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Calls to recognise Canvey war hero after memorial error
CALLS have been made to honour a Canvey war hero locally after a memorial recognising his efforts was criticised for containing errors.
Bill Sparks was one of the Cockleshell Heroes who defied logic by canoeing 75 miles into Nazi-occupied France to destroy German ships in December 1942.
He was one of only two of the ten men to survive the attack, which saw them plant bombs on German merchant ships, but a memorial marking the 70th anniversary of the daring raid has been criticised.
The memorial plaque in Eastney, Portsmouth, reads the Cockleshell Heroes embarked on a ‘canoe-bourne’ attack, when it should be spelled ‘canoe-borne.’ It also describes the raid as having taken place in WW11, instead of WWII.
Those mistakes have led to calls for Bill, who became a bus driver on Canvey after the war, to be remembered closer to home.
Gary Foulger, who is an auxiliary lifeguard on Canvey, said his father used to canoe alongside Bill in Benfleet Creek after the war and only learned what a hero he was once Bill had died in December 2002, aged 80.
Mr Foulger said: “He was just a normal man who wouldn’t say boo to a goose. He was the sort of person who really put great into Great Britain and I am sorry to hear of the mistake on the plaque. I am sure it wasn’t intentional but more care should have been taken.”
He added: “He is a local hero so why not honour him here. His actions were courageous in the extreme and he was one of the nicest men you could hope to meet.”
Bill escaped the raid in Bordeaux with canoe partner Herbert “Blondie” Hasler while six of their colleagues were captured and two died from hypothermia. Bill went on to become an advisor of a film made in 1955 about their exploits.
John Rawlinson, the Honorary Secretary of the Royal Marines Historical Society, which put up the plaque in Portsmouth, said: “The memorial is a superb design and long overdue. It is unfortunate that these proof reading errors have slipped through and they are annoying to everyone.
“However, they shouldn't be allowed to detract from how important it is that the men who took part in the raid are now commemorated close to where they did so much of their training.”
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