real challenge.
The river has strong currents and thick mudbanks. It’s still cold at this time of year. The weather will play a big part.
How brave were the men who did it for real?
* Ben Parkinson, Doncaster wounded war hero.