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Plaque will commemorate Canvey's cockleshell hero
12:00pm Thursday 22nd August 2013 in News
A BRAVE Canvey hero who survived a daring wartime mission is set to be formally commemorated with the unveiling of a new plaque.
Bill Sparks was part of a 13- strong Royal Marine Commando team, dubbed the “Cockleshell Heroes”, which canoed 75 miles behind enemy lines in France to attack German merchant ships in December 1942.
Mr Sparks and his canoe partner Herbert “Blondie”
Hasler were the only two men to survive the raid, known as Operation Frankton.
Now, the Canvey Community Archive has teamed up with Canvey’s Bay Museum to organise for a new granite plaque to be unveiled in his memory at the wartime museum, in Western Esplanade.
Janet Penn, from the Canvey Community Archive, said: “Last year, myself and councillor Joan Liddiard, with the help of the Echo, launched a campaign to have a memorial put up on the house where he lived.
“Through the Echo, wewere able to get the answer to this question of where he lived.
“Unfortunately, he lived in two properties on the island, so the idea of the blue plaque became untenable. I talked to the Bay Museum and they agreed to have a memorial plaque placed in the museum.”
Numerous plaques and memorials have been put up in the group’s memory, although up until January this year when a bench was installed along Canvey seafront, there had been no formal recognition of Mr Sparks on the island.
After the mission, Mr Sparks, who died at the age of 80 in 2002, evaded capture and escaped across France and Spain for three months.
He moved to Canvey in 1971 with his first wife Violet, where he becameamember of the Conservative Club and Royal British Legion.
Allan Reed, from the Bay Museum, said: “These men put their life on the line for our freedom and we need to recognise that.
“The museum is an ideal place to have the plaque, as we are all about remembering the sacrifices soldiers make.
“To us, it is an important piece of history that cannot be forgotten.”
The plaque will be unveiled in a ceremony from 1pm, on Sunday, and is open for the public to attend.
For more information on Bill Sparks, visit the Canvey Archive website at www.
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