The Mark 8 'Cockleshell' Motorised Canoe Project

There are a few other extant examples of the marks of the family of canoes that followed on from those used in Operation Frankton - immortalised in the film The Cockleshell Heroes - including those owned and on loan to the Falmouth Maritime Museum (these are the aluminium versions) but the wooden versions are long since gone.

The Combined Operations Pilotage Parties used various canoes during WW2, mainly for beach landing reconnaissance:

"Combined Operations Assault Pilotage Parties risked their lives to gather information about proposed landing beaches and in-shore waters, usually under the noses of enemy coastal defences, including land and sea patrols. It was hazardous work of great importance to the planners."

"During the Second World War, Nigel Clogstoun-Willmott founded the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) to undertake covert beach reconnaissance. This proved vital for the success of Allied seaborne invasions."

The main training centre for the 'Cockle' series of reconnaissance canoes was at Hayling Island, where the Hayling Yacht Club now stands
BBC article on COPPs  at Hayling Island
Hayling Island's secret canoes: Sailors and windsurfers may now enjoy hitting the water around Hayling Island, but 70 years ago there was a more serious purpose to the activities on the water - planning for clandestine wartime missions on board specially built canoes.





The Mk.8 motorised wooden canoe has 3 sections (2 being the detachable bow and stern sections) and  2 stabilising outriggers, a small marine engine, paddles and a lateen sail.

Total length – 20’ (Bow section – 4’6”, Mid section – 11’, Stern section – 4’6”)
Max Beam -27.5” 
Outrigger length - 10’10”
Depth – 16”
Approx. Weight stern– 40lb, mid section – 212 lb, bow – 34 lb
Outriggers - 32 lb

The canoes were designed to be broken down easily and the outriggers folded up and inboard to facilitate delivery and insertion into theatre wherever the war was being waged - often in Sunderland flying boats as well as via the RN/Allied surface fleet.
Our  re-creation is being made from idigbo (an African hardwood with similar properties to oak - but lighter) and Lloyd's Register -approved marine plywood. 
The hardwood structure and outer marine ply skin is securely bonded and screwed together  making it a tough and durable boat.

HMS have found the book 'The Cockleshell Canoes' , by Quentin Rees,  invaluable for researching and recreating the wooden Mark 8  and  Quentin, who is an avid follower of the project, has been kind enough to comment on our efforts so far

"In many walks of life being willing and able to devote many hours of effort for any project is something to be applauded. To invest not only ones time but ones money can be another facet of an interest or obsession; but that's what separates the few from the many"

"The Mark 8 canoe project is the manifestation of a similar obsession which produced 'The Cockleshell Canoes' book. The research into world war two military canoes brought about this meticulous rendering of one of these 'Cockleshell' canoes that participated in the European theatre of war as well as operations in Australasia, Burma and Ceylon. The very first of this type was constructed during WW2 (1943/4) and soon gave way to the aluminium version. 
This magnificent and accurate reproduction of a motorised, plywood, sectional, four-man canoe with catermaran type wooden outriggers is an enormous undertaking and has been enhanced by the use of African hardwoods to ensure its longevity. 
What makes this effort even more impressive is that this represents the only known example of this Mark of canoe.

'Hats off' to a fine bunch of individuals for this enormous private undertaking. This is living history that will help to ensure a remembrance of a time when men and women gave both their time and lives freely."    

Quentin Rees, author of 'The Cockleshell Canoes' and 'Cockleshell Heroes -The Final Witness

Neil Stott,
22 Sept 2013, 13:14