A YOUNG boy’s simple idea has put dozens of villagers in landslip-hit Calstock back on the road.
Ten-year-old Charlie Southcott was the bright spark behind the Royal Marines’ Operation Landslip – rescuing dozens of trapped cars and transporting them up the river to nearby Cotehele following the Christmas Day disaster.
One by one the cars trapped at the end of Lower Kelly were boarded onto the Commando’s landing craft before being off loaded in Cotehele – meaning the owners were back in their cars for the first time in three weeks.
The rescue operation was the result of a meeting held just after the road collapsed.
Councillor Dorothy Kirk had asked if the residents had any suggestions for how they could get the cars back on usable road.
At the end of the meeting, Charlie suggested she ask the Royal Navy to help – and proceeded to give her the phone number of Plymouth’s top Navy man, Commodore Graeme Little.
In a bizarre coincidence Charlie had only been given Cdre Little’s business card after attending a carol service at the dockyard – the night before.
The Calstock Primary School pupil, who had been given the day off school to watch his plan put into action, said: “I met him [the Commodore] on Christmas Eve and he gave me his card, so when we had the meeting about the landslip I said we should ask the Navy if they could help and gave Mrs Kirk the phone number.
“The Commodore was then having the conversation while he was on his Boxing Day walk on Dartmoor.”
Charlie said he had previously seen the marines exercising with their craft on the river with small Land Rovers aboard so thought the vessels would be ideal.
And they were. By 5pm 23 vehicles had been moved with several more expected to be moved tomorrow.
Colonel Garth Manger, Commanding Officer of Devonport-based 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, said: “It’s going very well, we had about 40 vehicles to move and we’ve just landed the 23rd. We will keep going into the evening and probably have about 10 more to move tomorrow.
“A number of my Marines and Sailors live across Cornwall and Devon so we are really pleased to be able to help the local community.”
As for Charlie, Col Manger arranged for him and his younger brother William to have a spin in one his offshore raiding craft after letting mum off the landing craft with the car.
For the past three weeks villagers have been forced to use hire cars provided by Cornwall Council.
Another of those stuck was Paul Edwards of Kelly Gardens.
The 47-year-old who has lived there for 20 years, said: “I get the train to work so it hasn’t been too bad apart from when we needed to do a supermarket shop and have to carry the shopping all the way down the road.”
Asked about the Royal Navy response to their plight, he added: “It’s fantastic, we are really pleased to see them here. It’s a great way of engaging and helping the local community.”
And despite the best efforts of the Royal Marines to sign up a new recruit, Charlie is still adamant he wants to be a train driver when he grows up.