A MEMORIAL to a Merseyside war hero whose exploits helped shorten WW2 was unveiled.
Cpl Albert Laver, from Birkenhead, was one of the Second World War “Cockleshell Heroes” whose daring raid on German ships is now commemorated with a plaque at Woodside promenade, in Wirral.
It was unveiled by the Mayor of Wirral, Cllr Gerry Ellis, and Lord Paddy Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader, who had written to the Mayor asking that Birkenhead honour an “extraordinary citizen”.
At the unveiling, Lord Ashdown paid tribute to Wirral, saying he had written to all councils where the 10 members of the Operation Frankton team came from asking them to honour their bravery.
He said: “Wirral was the only council to respond in quite so magnificent a way.”
Former Special Forces Commando Lord Ashdown, who has written a book about the mission, called A Brilliant Little Operation, said: “Because of the Cockleshell Heroes, freedom flourishes in our country.”
Cpl Laver’s nephew, Stuart Laver, attended the ceremony, coming from London.
He added: “My mother always described him as quite a tough little monkey with a good sense of humour.”
Cpl Laver’s second cousin, Eileen Smith, of New Brighton, said: “We are all so pleased. He was with my mum the night before he left and he told her he did not think he would come back.”
The mission involved canoeing along the Gironde estuary, paddling by night and hiding by day until they reached Bordeaux, some 60 miles from the sea.
Originally, six canoes were to take part but one of them, the Cachalot, was damaged as it was launched. The remaining five – Catfish, Crayfish, Conger, Cuttlefish and Coalfish – set off.
On the way, the Coalfish and Cuttlefish went missing and the Conger capsized, leaving just Catfish and Crayfish – carrying Cpl Laver – to carry out the raid.
On arrival into the harbour on December 11, 1942, they succeeded in sinking a number of cargo ships, but only four of the original 12-man team escaped overland to Spain.
The remainder, including Cpl Laver, either drowned or were taken prisoner and shot. The raid shortened the war by six months, according to Winston Churchill.
Mayor of Wirral Cllr Gerry Ellis said he was “delighted so many people” had come to the unveiling event and added: “We are all very proud of Bert Laver.”