The Most Courageous Raid of WWII


Paddy Ashdown retells the terrifying story of Operation Frankton, a wartime commando raid that was a mixture of incredible bravery and tragic shambles.

It involved 12 men in canoes making their way by night up the Gironde estuary to Bordeaux, where they hoped to blow up cargo ships using limpet mines. They were led by the uncompromising Herbert “Blondie” Hasler, who told soldiers applying to serve with him, “You do realise, if you join my unit your expectations of a long life are very remote?” As Ashdown tells us, the chances of the men escaping to freedom were so unlikely, it amounted to a suicide mission.


Paddy Ashdown tells the story of the `Cockleshell Heroes', and their part in defending Britain as it struggled against Nazi Germany. In 1942, the 12-strong unit of Royal Marine commandos used canoes designed by their leader, Major Herbert George `Blondie' Hasler, to navigate the most heavily defended estuary in Europe, dodging searchlights and machine gun posts to destroy enemy shipping in Bordeaux harbour, 70 miles downriver. The documentary re-creates parts of the raid, and reveals how Major Hasler came to be hailed as one of the greatest heroes of the Second World War.

Cast & Crew

Presenter Paddy Ashdown
Director Francis Whately
Executive Producer Dominic Crossley-Holland
Producer Francis Whately