The Mark VIII 'Cockle' Motorised Canoe Project
'Geoff's Fabulous Uncle Archie'
Welcome to our MKVIII Canoe project
Over the last decade or so, HMS has researched and recreated a type of canoe whose lineage goes back directly to the 'Cockleshell' Canoes, made famous by the sabotage raid by Royal Marines' Boom Patrol Detachment or RMBPD, on ships moored in the German occupied French port of Bordeaux in SW France during the Second World War - Operation Frankton
Combined Operations Command recognised the value of canoes as a method of conducting covert operations, taking the fight to 'Fortress Europe' and beyond - ultimately to the Far East.
A whole range of canoes was trialled and developed during the latter stages of the conflict.
We hope you enjoy reading about our work, and also about the fascinating stories behind the use of canoes, by the Commonwealth forces during WW2
It is important to stress that we are very mindful of the sacrifices made by servicemen from Combined Operations Command during WW2, we respect and honour it, and we are determined never to trivialise the subject or their memory.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, We will remember them.
The Combined Operations Pilotage Parties used various canoes during WW2, mainly for beach landing reconnaissance
The use of the later versions of the Cockle 'family' were not restricted to reconnaissance, however and there is a particularly poignant and inspiring story here, of actions in the Low Countries at the closing phase of the War.
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 most of wooden versions are long since gone - except for a recent 'discovery' for us - see below
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.
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.
Of latest developments around the Cockle Canoes: Australian 'Mk8' original?
When we first set about recreating a replica Mk8 'Cockle' canoe, we were convinced that none from the period had survived, so we have been delighted - and intrigued - to find that the rumour of one extant in 'somewhere in Australia' could be true after all.
We were, of course aware that Mk8s were shipped-out to the Far East from Britain to be used as reconnaissance and raiding boats during WW2, armed with Vickers K guns. HMS has a lpg gas-firing replica K gun for its boat.
We feel that the museum canoe pictured opposite (or above on your phone screen) is quite possibly one of these.
Chris, our chairman has been in touch with the Marrakai Military Museum, near Darwin and they were kind enough to give us a bit of background on it and also some images, reproduced here.
Rescued from being put on a bonfire (yes a bonfire!) at an Australian Naval Dockyard decades ago, this original Cockle canoe is now in a collection, properly curated and displayed.
We were pleased to see that our reproduction was pretty 'approximate' as we had worked from old photos and also from components from other marks, which have generic fitments and structural features. We will adapt our replica accordingly if we feel that is necessary.
If you look at the foot of this webpage, there is a document that lists and illustrates the original specification of the Mk8 Cockle Canoe.
As we have an original Britannia Middy engine, the type used during WW2, it's intriguing to see the original housing with its screw lift mechanism – something we have yet to achieve.
Visit the museum via Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/History-Museum/Marrakai-Military-museum-119607999428915/
Of a highly recommended website for a real Cockle canoe story - and WW2 in The Brabant (Mark 6? opp.)
"The Biesbosch – the tidal zone of land and water – was avoided by the German occupiers during the Second World War. For a long time, the people hiding in this wilderness felt safe and they sometimes worked for local farmers. On 10 November 1944, the German occupiers set up machine gun posts and started patrolling the area by boat. The recently liberated town of Drimmelen was showered with gunfire."
From the Brabant Remembers website - Please visit to read more: https://www.brabantremembers.com/resistance/mannen-met-een-warm-kloppend-hart-voor-nederland/?lang=en
Of another recreated 'Cockle' canoe - Mk6
Some time ago, we were happy to give over our plans and construction photos to our new comrade, Mike, from Cornwall so that he could reproduce a Mark 6 version, which were broadly similar to the Mk8 and constructed in the same way from hardwood and ply.
Mike has his Middy engine working already, and he is making a magnificent job on the frames, so it won't be long before we will have a connected ‘family' of Cockle Canoes.
We have our Mk8, Chris' aluminium Mk7 (original), the Feeney brothers' aluminium Mark 7 and then Mike's Mk6 – though his is his own, of course and others are out there...
I thought it would be neat to have an event one day soon where we could get Cockle owners in the UK together for a meet – a fleet review!
We have the potential to attract the several groups who own and run Mk2s, the famous ‘Cockleshell Hero’ mark that many are familiar with, of course, through film, books and documentaries.
I shall endeavour to keep this page updated as news ‘comes-up'
COPP foundation and Training
"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.
Another interesting website that refers to COPP and 'COPPists':
"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
"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"
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
Welcome to our MkVIII Canoe page.
Over the last decade, HMS has devoted a lot of time in researching and recreating motorised canoe, used by a variety of units and theatres of operations during WW2.
Our canoe is a 'work in progress' - when we find out something new, we adapt the canoe.
We hope you enjoy reading about 'Geoff's Fabulous Uncle Archie' and also reading about how canoes were deployed.