Paddy Ashdown unveils the Cockleshell Heroes memorial
A MEMORIAL to a war hero from Wirral whose exploits helped shorten the Second World War was unveiled by Lord Ashdown.
Cpl Albert Laver, from Birkenhead, was one of the “Cockleshell Heroes” whose daring raid on German ships is now commemorated with a plaque at Woodside promenade.
It was unveiled by the Mayor of Wirral Cllr Gerry Ellis and Lord Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader who wrote to the Mayor to ask Birkenhead to honour an “extraordinary citizen”.
Former Special Forces Commando Lord Ashdown, who has written a book about the mission, paid tribute to Wirral for putting the plaque in place.
He said: “Because of the Cockleshell Heroes, freedom flourishes in our country.”
Cpl Laver’s nephew Stuart Laver, attended the ceremony from London.
He added: “My mother always described him as quite a tough little monkey with a good sense of humour.”
Cpl Laver’s second cousin Eileen Smith, of New Brighton, said: “He was with my mum the night before he left and he told her he did not think he would come back.”
The mission involved canoeing along the Gironde estuary, paddling by night and hiding by day until they reached Bordeaux, some 60 miles from the sea.
Originally six canoes were to take part but one of them, the Cachalot, was damaged as it was launched. The remaining five – Catfish, Crayfish, Conger, Cuttlefish and Coalfish – set off.
On the way, the Coalfish and Cuttlefish went missing and the Conger capsized, leaving just Catfish and Crayfish – carrying Cpl Laver – to carry out the raid.
Only four of the original 12-man team escaped overland to Spain.
The remainder, including Cpl Laver, either drowned or were taken prisoner and shot.