Bill Sparks – Cockleshell Heroes Memorial Plaque

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On Sunday the 25th August, 2013, a plaque was unveiled in the museum to commemorate Cpl Bill Sparks D.C.M., by local dignitaries including the Mayor of Castle Point. Many local councillors were in attendance.

Bill Sparks was one of two survivors, alongside Major ‘Blondie’ Hasler, amongst ten men who embarked on ‘Operation Frankton’. These commandos set out with collapsible canoes to plant mines on German ships in Bordeaux, canoeing through miles of water, in the black of the night, to the dock. Many canoes capsized, leaving the men to swim as a death sentence, whilst others were caught and executed by Germans. Only one canoe reached the target containing the two survivors. However, the men were only told what this suicide entailed after they had embarked on the HMS Tuna with the canoes on board.

Bill Sparks retired to Canvey Island in 1971, during his later life, because it was near the sea so he could practice canoeing, which had become a hobby of his. He lived initially in a council estate down Maple Way.

Training in the waters around Canvey for his re-enactment in 1983 (courtesy of

Training in the waters around Canvey for his re-enactment in 1983
(courtesy of

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