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The day WW2 heroes dropped into Winsham
11:00am Friday 19th October 2012 in News
A BOOK written by former Yeovil MP Paddy Ashdown which looks at the heroism of the Cockleshell Heroes in the Second World War reveals that the daring Royal Marines stopped off in Winsham one morning during training to have breakfast.
The Royal Marines Boom Patrol Detachment, which came into official existence in July, 1942, raided Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in December, 1942, in Operation Frankton with the task of causing as much damage in the port as possible to disrupt its use by the Germans.
They managed to sink one ship and severely damage four others, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill said the raid had helped to shorten the war by six months.
The group of 12 Royal Marines got their nickname of the Cockleshell Heroes from the canoes they were to use which were themselves nicknamed cockles.
They were under the leadership of Lieut Col Herbert ‘Blondie’ Hasler, and only he and one other officer knew what their mission was going to be when training started.
It was while on their way back from a training exercise on the English coast that they stopped off in Winsham, where their driver, Fred Phelps, known as ‘Flash’ to his pals, lived.
While researching his book, A Brilliant Little Operation: The Cockleshell Heroes and the Most Courageous Raid of WW2, Paddy Ashdown – now Lord Ashdown – spoke with Olive Pyne, sister of ‘Flash’ Phelps.
“This group of Royal Marines called at Fred’s mother’s house in West Street, Winsham, unannounced on their way back from exercise in the early autumn of 1942,” he said.
“Mrs Phelps gave them all breakfast, but Olive told me during my research for the book that the sight of all these canoes parked outside their home was a talking point in the village for weeks.
“Little did they realise how important they would be.”
Lord Ashdown was at Waterstone’s bookshop in Yeovil on Saturday to sign copies of his book, priced £25 and published by Aurum Press.