Canoe raiders launched from submarine
7th December 1942: The legendary early Special Forces raid 'Operation Frankton' sets off - aiming to sink ships in occupied France
At 7.17 pm on December 7, 1942, His Majesty’s Submarine Tuna surfaced off the coast of Occupied France near the mouth of the River Gironde. The forerunners of the Special Boat Service were on their first mission. The plan was to launch two-man canoes that would travel 70 miles upriver and plant limpet mines on shipping in Bordeaux harbour.
At this stage, the men from the Royal Marine Commandos were known as the ‘Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment. The unit was ostensibly used for night patrols of the booms in Portsmouth Harbour - which they did as part of their training - but had been formed especially for this clandestine operation.
Only later would the small boat Commando specialization become known as the Special Boat Section, and after the war as the Special Boat Service. The group of men who would become known, much later, as the 'Cockleshell Heroes' had prepared for their mission in great secrecy with some very demanding training.
Operation Frankton did not begin well. Of the six canoes planned to launch one was damaged getting off the submarine and could not take part. Of the five double-man crews that set off, Coalfish became separated from the others in the heavy seas and Conger capsized.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to World War II Today to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.