“What they did is something unimaginable, incredible. » Member of SAM (Mérignac Athletic Sport) Canoe-Kayak, Hugues Delannoy has no more words to describe Operation Frankton. He will be part of one of the five crews who will reconstruct the course of this mission, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of this historic event of the Second World War. “We’re going to try to relive what these guys went through as closely as possible, but with zero chance of being captured or shot, which changes everything. Beyond the cold, the humidity, these guys carried out their operation with fear in their stomachs. You have to have an idea of what the sacrifice can be to understand this mission. »
Operation Frankton is this mission carried out by ten Royal Marine commandos between December 7 and 11, 1942 in Gironde. Dropped by a submarine into the ocean off Montalivet, they had to go up the Gironde estuary then the Garonne by cayak, to reach the port of Bordeaux and lay mines on German ships. Four boats will be affected, but there will only be two survivors of the operation.
“Reproduce the historic route”
“For the 80th anniversary, we wanted to reproduce the historic route, continues Hugues Delannoy, we will therefore leave from the ocean on December 8, in front of Montalivet, unless the conditions were not met, because that can be very dangerous. Afterwards, we will follow the route as close as possible to the historical route, bivouacking where the British commandos bivouaced. We will therefore set out in total autonomy, with loaded kayaks for four days…” Ten kayakers in five kayaks, including a female crew, will take part in the event.
The arrival is scheduled for Sunday, December 11 at 3 p.m., at the eco-citizen house in Bordeaux, where a commemorative ceremony will be organized. Reproducing this mission in conditions approaching reality, that is to say in the cold of December, obviously requires preparation, even for these hardened kayakers.
“It can be very shaken at the Pointe de Grave”
“The ocean leg will be by far the most complicated of the event, need we remember that two Operation Frankton kayaks were lost in this area?, insists Hugues Delannoy. So we did some scouting when there was a meter of swell. Well, we had two kayaks that went backwards… Then, at the Pointe de Grave, it can be very shaken too, because it’s a zone of conflict between the currents of the estuary and those of the tide. , as soon as the wind gets in the way, you can have very special phenomena with disorderly waves. Fortunately, these are places that we frequent very regularly because we often go to Cordouan. »
The kayakers have also gone to locate the stopovers along the estuary, where they will set up their bivouacs. “We needed to see how to take in the water at low tide, explains Hugues Delannoy. We are going to go up the estuary with the rising current, but once at low tide, it will be immediately more complicated. We therefore made contact with fishermen, the captaincies, local kayaking and sailing clubs, who will provide us with their pontoons, their premises to put us in the dry. They even offered to clean their hold so that we wouldn’t have to wade through the mud up to our knees… The mobilization is remarkable. »
Beyond the sporting aspect, the ambition of the SAMCK is to participate in making “this operation better known. » « There are people passionate about the Frankton, but the operation remains relatively unknown to the general public, even if there are monuments all along the estuary. For many, Frankton remains a tram stop in Blanquefort. »