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A Brilliant Little Operation
 
 

A Brilliant Little Operation [Kindle Edition]

Paddy Ashdown
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review

‘A meticulously researched and truly shocking account of an operation that should never have been authorised. In his account of this hair-raising, if not hare-brained enterprise, Ashdown sustains an incisive narrative of great suspense, laced with a moral outrage that is all the more powerful for being both understated and underpinned by telling detail.'

(Jonathan Dimbleby Mail on Sunday)

‘Lord Ashdown gives an extensive and definitive account of the mission’

(Saga Magazine)

'The story of Operation Frankton is an extreme example of a plan brilliantly conceived and badly botched. The ten commandos who made a secret canoe raid in 1942 on German merchant ships have become icons of British wartime derring-do.'

(The Times)

'Lord Ashdown truly makes history live, with meticulous research presented in a very readable way. For a new view on history, or just for an exciting adventure story, A Brilliant Little Operation is well worth reading.'

 
(We Love This Book)

'Ashdown’s narrative style is quite superb – particularly on the raid itself, and albeit not always documented, he builds what seems to be a most accurate picture of what that canoe trip must have been like.  I think Ashdown’s work is simply brilliant!'

(The Book Dad)

'No doubt many more books will be written about the war, but I hope this becomes a model for them since, though the heroism of our boys is stirring stuff, history only makes real sense if you can see it from all sides.'

(Daily Telegraph)

‘Paddy Ashdown has sifted the facts from the myths to write a fascinating and very personal account.’

(Independent)

'It moves at the pace of a thriller and it's real'

(Nick Ferrari Sunday Express)

‘Ashdown’s insights and his extensive research in an impressive range of archives will ensure that yet another work on the subject will not be required in the foreseeable future.’

(Times Literary Supplement)

‘Told from French, German and British perspectives, this is a well-balanced and gripping read.’

(Good Book Guide)

Winner of the Royal Marines Historical Society Literary Award for 2013.

Product Description

In 1942, before El Alamein turned the tide of war, the German merchant fleet was re-supplying its war machine with impunity. So Operation Frankton, a daring and secret raid, was launched by Mountbatten’s Combined Operations and led by the enigmatic ‘Blondie’ Hasler – to paddle ‘Cockleshell’ canoes right into Bordeaux harbour and sink the ships at anchor. It was a desperately hazardous mission from the start – dropped by submarine to canoe some hundred miles up the Gironde into the heart of Vichy France, surviving terrifying tidal races, only to face the biggest challenge of all: escaping across the Pyrenees. Fewer than half the men made it to Bordeaux; only four laid their mines; just two got back alive. But the most damage was done to the Germans’ sense of impregnability. Paddy Ashdown, himself a member of the Royal Marines’ elite Special Boat Squadron formed as a consequence of Frankton, has always been fascinated by this classic story of bravery and ingenuity - as a young man even meeting his hero Hasler once. Now, after researching previously unseen archives and tracing surviving witnesses, he has written the definitive account of the raid. The real truth, he discovers – a deplorable tale of Whitehall rivalry and breakdowns in communication – serves only to make the achievements of the ‘Cockleshell’ heroes all the more heroic.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2187 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press (17 Sep 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781310831
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781310830
  • ASIN: B009AW0BL2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #83,460 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

After service as a Royal Marine and as an intelligence officer for the UK security services, Paddy Ashdown was a Member of Parliament for Yeovil from 1983 to 2001, and leader of the Liberal Democrats from 1988 until 1999. Later he was the international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002 to 2006.

He was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George in 2006.


Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book as I'd seen the film about the Cockleshell Heroes which really inspired me. This book is an amazingly detailed in-depth account with almost everything verified. It starts off rather slowly and you have to get through a lot of background Ministry information and quite a lot of Forces jargon, and I initially thought that the amount of detailed & cross-referenced verification was spoiling what is a great true story. Don't be put off by this as it really does set the scene. You soon understand why it took Paddy Ashdown 2 years to write this book as the subject is very close to his heart because of his own involvement in the Special Forces. He is clearly determined to write the definitive record which will stand the test of time, with the most careful & accurate research, including the Marine Museum's records, German & French records & interviews with as many people who were involved as was possible. The tension builds slowly as you read the book with details of all the training etc & the description of the tensions involved in the actual raid & the subsequent escape stories make the book a great read. The definitive book on this daring raid and highly recommended!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "A Brilliant Little Book" 3 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Lord Ashdown has produced the most readable, well-researched and objective account of Operation Frankton. This is the definitive reconstruction of events, based on first-hand research. In "Cockleshell Heroes - The Final Witness", Quentin Rees provided much new information, but he wrote in a less accessible style (his book is, nevertheless, certainly worth reading). This is likely to be the "closing chapter" on an incredibly brave attempt by a small group of Royal Marines to influence the course of the war.

Paddy Ashdown's background as a Royal Marines officer and service in the SBS adds credibility to his analysis of the tactics and short-comings of the operation. In 2010, having kayaked the Frankton route, I met Lord Ashdown briefly outside the hotel in Ruffec where, in December 1942, Hasler and Sparks sought to contact the French Resistance. He mentioned that he was undertaking research for a book. It has been well worth the wait.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paddy Takes Us Back 10 April 2014
By Mr. Peter Steward TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Picked this book up after going to a talk given by the former Liberal Democrat Leader where his passion for the Brilliant Little Operation (Operation Frankton) came out.

Ashdown looks upon himself now as primarily a writer and that's certainly a good thing because he manages to simplify a complex area of British military history with the story of the men who became known as the Cockleshell Heroes. Ashdown hammers through the story in a Boys Own style that never diminished the gravity of the subject. A big supporter of the operation which saw a dozen men paddle canoes 70 miles up the Gironde to blow up a German merchant fleet anchored in Bordeaux Harbour. The fact that they weren't entirely successful (only two made it back to England) and the fact they caused minimal damage to most of the vessels doesn't detract from the story.

Ashdown is firmly behind the raid but his prose does allow you to make your own judgement of whether this was a well planned, well drilled and successful operation or pretty much a pointless disaster. Above all the author strips away modern day views to take the reader back 70 years when "times were very different." This is where the real power of a very well written book comes over. A good start to 2013 for my reading.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is much better than I thought it would be. It is very well written, thoroughly researched, and it reads like a thriller. Moreover, the elements of the story have been skilfully assembled.

The account is a mix of rigourous training, an operation that was relentlessly hazardous, an appalling lack of coordination between Combined Operations and SOE, raw courage, and an escape-and-evasion exercise that must have been particularly harrowing. The passages dealing with the teams' insertion by submarine, the terrifying conditions the canoeists had to endure, setting the mines, and how the fugitives moved through occupied territory are gripping. The final chapters are deeply poignant.

Let us salute Blondie Hasler and his men. And congratulate Paddy Ashdown, a former SBS officer.

As an aside, I have a very small personal interest; my father was in the (Army) Commandos (No 12/France and Norway, and No 5/Far East and Burma). His fighting-knife (these were made by Wilkinson Sword and designed by two Hong-Kong and Shanghai policemen called Fairburn and Sykes) lies just in front of me. He didn't know Blondie Hasler but certainly knew of him.

Given the context of the times and the circumstances, Frankton arguably remains the most impressive special forces operation of all-time.

A very good, and authoritative, book.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a well researched and written book 6 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover
This is the story of Operation Frankton in 1942, a daring raid on Bordeaux harbour by a small number of men from Combined Operations also known as the Cockleshell raid led by Blondie Haslar. The hazards faced on the operation were immense from the start. Dropped by submarine in the open sea, strong tides that threatened their small canoes, laying mines and escape across the Pyrenees.
It was another mission during that phase of the war between Dunkirk and D-Day when Britain's only means of striking in the West was missions such as these organised by the likes of Combined Operations, led by Mountbatten. These ranged from the large raids such as Dieppe and the Loftgrun Islands to ones such as this which saw only 12 men from the Royal Marines attempt to canoe 6 Cocklshell canoes into a harbour and sink ships.
The odds against them were high, they were dropped from HMS Tuna on the 7th December off the coast and made their way up river before eventually reaching Bordeaux on the night of 11th/12th December after 4 days of lying up camouflaged, paddling by night. By this stage only 2 canoes were left, however these hour men laid enough mines to damage 9 ships. This relatively high loss of men was still less than one bomber crew for what could be argued to much greater effect.
The Germans had thought of harbours such as Bordeaux impregnable. Raids such as this led to a much heavier defence on the Western Wall and tied down a large number of troops who could have been put to greater use elsewhere.
After the raid, the escape plan had hoped for a link up with the Marie-Claire escape line, it is remarkable given how much thought and planning went into getting the Marines into Bordeaux, how littlw went into their escape. Only Haslar spoke French for example.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Great story, pity about the notes.
Good book, but Paddy Ashdown's habit of putting all his notes at the end of the book is an inconsiderate idea for the reader. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. C. S. Buckman
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Legendary story beautifully told by an ex Royal Marine.
Published 1 month ago by Jon Prewett
3.0 out of 5 stars but got rather bored with the trivia
A very, very detailed account of all that went before, during and after the raid. A fascinating story, but got rather bored with the trivia. Read more
Published 1 month ago by DutchDirk
5.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed it.
First class read, thoroughly researched gave a far truer insight into what had previously ben mostly fiction.I enjoyed it.
Published 2 months ago by speak
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good read. Insight into infighting amongst British secret ops.
Published 2 months ago by patond
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful dissection of a glorious tragedy
With his own background in the Royal Marines' Special Boat Service and MI6 or something close there is probably no living person better qualified to write the definitive history... Read more
Published 3 months ago by CRF Smith, Guernsey
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brilliant service, very interesting book one I could not put down. All true details given by Paddy Ashdown
Published 3 months ago by John Lowe
5.0 out of 5 stars a brilliant little read!
A fantastic read. This book tells us what it really takes to be true hero
Blondie hasler, a legend!
Published 3 months ago by steve harrill
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and painstaking piece of reportage
I wasn't aware of the Cockleshell raid until I read this book. Paddy Ashdown's detailed and painstaking research shows the courage of Blondie Hasler's men and the consequences of... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Steve Bristow
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read
A fascinating read, superbly researched. Thoroughly recommended for anyone interested in ww2 and leadership. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Andrew
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