Stockport Story Museum salutes local hero's place among World War II Cockleshell Heroes

By Ben Miller | 05 November 2012
A photo of a World War II canoe inside a well-lit museum case as part of an exhibition
Exhibition Preview: The Cockleshell Heroes, Stockport Story Museum, Stockport, November 9 2012 – November 10 2013

James Conway, a 20-year-old from Edgeley in Stockport, was a replacement for an injured marine on the top-secret Operation Frankton mission of 1942, in which a group of ten men paddled canoes along a darkened river for more than 70 miles.

Their aim was to attach limpet mines to the German ships station in France in 1942, and Conway came close to reaching Bordeaux before becoming one of six marines captured and executed. Although only two of the party survived, Winston Churchill credited the mission with shortening the war by six months.

A black and white photo of a marine from 1942 in his military uniform looking to camera
James Conway during his World War II service
Admiral Mountbatten, the Commander of Combined Operations, called it "the most courageous and imaginative of all the raids ever carried out by the men of Combined Operations”, and this exhibition – featuring an original example of the Cockle Mark 2 canoes, loaned by Torquay expert Quentin Rees – is a fine tribute to Conway’s extraordinary journey.

A plaque honours him, accompanied by a poignant memento in the form of the last letter he sent to his mother, as well as letters she exchanged with the French family who gave Conway food and shelter during his attempt to escape through France.

“This was a daring mission by courageous men who knew that the odds were stacked against them,” says Iain Roberts, of Stockport Council.

“There was little chance of them making it back alive. The exhibition commemorates the bravery of James and the other men who proudly served their country and were willing to risk their lives in its defence.”

  • Open Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm. Admission free.
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