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A Brilliant Little Operation Kindle Edition

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Length: 416 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Product Description


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

‘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)

‘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)

'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.’


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

(Saga Magazine)

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

(Nick Ferrari Sunday Express)

'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)

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

(Good Book Guide)

'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)

About the Author

PADDY ASHDOWN spent the first seventeen years of his adult life serving his country as an officer in the Royal Marine Commandos, a member of the Special Boat Service and as an employee of the ‘shadowy side’ of the Foreign Office. He then went on to become Liberal Democrat MP for Yeovil and leader of his party, and the international community’s High Representative in war-torn Bosnia. He currently sits in the House of Lords. His other title for Aurum is his autobiography, A Fortunate Life.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3216 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press (17 Sept. 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:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,185 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
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Huw Gibby on 4 Feb. 2013
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Peter Steward TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 10 April 2014
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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Flint on 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 By Alan Holman on 5 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A very brave team from ‘Britain’s finest’ that truly deserves a place in British military history.
When I read the objective of the mission and the conditions under which they were to operate, I couldn’t help thinking that the odds of success were minimal and this was another ‘Bridge too far’ type of operation.

To be launched from a submarine, off a heavily guarded coast in freezing weather, with the most basic of survival equipment, was really pushing their luck. They had to penetrate deep into enemy territory with their overloaded flimsy canoes in the middle of winter. Furthermore they had to sleep eat and live in their canoes whilst remaining soaking wet throughout the mission. Back up or support was out of the question.

The success of the mission can be largely attributed to the leadership skills of Hasler combined with the courage, stamina and discipline of his men. Hasler had the unique advantage of small boat experience and sleeping under the stars from an early age. I almost believe he relished the opportunity to conduct this type of mission.

Having kayaked thousands of miles myself through some of the remotest places on earth I would not change places with these guys. Most of my kayaking has been is tropical areas where being wet and sleeping on river banks is more tolerable. With an abundance of sunshine, drying clothes was seldom a problem. I’ve slept in swamps and very uncomfortable places but this in no way compares with what Hasler’s team had to put up with. The occasional death threats to me were usually in the form of wild animals or violent river conditions. However, apart from the harsh living conditions Hasler’s team lived under, the constant threat of a bullet in the back of the neck must have been there.
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