Nine Injured Servicemen to Retrace WW2 ‘Cockleshell Heroes’ Canoe-Raid on German Occupied Bordeaux

Charity to retrace the canoe-strike that Sir Winston Churchill believed ‘shortened the War by six months.’

Amputee servicemen and veterans brought together by the Pilgrim Bandits Charity, New Milton, Hants are to retrace a daring WW2 commando raid – Operation Frankton. I

The History

Immortalised in the film The Cockleshell Heroes, Operation Frankton was a strategic attack on German shipping in the French port of Bordeaux between 7th and 12th December 1942, carried out by a small unit of canoe-sculling Royal Marines as part of Combined Operations.

On the 30th November 1942 the Royal Naval Submarine HMS Tuna sailed from Holy Loch in Scotland with six clippers (canoes) and 34 commandos on board.  In horrendous weather and, despite a previously undetected minefield, HMS Tuna surfaced ten miles from the mouth of the Gironde estuary in the Bay of Biscay. Whilst unloading one clipper was wrecked so only five set out.

Fighting against strong winds and tides, which resulted in the loss of another canoe, the remaining four crew’s paddled non-stop, resting five minutes in every hour, for five nights (sleeping during the day) to cover the 60 miles upstream to Bordeaux.  With the arsenal of limpet mines they had carried, the commandos successfully destroyed 2 German naval trawlers, 12 E boats, 12 Patrol boats and 6 M-Class mine sweepers.  Sadly just two men survived the mission.  Eight were executed by the Germans and two more died of hypothermia.

The Reasons behind the Trip

The Pilgrim Bandits expedition is designed to honour all the fallen of WW2 and commemorate the huge achievement and the war-winning contribution made by all those that took part in Operation Frankton.  At the same time the adventure is designed to provide a demanding, confidence-building excursion for severely injured serving soldiers, veterans and a small number of fee-paying members of the public who are contributing to the £35k cost of the expedition.   Mike COO of Pilgrim Bandits explains “Admiral Louis Mountbatten was Chief of Combined Operations at the time.  He increased the number of Mark II canoes (aka Cockles) from the original three to six – it was thanks to his foresight that the mission was such a success.  Whilst we can in no way rein act Operation Frankton we can retrace the miles of slog and pay homage to those 34 brave men that made up the detachment.  Our lads will receive no special treatment – it’s a hard core, gruelling trip designed to commemorate and highlight the sacrifice of so many.  If all goes according to plan we will arrive in Blaye where the original members ditched their clippers for the escape route on D-Day.”

Timings and who is Taking Part

May 30st – June 8th 2014. Nine injured soldiers, including Ben Parkinson MBE, who suffered appalling wounds including the loss of both legs above the knee and a severe brain injury, whilst on patrol in Helmand Province in Afghanistan 2006 will make up the team along with Ex- Cpl Andy Reid, now a motivational speaker and best-selling author, who lost both legs along with his right arm  in Afghanistan in 2009, Cpl Ricky Furgusson MC double amputee, Sapper Jimmy Wilson a double amputee from Lymington in Hants, RM Vinney Manley double amputee from Plymouth, Sgt Colin Hamilton a single leg amputee from 3 Scots in Inverness, RM Jay Hare also a single leg amputee from Scotland.

Celebrity Endorsement and General Information

The entire Pilgrim Bandits’ detachment (28 people in total) will be training for a week from Sunday 20th October 2013 at Rockley Park, Poole, courtesy of the Haven Group who have assisted with the training and accommodation for the team.   The date coincides with the dates of the original training mission in Portsmouth.

The 10 kayaks the team will be using for the expedition have been donated to the expedition by one of the charity’s patrons Duncan Bannatyne (Dragon’s Den) through his charitable trust.  Kayaking Kit near Fordingbridge has supplied the boats and much of the equipment as well as providing expert advice.     It is hoped Lord Paddy Ashdown , who has written a book about Operation Frankton will launch the expedition in December at The House of Lords along with RH Caroline Flint MP (Doncaster).

Captions:  Original mission shot from web.  Jimmy Sapper, Ben Parkinson, Jake Bartlett, Ricky Fergusson and Colin Hamilton – all injured servicemen supported by Pilgrim Bandits.

For further information please go directly to

For additional media information please contact:  t. 01425 461600  m. 07767 784295

16th October 2013




Lance Bdr BENBEN Parkinson MBE, with The Princess Royal and The Pilgrim Bandits PARKINSON MBE TO HOST PATRONS BALL

General (Retd) Sir John Learmont KCB CBE, Ben Parkinson MBE, Duncan Bannatyne OBE patrons of the Pilgrim Bandits Charity which provides challenging expeditions for amputee soldiers and veterans of the Forces, are hosting the charity’s Patron’s Black Tie Dinner at the National Motorcycle Museum 2nd November 2013.

Ben, from Doncaster, received his MBE earlier this year for the work he does raising awareness of the challenges faced by injured service personnel.  The ball is an annual event designed to bring patrons and supporters together to celebrate the year’s successes.  Those successes for 2013 saw the charities supporters smash the Guinness World Record for the number of individual tandem skydives in a day, also an extraordinary expedition which included Ben, trekking across the Haranguer Plateau in Norway to mark the 70th anniversary of the WW2 Heroes of Telemark. 

The Ball is moving to Birmingham for the first time this year.  Ben explains. “It’s a great night out and we wanted to be somewhere even more people could come and enjoy the evening with us.”

The Pilgrim Bandits are inviting the Midlands business community to think of the event as an alternative Christmas party and asking for online bookings at

Caption:  Ben meets HRH the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace during the summer.

For additional media information please contact:  t. 01425 461600  m. 07767 784295

17th September 2013




Ben Parkinson MBE, ambassador patron for was guest of honour at Franke Sissons get-to-know-us afternoon tea on Friday 12th July in Chesterfield.

The horrendously injured soldier, who has both survived and continued to make amazing progress, following an IED explosion in Helmand Province Afghanistan in 2006, visited Chesterfield to learn more about Franke Sissons’ steel manufacturing business and the other charities and causes the local company supports.  As a memento of his visit, staff at the Company designed, produced and engraved a one-off Pilgrim Bandits stainless steel clock.

Caption Top:  Representatives from; Nenna Kind Chesterfield’s cancer drop in centre, 10 year old Motocross Rider Dalton Dring (Right with Ben Parkinson), Ashgate Hospice, the Chesterfield Panthers under 14’s rugby team,  Meadows School, Wingerworth Junior School football team, Fairplay, which supports children and young people with disabilities in Chesterfield and Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Chamber of Commerce.  Andy Dukelow, MD of Franke Sissons present a stainless steel cheque to Ben Parkinson.

Caption bottom:  Victoria Himsworth, Franke Sissons’ Product Marketing Manager, presents Ben with his clock.

Full details of the Franke Washroom Systems range are available at Email. for a copy of the full sales catalogue.

Follow on Twitter @frankesissons

Wounded Soldiers Skydive Into World Record Book



Pilgrim Bandits the national charity that provides gruelling physical challenges for injured service personnel has secured the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of tandem skydivers in 24 hours.

Netheravon APA, WiltshirImagee, UK. On Saturday 8th June 2Image013.  177  charity sponsored skydivers filled the sky above Salisbury Plain to beat the Guinness World Record (previously 160) and to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D Day. 

The Pilgrim Bandits were formed by ex-special forces personnel with the intention of providing hope and motivation through expeditions and physical challenges for wounded men and women from all the services.     A recent hard-core trek across the Norwegian Tundra retracing the steps of the famous WWII Heroes of Telemark has just been completed to mark the 70th anniversary of the original mission.

Saturday’s operation saw 173 members of the public, each sponsored to jump, accompanied by wounded soldiers; Cpl Ricky Ferguson from Telford who holds the Military Cross (pictured above)  who sustained the loss of both legs, fingers and an eye in the Afghan conflict.  Sapper Jim Wilson from Lymington who lost both legs in Afghan along with Jake Bartlett from Leeds who lost a leg in Afghanistan. Also jumping were Sgt Colin Hamilton, from Inverness who sustained injuries and terrible burns in Kosovo and Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson MBE from Doncaster (pictured left coming into land and holding Guinness World Record certificate below) who confounded medical opinion to survive the worst recorded battlefield injuries including the loss of both legs, a brain injury and 40 other major wounds following an Afghan IED explosion in 2006.

On landing Jake Bartlett said, You can’t just sit at home and feel sorry for yourself, you’ve got to get up and crack on with your life. It’s not the end of it it’s the beginning.  This is an amazing day – I am so proud to be part of it.”

For more information, photographs or video please visit and join pilgrimbandits charity on Facebook and Linked In.
For additional media information please contact  T.01425461600 M.07767784295                                                                                       12th June 2013 end.+

Amputee Servicemen to Retrace Heroes of Telemark Expedition

MEDIA RELEASE                            


Amputee Servicemen to Retrace Gruelling Heroes of Telemark Expedition

16th March 2013 – 27th March 2012.  Charity  Pilgrim Bandits (New Milton, Hampshire) is to take injured service men on a hazardous 70th anniversary expedition to honour The Heroes of Telemark, the world-famous sabotage operation that took part in Nazi-occupied Norway during WW2 between the spring of 1942 and winter of 1944.SAS-Taking-Shelter (4)

The original Heroes of Telemark Operation comprised allied forces and members of the Norwegian resistance.  In all six, treacherous missions were carried out over a two year period designed to prevent Nazi Germany developing Deuterium Oxide, known as ‘heavy water’ for Hitler’s nuclear energy programme.  The WW2 missions tested human endurance to the maximum.  Conditions on the Norwegian, Hardanger Plateau are among the toughest on the planet with temperatures dropping to -30 and with prevailing 50mph winds.

Pilgrim Bandits has gathered a group of amputees and severely injured servicemen along with paying members of the public to honour the successful WW2 mission and at the same time ‘push all participants beyond endurance’.  The Charity, which aims to raise funds from the expedition to further its work encouraging a ‘no sympathy’ approach towards injured men and women from the Army, Navy, RAF, Police, Fire and Ambulance Services, is seeking a sponsor for suitable clothing.  In providing a focus and extreme challenge for these highly trained individuals, Pilgrim Bandits can  increase individual confidence and inspire those who take part in the trip and those who learn about the experiences afterwards through talks, presentations and visits.  Pilgrim Bandits also works with young people and children to encourage an ‘anything is possible’ mentality and boost personal confidence by visiting schools and care homes.

Among the Pilgrim Bandits taking part is Lance Bdr Ben Parkinson MBE who is a double leg amputee and possibly the most injured solider to survive the Afghan conflict having sustained a catalogue of over 40 injures including brain damage that has affected his memory and speech.  In the six years since his injuries, received in an armoured vehicle that was blown up by an IED in Helmand Province, Ben has confounded medical opinion by not only surviving, but walking, regaining his speech and continuing to improve week by week.  Ben is a Patron of the Pilgrim Bandits and may be known to many for his amazing strength and determination when he carried the Olympic torch through his home town of Doncaster last year.  Taking part also will be Rifleman Paul Jacobs GM who is the only injured serviceman to return from Afghanistan having completely lost his sight, he is joined by Sapper Karl Boon who sustained the loss of his right leg below the knee.

ITV has confirmed that it will run a programme from footage taken by Sgt Paul Randall from the Army Press Association which will also be making a video documentary. This will be broadcast on terrestrial TV, Military platforms, Internet channels and satellite channels (in that order) at times to be decided later this year.

Deborah Risbridger from the charity said, “This is the kind of operation our boys would have relished had they been in the Forces during the War.  To retrace the steps and experience, in part, what those brave allies had to do will be an honour and a huge privilege.  It will also give our injured boys a real focus. The terrain is demanding. The conditions will be extremely tough, everyone is training very hard and will need to be fully prepared.”

The cost of the Heroes of Telemark Expedition is in the region of £50,000.  This includes all support services, the building of specialist pods for amputees with double limb-loss, accommodation and flights to Norway.  These costs are met by volunteer fund raisers paying for their place.  To fund much-needed  equipment and kit Pilgrim Bandits is hoping to approach apparatus and clothing manufacturers in a bid to secure either loaned or completely donated kit for the amputees in return for association and branding on the trip.

For more information about the Pilgrim Bandits, Heroes of Telemark Expedition visit or for further media information, please contact:  Tel. 01425 461600.  Mob. 07767 784295.



Persimmon Homes South Coast release
3 October 2012


A Hampshire charity has narrowly missed out on winning a brand new house from a national housebuilder.

But New Milton based charity Pilgrim Bandits did scoop a £6,000 runner up prize in the competition to celebrate Persimmon Homes’ 40th birthday.

Pilgrim Bandits was one of 24 charities competing by public vote for the three bedroom detached house in Andover valued at £250,000. The winner of the competition, The Harley Staples Trust, was announced during a glittering birthday lunch at Kensington Roof Gardens on Thursday.

The Pilgrim Bandits raise funds through challenges to support ex-serviceman and amputees. The group organises fundraising – and confidence-boosting – endurance and adrenaline adventures for members of the public and injured ex-servicemen.
Deborah Risbridger, spokesman for Pilgrim Bandits, said “It’s hard to be disappointed when the house went to such a worthy charity – we came away with a very welcome £6,000 which we plan to use for a number of expeditions for service men during 2013.”
Andrew Golawski, managing director of Persimmon Homes South Coast, said: “In total, Persimmon Homes had more than 3,500 nominations for the competition, so for Pilgrim Bandits to make the final was a brilliant achievement.”

Persimmon Homes was founded in 1972 by current life president Duncan Davidson and has grown to be one of the largest and most successful housebuilders in the UK over the last 40 years.

For more information visit the Persimmon Homes website at


Issued by Connect PR for Persimmon Homes South Coast. For more information please contact Caroline Garbett or Sam Taylor on 01902 714957 or email /
Picture caption – Left Deborah Risbridger, centre Pilgrim Bandits, Lance Bdr Ben Parkinson Patron of Pilgrim Bandits. Mike Farley, CEO Persimmon Homes Right: Andrew Golawski, MD South Persimmon Homes.