Sunday, January 29, 2012

The War Canoes of World War II - Cockleshell Heroes

The concept of using variants of peacetime sporting kayaks in military raiding missions by British Special Forces during World War II was conceived of by several individuals. at about the same time, and each evolved into parallel units. One of the earlier unit was the Army Commando Special Boat Sections, which evolved into the Special Boat Squadron. Its founder was Major Roger (‘Jumbo’) Courtney, MC. Also developed within the Army Commando was 101 Troop. Within the Royal Navy an organization called the Combined Operations (Assault) Piloting Parties (COPP’s) were developed.by Captain Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott, DSO, DSC, RN. Finally the Royal Marines, lead by Lieut-Colonel H.G. (‘Blondie’) Hasler, DSO, OBE, RM, developed the Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachments (RMBPD) and there was a separate unit designated Detachment ‘385’. These latter two units were the forerunners of today’s Royal Marine Special Boat Service (SBS). In addition there was the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) and the Sea Reconnaissance Unit (SRU) founded by Lieut-Commander Bruce Wright, RCNVR, who was an Olympic grade swimmer. There were a few other units raised, but these were the main ones.

The 'tombstone' formation badge of WWII
British Combined Operations, worn by the
swimmer-canoeists, and still worn by their
 special forces today, including the elite
Special Boat Service

The ‘Folbot', a sports kayak, manufactured by the Folbot Company, and the Goatley Boat were the principal common origin of craft employed by all these organizations.  Needless to say the Folbot had to undergo significant and continuous modification and refinement in order to meet the rigorous requirements of sustained oceangoing combat operations. First and foremost the craft were renamed and officially designated 'Cockles'. The Goatley Assault Boat was originally designed and built by Fred Goatley for combat operations, but was based on his previous peacetime designs. The single best reference I have found on the development and operations of all these boats is, The COCKLESHELL CANOES BRITISH MILITARY CANOES OF WORLD WAR TWO, Q. Rees, Amberley Publishing, Chalford, Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2008, ISBN 978-1-84868-065-4 (See video of BBC interview below). The detailed technical information and copies of original drawings and photographs contained in this book are exceptional.

I am personally indebted and most appreciative of Quentin Rees' direct contributions to this blog, insuring the accuracy of the contents.

There are very few surviving specimens of any of these vessels (6 known), the majority of which reside in military museums. On extremely rare occasion a privately owned example will come up for sale or auction.

The following set of drawings shows a representative grouping of some of the designs employed by British Special Forces during World War II.
1.     Cockle Mark 1, (sports kayak procured by Admiralty) circa 1939-1940
2.    Cockle Mark 1**, (purpose built primary craft of COPP's) circa 1942 
3.     Cockle Mark 2**, (purpose built) circa 1943  
4.     Cockle Mark 6 (Powered)
5.      Motor Submersible Canoe (MSC ‘Sleeping Beauty’)
6.     Klepper Canoe (RM SBS, derivative used in Falklands 1982) circa 1958 – Present
7.     18’ Dory, circa 1941
8.     20’ Surf Boat, circa 1942
9.     Y-Type Inflatable Raft, circa 1943

Drawings of representative Cockles and other craft
employed by British Special Forces in World War II


The following photograph was taken at an exhibit at the Combined Military Services Museum, Chelmsford, Essex. The craft is one of the six actual canoes used in Operation Frankton, the Royal Marine Commando attack on German shipping in the French port of Bordeaux in 1942. It is the restored Cockle Mark 2 named 'Cachalot', which was damaged onboard the submarine HMS Tuna during the initiation of the raid, and forced to abort the mission. The 1955 movie 'Cockleshell Heroes' was based on this raid. Lieutenant Colonel Herbert "Blondie" Hasler, DSO, OBE, the leader of the real-life raid, was seconded to Warwick Films as technical advisor. Ex-Corporal William Sparks, DSM, the other survivor of the raid, was also an advisor.

The exhibit at the Combined Military Services Museum,
 Chelmsford, Essex of  a restored Cockle Mark 2 

The following series of photographs are of a Cockle Mark 2**, showing details of its construction. This Cockle also currently resides in the Combined Military Services Museum, Chelmsford.









Engineering drawing detailing the retractable
two-stroke gasoline engine installed in the
Canoe MK VI and Canoe MK VIII

An interview with Quentin Rees, author of 'Cockleshell Canoes', conducted by the BBC on the 65th anniversary of the successful attack by Royal Marine Commandos on German shipping in Bordeaux Harbor during World War II. This is followed by a documentary series of this raid in 1942, as well as another highly successful attack against Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbor in 1943.




 



Following the end of World War II the majority of these units were disbanded or down sized.  However the Royal Marine Commandos maintained a small craft capability for the missions of coastal/beach reconnaissance and raiding. Missions of this nature continue to be executed to this day by the Special Boat Service. The next photograph is shown with thanks and full acknowledgement to the Elite UK Forces web page.


  "Special Boat Section (SBS) commandos paddle a 2-man canoe during training for a raid on the Northeastern coast of Korea, 12 December 1951. During the Korean conflict, the SBS carried out a number of reconnaissance and sabotage operations along the enemy's coastline coast and further inland. The 2-man canoe is a stealthy method of infiltration/exfiltration that is still believed to be in use in the modern-day SBS.

Between 1940 and 1977, ' SBS' stood for Special Boat Section. From 1977-1987 the SBS became the Special Boat Squadron,. In 1987 the unit became part of the United Kingdom Special Forces group (UKSF) and changed its name to the Special Boat Service."

3 comments:

kewdos said...

I HAVE SENT JIM A FEW DETAILS ABOUT HIS PIECE AS THERE ARE INACCURACIES WITHIN PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS... I AM THE QUENTIN REES, THE AUTHOR OF THE BOOK 'COCKLESHELL CANOES' - BRITISH MILITARY CANOES OF WW2.


THE LIST THAT HAS BEE USED ARE INCORRECT... THESE CANOES WERE NEVER DESIGNATED AS FOLBOTS THIS IS OR WAS A INCORRECT TERM USED UNTIL MY BOOK..... THE WW2 CANOES WERE DESIGNATED AS 'COCKLES'

THE DRAWINGS SUPPLIED ARE INCORRECT AND LABELED WRONGLY ... THE ERRORS IN THE IDENTIFICATION
THE MARK 1 AND OTHERS ARE NOT NAMED AS FOLBOTS .
NO 5 IS NOT A MARK 9 IT IS JUST A msc ( SLEEPING BEAUTY.).............

The following set of drawings shows a representative grouping of some of the designs employed by British Special Forces during World War II.
1. Mark I Folbot, circa 1940
2. Mark I** Folbot
3. Mark II** Folbot
4. Mark VI Folbot (Powered)
5. Mark IX Motor Submersible Canoe (MCS ‘Sleeping Beauty’)
-...


IT IS NOT A GOOD THING TO RELY ON THIS INFORMATION AS IN THE ILLUSTRATED LIST IN THE BLOG PIECE... MUCH FROM THIS ILLUSTRATIVE LIST IS INACCURATE.

PLEASE VIEW MY BOOK AND ITS MANY IMAGES TO FIND THE CORRECT DETAILS


REF ... An exhibit at the Falmouth Maritime Museum of a restored Mark II** Folbot.....

THE PHOTO REFERRED TO AND MENTIONED IN THE PIECE ( THE GREY COLOURED CANOE) IS NOT TAKEN AT THE FALMOUTH NATIONAL MARITIME MUSEUM INDEED IT IS NOT A FOLBOT OR A MARK 2**

IT IS THE COCKLE MARK 2 THE TYPE USED ON THE FRANKTON RAID.... I IDENTIFIED IN 2008 THIS ACTUAL CANOE AS ONE OF THE SIX CANOES TAKEN ABOARD HMS TUNA BUT NOT ON THE RAID... I IDENTIFIED THIS CANOE TO BE CANOE 'CACHALOT' , DAMAGED ON UPPING IN THE SUBMARINE AND HENCE UNABLE TO BE USED ON THE RAID.
THE CANOE THAT THE PHOTO SHOWS WAS TAKEN AT AND RESIDES IN THE COMBINED MILITARY SERVICES MUSEUM IN CHELMSFORD ESSEX UK. THEY ACQUIRED ALSO THE MK 2** THAT YOU SHOW FURTHER ON IN YOUR PIECE ON LAND AND IN THE WATER. THIS CANOE IS ALSO ON DISPLAY AT THE COMBINED MILITARY SERVICES MUSEUM IN CHELMSFORD.



tHE PHOTO SHOWING A CANOE IN AN ENGLISH GARDEN

IS ALSO INACCURATE...

IT IS NOT A MARK SEVEN (7) BOTH THE MK 7 AND THE MARK 9 18FT LONG BUT THE MK 7 IS THE NON POWERED VERSION......

THE PHOTO SHOWN IS A MARK 9 POWERED ALUMINIUM SECTIONAL BULKHEADED CANOE (TWO MAN) ... THEY ALSO MADE A 4 MAN.. SEE BOOK....
THE ONE IN JIMS PHOTO IS THE COSD MARK 9 AS IN MY BOOK... THERE WAS AN ALMOST IDENTICAL WARWICK AVIATION MARK 9 MODEL BUT IT IS SLIGHTLY DIFF THAN THIS ONE YOU SHOW.

THIS CANOE SHOWN IN THE PHOTO IS NOT RESTORED BUT AS IS ORIGINALLY FOUND.

HOPE HELPS .... MAIL ME IF NEED OM qqiphoto@gmail.com

regards

Q




The following photographs are of a fully restored WWII 'Folbot' Mk VI (powered kayak/canoe) where else, but in an English Garden! A similar, but simpler 'Folbot' was used by the COPP's. Variants were also used by the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) and Royal Marine Boom Patrol Detachment (RMBPD) swimmer- canoeists in their operations. The craft were about 17 feet long and had a 30 inch beam depending upon their specific configuration.



Restored WWII Mark VI Folbot (powered); Note relatively
large tiller and port side sponson, matched by a starboard
sponson (not visible), for added stability in an ocean environment

Nigel Shuttleworth said...

Quentin Rees is the acknowledged authority on the folding kayaks used throughout WW2 by British and Allied (principally Australian) forces, and is quite correct to say that the term 'folbot' is a misnomer. Folbot is the name of the US manufacturer based at Charleston, SC which started life in 1933 by German Jack Kissner living in London who produced a range of folding kayaks. He moved to New York just before WW2 as he saw the potential from such a huge market. It is also a misnomer to call the 'folbot' a canoe;I it is a kayak. A canoe is an open boat paddled by a single blade, generally from a kneeling position. A kayak is paddled from a sitting position using a double bladed paddle.
I was introduced to paddling as a young Cadet in the RN section of the CCF at Little Loch Broom, Ullapool in 1962 in wood and canvas 2 man kayaks. I would be very interested to hear if anyone has details of the Royal Navy base on Loch Broom and the manufacturer and specifications of the kayaks which would have been in use in the Royal Navy at that time.

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