My view by Ben Parkinson MBE- Tribute to cockleshell heroes

Ben Parkinson has started training for his Pilgrim Bandits Cockleshell Heroes expedition.
Ben Parkinson has started training for his Pilgrim Bandits Cockleshell Heroes expedition.
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Last month I was training in a canoe in Ilfracombe harbour, paddling 14 miles per day.

It was freezing, the sea was rough and we even had a large earthquake!

Ben Parkinson

Ben Parkinson

My challenge this year with the charity Pilgrimbandits is Operation Frankton, also known as Cockleshell Heroes. This was the mission that led to the formation of the Special Boat Service.

Incredibly brave men canoed down the Garonne river in France into Bordeaux harbour, to lay mines on the German shipping that was held there. They were the most amazing people. Unbelievably several of them couldn’t even swim and unfortunately many of them drowned before even reaching the harbour.

Our mission is for a team of amputees and injured servicemen to recreate the voyage that they made.

It’s a tough one for us and our lives aren’t at risk as theirs were.

In each boat there is one injured and one able-bodied lad.

My partner, Ish, is a police sergeant from Milton Keynes, formerly a Royal Marine.

He is a brilliant guy but it’s an odd partnership, a para and a marine and of course as the para I am in the front of the boat!

There are several other amputees in the team and lads who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

My mate Andy is a triple amputee from Leeds and we lead the way for the North. Andy is a legend.

He is famous because when he was so badly hurt he told the surgeon to ‘clear out and get somebody from Yorkshire to see to me’

As amputees, particularly doubles,there are a lot of problems for us in the boat.

We aren’t very well balanced, we tip the boat upside down and bob about like Weebles. Our instructors had to spend quite a lot of time making sure that the canoe was well ballasted.

Due to my injury I have a swallowing problem, and swallowing vast quantities of river water isn’t an option. So the plan for me when I fall in is Keep My Mouth Shut. Simple and can’t fail.

The medical team in the army were very worried about some things on the trip.

The funniest was asking if portable disabled toilets would be available at all times. Not very likely as we canoe down the River and camp out rough at nights.

I need help from someone who can use photo shop. I want a picture of me with Ish paddling like mad in our canoe, a disabled porta-loo been tugged along behind us on a rope.

Oh and of course a loo roll fastened to the back of my helmet.

Got to keep health and safety happy!

Some people say we shouldn’t commemorate wars that happened so long ago.

But remembrance is about honouring the bravery and sacrifice of men and women who gave up everything for their country.

We should never forget that. We will finish the challenge on June 6, 70 years exactly from D Day. It’s our way to say thank you.