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Catherington’s ‘Cockleshell Hero’ remembered with commemorative plaque


  • Author: EHDC Press Release
  • Published: 20th October 2016
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EHDC Press Release - Catherington’s ‘Cockleshell Hero’ remembered with commemorative plaque

Catherington’s ‘Cockleshell Hero’ remembered with commemorative plaque

A Catherington war hero has been remembered with a commemorative blue plaque, placed on his family home in the village.

Lt Col Blondie Hasler was the mastermind behind a daring World War Two raid to disable enemy shipping in Bordeaux by paddling canoes packed with mines up the Gironde river in France.

He led a team of 10 Royal Marines, dubbed Cockleshell Heroes by Hollywood, of which only two survived.

Lord Ashdown, himself a former SBS officer, unveiled the plaque on Blondie’s family home in Glamorgan Road, Catherington on Monday 17 October.

The event was attended by senior military figures, including Brigadier R A W Spencer OBE ADC, Deputy Commandant General of the Royal Marines, as well as Blondie Hasler’s biographer Ewen Southby-Tailyour.

Of five two-man canoes to be successfully launched from a submarine in the Gironde estuary only two canoes reached their destination. They attached limpet mines to ships berthed in Bordeux harbour, damaging six vessels.

Of the ten men who had left only two finally returned. Two men drowned and the remaining six were captured, interrogated, tortured and executed by the Germans. Blondie Hasler and his partner Bill Sparks escaped over land, were sheltered by the Resistance and finally reached neutral Spain and Gibraltar.

This operation gave rise to the creation of the now famous Commando Unit, the SBS, within the Royal Marines Corps.

Lord Ashdown unveiled the plaque, fixed on the Hasler’s former house in Glamorgan Road, now owned by Greg and Sarah Hughes.

He paid tribute to Blondie’s skill as a leader. “He took those nine Royal Marines, who were ordinary guys, some of whom could not swim, had never paddled a boat before and perhaps had not been outside the United Kingdom before, and he turned them into people with the skill, confidence and courage to carry out one of the most extraordinary raids of World War Two.”

Cllr Sara Schillemore, councillor for Catherington, arranged the event and donated £500 from EHDC's councillor grant scheme towards the plaque. This was supplemented by funds raised by Catherington Village Residents’ Association.

She said: “Blondie and his team were incredibly brave men facing enormous odds. They landed a significant blow on the enemy which the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, said had probably shortened World War Two by six months.

“In Catherington we are very proud of Blondie and delighted to have his courage and ingenuity commemorated with this blue plaque on his family home. It was wonderful to see so many influential military figures here to pay tribute to Blondie and to have no less a figure than Lord Ashdown unveil the plaque is a testament to the high esteem in which he is held.”

The idea of a blue plaque was put forward by Bill Evershed, a family friend of Blondie's who also spoke at the event.

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