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Operation Suicide: The Remarkable Story of the Cockleshell Raid [Hardcover]

Robert Lyman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 16.36 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

2 Feb 2012

During the Second World War, it is hard to imagine a situation where the British High Command could think that one of the only ways they could attack Hitler was to send ten canoeists with limpet mines to paddle one hundred miles up the Gironde estuary, in the middle of winter, in an attempt to sink German blockade ships in Bordeaux harbour. Yet this is precisely what happened in 1942. The man who gave the go-ahead for the audacious commando raid - Lord Louis Mountbatten, head of Combined Operations - fully anticipated that all ten men would die in the attempt. Mountbatten wasn't far wrong - two ripped their collapsible canoes as they were manhandling them out of the submarine; two drowned when their canoes capsized entering the Gironde estuary; and a further six were captured by the Germans and later executed. By complete chance, the two canoeists who managed to escape - Major 'Blondie' Hasler and Marine Bill Sparks - stumbled into the arms of the French resistance. Once in their care, Hasler and Sparks made their way across France and into Spain, crossing the Pyrenees in the company (though they did not know it) of a Gestapo agent intent on bringing down the resistance network. Operation Suicide will be the first account of this enthralling raid for over fifty years. In utilizing primary source material, including detailed German records captured by the British in 1944 (which remained censored until 1976), Robert Lyman brings to life one of the most courageous and dramatic events to take place in the darkest days of the Second World War.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus; 1st Edition edition (2 Feb 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857382403
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857382405
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 384,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Dr Robert Lyman was born in New Zealand in 1963. Following schooling at Scotch College, Melbourne, he spent twenty years as an officer in the British Army, during which time he picked up degrees from the universities of York, Wales (Aberystwyth), Cranfield and London (King's College). His PhD is from the University of East Anglia. He has been passionate about history ever since he can remember. He writes (and reads) for pleasure. He is Chairman of the Kohima Educational Trust, which provides educational support to young learners in Nagaland. He is represented by Charlie Viney of The Viney Agency.

Product Description

Review

'Lyman's account of their feat of endurance and of their comrades' sacrifice will make you feel proud to be British' Daily Express.

'a good read and contains some detail not in previous titles, in particular Hasler and Sparks' escape to Spain with the French resistance' Royal Canoe Club.

'a compelling story: this cockleshell will float' Daily Mail.

'I enjoyed reading this book very much ... it achieves the very difficult objective of shedding new light on a very-well known and intensely studied event in history' Daly History.

'This is an excellent account of the raid and everything that surrounded it ... An excellent study of an incredibly daring raid' History of War.

'It rips along at a cracking pace, bringing the raid and protagonists vividly to life' Navy News.

'an attention to detail coupled with a relaxed, readable style for a non-fiction work ... Don't wait for the paperback' ARRSE.

'Robert Lyman has uncovered a wealth of new material. His book paints a vivid picture of this extraordinary episode' Mail on Sunday.

'readable, detailed, well-written ... This book certainly deserves a place on your bookshelf, if you want a good up to date account of the raid' Globe and Laurel.

From the Inside Flap

In 1942 twelve British canoeists armed with limpet mines were sent to paddle one hundred miles up the Gironde estuary, in the middle of winter, in an audacious attempt to sink German blockade ships in Bordeaux harbour. It was fully expected that all twelve would die in the attempt. Two ripped their collapsible canoes as they were manhandling them out of the submarine; two drowned when their canoes capsized; and a further six were captured by the Germans and later executed. Nevertheless, the damage they had caused represented a significant blow to the German war effort, one that Churchill himself claimed shortened the conflict by six months. By complete chance, the two canoeists who managed to escape - Major 'Blondie' Hasler and Marine Bill Sparks - stumbled into the arms of the French Resistance. Once in their care, Hasler and Sparks made the risky and arduous journey across France and into Spain, crossing the Pyrenees in the company of a Gestapo agent intent on betraying them all. Operation Suicide is the first new narrative account of this enthralling raid and its aftermath for over fifty years. In utilizing primary source material, including detailed German records captured by the British in 1944 (which remained censored until 1976), Robert Lyman brings to life one of the most courageous and dramatic events to take place during the Second World War's darkest days.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner 21 Feb 2012
By RLM
Format:Hardcover
For a variety of reasons I have read everything ever published about Operation Frankton and I corresponded with Bill Sparks in the years just before his death. Robert Lyman, as someone recently said, has yet to produce a bad book and Operation Suicide is another winner. All the previous books on this subject, including Bill Sparks' own, "The Last of The Cockleshell Heroes" natually enough concentrated on the operation and the aftermath, triumph and tragedy together. Robert Lyman gives all the action period everything it deserves but for me what makes this book different is the meticulous research on the background to the raid and why it was so important. Details on the actual cargoes being discharged at Bordeaux make it clear that the blockade runners were regularly adding a vital contribution to Germany's war effort. Indeed the situation was undoubtedly so concerning that it says much for the moral standards of those then in charge of our war effort that they refrained from bombing the harbour because of the risk to French civilians.It must have been very tempting to flatten Bordeaux harbour but they didn't. There are many people in Afghanistan today who would have appreciated such a scrupulous policy. Whether or not, as Winston Churchill said, the raid shortened the war by six months, doesn't really matter. A small group of astonishingly brave men offered their lives to disrupt the enemy's flow of war materials and Robert Lyman tells their story beautifully. As with all things British the actual behind the scenes organisation left something to be desired and better communication and cooperation between MI6, SOE and the French Resistance would probably have saved more lives. That too is another fresh insight that Robert Lyman brings to this story. Operation Frankton has been described as the outstanding commando raid of the war and this author certainly does it justice.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book turns a narrative into a story 16 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book I previously read about this raid was so crammed full of facts the that it almost made it boring. This book provides fascinating insight into the evolving and competing intellegence outfits operating under Churchill and gives the story a tension even thought one knows the outcome. We have a house near the Gironde so I find it all interesting indeed.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A CRACKING READ 18 April 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
We live in strange times. This group of Royal Marine Commandos pulled off an impossible task. They lost most of the team to the elements or the Nazis. Could we sustain such losses today? Given the outpouring of national emotion over Iraq and Afghan I have my doubts. A really good book that tells the whole story in a clear and concise manner.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars cockleshell hero 6 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover
this is a very good account of a remarkable raid by a group of extremely brave commandos,I had the good fortune to work with Bill Sparks during the 1960s[on London Transport]. Bill was a very modest and quiet man and a true hero,his bravery was without question and the journey that he and his C.O.made to escape the nazis is a true example of courage and determination.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Operation Suicide 22 Dec 2012
By Richard
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the second book I've read written by Robert Lyman. I had high expecations and I wasn't disappointed.

Robert, in some detail, estabishes the context for the raid in terms of Britain's place in the war at this time. This is crucial to understanding why the raid went ahead when it did.

I thought what Robert did best was bring alive the dedication and utter courage of these men. The same can be said for the many unsung heroes amongst the ordinary people of occupied France. What a contrast to the Nazi's attitude, incidentally Robert describes a couple of them with the best use of the word "toady" I have ever seen.

I thoroughly recommend this book, I have just downloaded his book on Tobruk, the Longest Siege, and can't wait to read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars incredible story 11 Aug 2013
By scott
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very well written. The bravery and courage of the soldiers of operation franklin was amazing. Putting country before any personal gain.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating 13 July 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This story was well written and well presented. One of the best books I've read on WW2 of late. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Account 9 Oct 2012
Format:Hardcover
I have read hundreds of such books and this is certainly in the upper 10% of them meriting 5 stars. Readable and informative and seems to be well researched although it's not entirely consistent with Paddy Ashdown's recent book.

I also think the title's a bit sensationalist but I really did find it fascinating and clearly a mission driven along by one slightly mad bloke!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Bit of a slog at times but a good insight into the selfless bravery of the Royal Marines.
Published 12 days ago by MCC
2.0 out of 5 stars suicide read
started well then just went downhill to many abbrieviations head
started well went downhill would not recommend to many abbrieviations
Published 1 month ago by stephen shields
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully well written
One of, if not the, best written historical account of a WWII story I have ever read. Robert Lyman is not only a historical master at researching the facts that his novel reflects... Read more
Published 4 months ago by John Armstrong
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read factual yet exitingly written
very factual account of the Cockleshell Raid having read other accounts of the raid I must say that this is far and away the best . Read more
Published 5 months ago by robert cugley
4.0 out of 5 stars not a bit like the film
brings a well known story to life the planning is never ending only ever came to fruition through shear dedication by the commanding officer
Published 5 months ago by Robert Beale
3.0 out of 5 stars Well-documented version
I've read most of the books on Operation Frankton, because it's such a fascinating & inspiring story. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Me
4.0 out of 5 stars well researched and moving.
A well researched book and very much a factual account rather than a fast moving thriller. The actual raid and subsequent escape or capture leading to executions is gripping and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by T J Weston
4.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting read
My exposure to the story had previously been via the Jose' Ferrer film and a TV documentary. The book is nothing like the film which is clearly more entertainment than... Read more
Published 8 months ago by woofbarker
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
I found the facts (a lot of facts) a little overpowering at the beginning of the book, but once into the book I found it fascinating.
Published 10 months ago by Graham
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the flim !
Strong comprehensive and thorough, If you want to get behind the "hollywood" movie (not that it was made in Hollywood - the film is British) this is the book for you. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr. Andrew Jones
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