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Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Monday, 17 September 2012 08:55 UK

Paddy Ashdown on the needless deaths of World War II

It was one of the most daring commando raids of World War II. Five two-man canoes, launched from a submarine in the Bay of Biscay, set out to paddle 70 miles upriver to attack shipping in Bordeaux harbour.

After the war the raid became the subject of a film, the Cockleshell Heroes, and was one the earliest operations by what became the Royal Marines' Special Boat Section.

But in a new book, A Brilliant Little Operation, Paddy Ashdown, himself a former SBS officer, reveals a story of Whitehall rivalry which almost certainly led to the needless deaths of many of those who took part.

The BBC's Nick Higham reports.

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