COPP HEROES

Combined Operations Pilotage Parties

Memorial Fund 

COPP Heroes of Hayling Island

HRH Prince of Wales Patron.

The COPP Heroes Memorial Fund was established in 2010 to raise awareness of the COPP (Combined Operations Pilotage Parties) contribution to the allied war effort in WW2, and to raise funds to create and maintain a fitting memorial to these wartime heroes on the seafront at Hayling.

The top secret COPP Depot was set up in 1943 on Hayling Island under the instruction of Lord Mountbatten. Small teams of sailors and soldiers trained as frogmen and canoeists for covert beach reconnaissance and other essential clandestine operations prior to the Allied landings on enemy occupied territory throughout the world.

On Hayling Island there was nothing to commemorate the bravery of this small band of servicemen, and after 65 years, still so little is known of their exploits locally or nationally.

To put that right, we worked to create a permanent memorial to Hayling’s Heroes - the men of the COPP unit and we are honoured to have as the patron of COPP Heroes Memorial Fund, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales. The memorial was dedicated in a ceremony on 27 September 2012 by Countess Mountbatten, and is a fitting tribute to the very brave men of COPP.

 

THE STORY OF THE COPP HEROES OF WW2

Late on the night of December 31st 1943, two shadowy figures emerged from the surf of the Normandy beaches. Their story is part of the short but glorious history of a secret unit, basedatHayling Island Sailing Club in south east Hampshire during WW2.

 

Early that year, the club (pictured above) was taken over by the Royal Navy as the wartime base of COPP or Combined Operations Pilotage Parties. These were dedicated teams trained in covert operations, reconnoitering beaches selected for landings on enemy occupied territory throughout the world.

 

Without detailed knowledge of landing sites and their defences, any large scale deployment of forces for an invasion, was likely to suffer the same fate as the disastrous Gallipoli operation in WW1, when the allies suffered over 100,000 casualties in a poorly planned landing, against well prepared Turkish defensive positions. The Dieppe raid in 1942 also gave some idea of the potential problems for invasion forces. Following that disaster, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations ordered the formal establishment of the COPP unit.

The unit was commanded by Lieutenant Commander Nigel Willmott, a Royal Navy navigating officer. Willmott had worked on secret surveys for the invasion of Rhodes two years earlier, and his experiences on that operation had led him to propose the establishment of a specialist unit for future invasions. 

Remarkably, this unit of less than 200 men went on to win over 90 medals and commendations in a little under three years.

Major General Logan Scott-Bowden, a highly decorated hero of WW2 is one of the last surviving members of the COPP organisation, and his story is typical of the unit's work. On New Year's Eve 1943, as a 24 year old Royal Engineers Major, he boarded a motor gunboat at Gosport, with his companion Sergeant Bruce Ogden-Smith, for a top secret mission to survey the Gold Beach area around Ver-sur-Mer.

 

The D-Day planners needed to know what lay beneath the sandy Normandy beaches, to ensure the safe landing of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles. Under the noses of the enemy, the pair took detailed measurements and core samples along the beach with metal augers, storing them in special containers for analysis back in the UK. 

When the Americans heard of this audacious mission, they asked the team to survey the US landing sites as well, so three weeks later, they boarded an X-craft midget submarine at Gosport, and were towed by navy trawler to within a few miles of the French coast. There were five men in the team, two swimmers, two crew, and the COPP commander, all cooped up for four days on the ocean bottom in their tiny craft. They surveyed the defences through the periscope by day, and each night Scott-Bowden and Ogden-Smith clambered into their cumbersome swimsuits and life jackets, to swim 400 yards to the shore, all the while dodging the enemy searchlights.

Their work was vital to the success of the D-Day landings, but was typical of the exploits of other COPP teams operating throughout the world. We have focused our story on their missions, because of Hayling’s historic connections to Northern France, but there are numerous examples of similar missions worldwide.

Lord Mountbatten
Lt Cdr Nigel Willmott
Major Logan
Scott-Bowden
Sergeant Bruce
Ogden Smith
 

COPP EQUIPMENT

To view more details click on an image.
This is an actual COPP...
Canoe, minus it's outer skin.
This was available to view in the Exhibition at the Newtown Hotel in September 2012.
Brandy flask, Rations ...
torch, dispersion spout, compass, writing tablet, gradient reel and stake, belt and wrist compass.
Swimsuit, each man was
weighed down with a shingle bag, brandy flask, sounding lead, underwater writing pad and pencil, compass, beach gradient reel and stake, watch, .45 service revolver, fighting knife, trowel, torch,18-inch auger, 12 x 10” sample tubes and bandolier, and soil samples were collected in condoms!
Jim Booth (COPP 9)
modelling an actual COPP swimsuit.

This was available to view in the Exhibition at the Newtown Hotel in September 2012.
Lt Cmdr Nigel Willmott
in one of the suits
Lt P R G (Bob) Smith
of COPP 1 with one of the canoes which were folding so that could fit more easily into the submarines.
Lt B Smith & Lt D Brand
Canoe Parts
Copyright IWM
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COPP MISSIONS

There were many missions for the COPP teams, here's a couple of them:

Sicily, with Lt David Brand and Lt Bob Smith who paddled their canoe from Sicily to Malta in 1943

Gold Beach, with Major Logan Scott-Bowden and Sergeant Bruce Ogden-Smith, of COPP 1

 

SICILY

In March 1943, just a few weeks after the Hayling COPP depot was established, a team of 15 men was sent out on an ill-fated mission, to examine the southern beaches of Sicily. Canoes were transported to within half a mile or so of their target and then launched from submarines. Before launching they were loaded with the equipment, and then floated free from the partially trimmed submarine. Depending on the distance and the operating conditions the canoes were also often launched from small landing craft.

The teams operated in pairs, the navy personnel normally doing the sea reconnaissance, and the army the on-shore military surveys. The army officer sat in the front cockpit with his navy paddler in the rear. They paddled to within a few hundred yards of the shore and anchored. The heavily equipped army man would then swim to the beach.

 

Lieutenant Philip Smith, RN, one of the expedition leaders, surveyed the area around Gela on the south west coast, with his partner Lieutenant D Brand, RNVR. Due to the appalling weather, upon completion of their mission, they missed the rendezvous with their carrier, the Royal Navy submarine P44 United.

Rather than risk capture, they then made an epic 75-mile trip back from Gela to their Malta base at Valetta, in heavy seas and with just one paddle, having spent over forty-four hours in their open canoe. When the exhausted pair arrived, Smith was asked by the incredulous Port Captain what they had done with their submarine!

Smith and Brand were awarded the DSC for their courage. However, overall the operation was not a success. Tragically, of the 15 men who set out, five were captured, five were lost, and only five returned to base. But lessons were learned, and ultimately thousands of Allied troops would owe their lives worldwide, to the dedication of the men of COPP.

Lt Bob Smith and Lt David Brand preparing for their mission.

 

COPP MISSIONS

There were many missions for the COPP teams, here's a couple of them:

Sicily, with Lt David Brand and Lt Bob Smith who paddled their canoe from Sicily to Malta in 1943

Gold Beach, with Major Logan Scott-Bowden and Sergeant Bruce Ogden-Smith, of COPP 1

 

GOLD BEACH

When interviewed in 2009, Major General Scott-Bowden of COPP 1 said: “Our mission was to reconnoitre the Gold Beach area around Ver-sur-Mer. Aerial photographs, and some knowledge of local conditions, indicated that just below the sandy top layer were extensive pockets of soft peat which possibly covered clay, and could spell real trouble for tanks and other heavy armoured vehicles. These were possibly the remains of ancient forests, submerged thousands of years ago, and were the focus for our mission”. 

One dark winter night, the 24-yearold Royal Engineers major boarded a motor gunboat at Gosport, with his companion-in-arms Bruce Ogden-Smith. It was vital that all COPP missions were undertaken during the dark phases of the moon, and Winston Churchill apparently suggested the date of December 31, because he believed the German forces would be far too busy celebrating the New Year to notice any activity on the beaches. And he proved to be correct. 

A few miles from their target, the two men changed into their bulky rubber swimsuits, and strapped on heavy bandoliers, backpacks, measuring equipment and weapons. They then transferred to a small inshore craft which took them to within a quarter-mile of the beach. After initial problems when they were swept too far east by the currents, they quartered the target beach, taking measurements and core samples with metal augers, storing them in special containers for analysis back in the UK.

Scott-Bowden recalled: “As we swam back through heavy surf towards our rendezvous point, I thought my companion was in trouble, when I heard him shouting. But when I turned to help, he only wished me ‘A Happy New Year’. I told him to, ‘swim you b*****, or we'll land back on the beach’. However I wished him ‘A Happy New Year’ in return, and we used our infra-red torches to signal to our support boat, then rendezvoused with the MGB. Weather conditions were against us on our return trip, and we had to head for Newhaven, because we needed to make landfall before dawn and the possibility of our discovery by the enemy.” 

A short time later, when the Americans heard of their audacious mission, they asked them to survey their own landing sites during the next dark period, a few weeks later. “This time we boarded an X-craft midget submarine at Gosport, and were towed by Royal Navy trawler to within a few miles of the French coast.

We then spent four days on the seabed, and three nights surveying the beaches to the west of Port-en-Bessin and the Omaha Beach area. When we first approached the target area, we discovered our way was partially blocked by a French fishing fleet, complete with enemy guards. Our Australian skipper, Ken Hudspeth said we could work our way in under the nets, and as we threaded our way through, we raised the periscope.

 

I was a little surprised to find myself staring into the face of a German soldier, perched close by up on the stern of the last fishing boat, thoughtfully puffing away on a pipe! We downed periscope pretty smartly I can tell you!” By day they surveyed the defences through the periscope, and each night Scott-Bowden and Ogden- Smith donned their cumbersome rubber swimming suits and kit, then swam 400 yards to the shore, all the while dodging the searchlights of the occupying forces. 

 

ABOUT US

The COPP Heroes website serves to increase awareness of the amazing activities of COPP, the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties unit, which was based at Hayling Island Sailing Club during World War ll. 

The COPP Heroes Memorial Fund was set up to create a lasting memorial on Hayling Island, to honour the deeds of these heroic servicemen.

We are honoured to have as the patron of COPP Heroes Memorial Fund, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales and the support of Lady Patricia Countess Mountbatten. 

We are also honoured to have former CGS General Sir David Richards now known as Lord Richards of Herstmonceux as our new president. 

To view more details click on an image.
Sir David Richards
Robin Walton
Chairman of COPP Heroes Memorial Fund

Project Director

Promotional Design
Douglas Sharpe
Fund Raising

PR and Liason

Sadly passed away 2018
Mike Beel
Management

Videographer

Photographer

Web Designer
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Rosemary Satchwell - Secretary

Linda Standen  - Treasurer

Committee & Associates
COPP Heroes Memorial Fund Committee and associates:
Frank Pearce, Rosemary Satchwell, Donald Ramsbottom, Carol Carter, Gil Carter, Dale Norman, Colin Cooke-Priest, Robin Walton, Mike Beel, Douglas Sharpe, Laurie Noble, Linda Standen, Alyson Griffin, Neal Strange, Jacqueline Jones.

Not present, Ann and Robert Griffiths, Andy Griffin, Alison Head and Ted Gale.
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SUPPORTERS

 

The COPP Heroes Memorial Fund is grateful for the numerous donations received from the public, but wish to thank the following for their outstanding support:

  • His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales - Patron of COPP Heroes.

  • Ian Piper, stonemason, of C F Piper & Son, Trenwith, Henwood, Liskeard, Cornwall, who very generously donated the granite for the memorial and for the plaque.

 

MAJOR DONORS

  • Hampshire County Council - £6000

  • Bently Walker Ltd - £5,700

  • St. Herman's Estate - £5,250

  • Jobsite UK (worldwide) Ltd - £3,850

  • Robin and Eileen Walton - £3650

  • Leonard and Claribel Robinson - £2000

  • Hayling Island Builders - £2000

  • Hayling Hardware - £1600

  • David Owen £1200

  • Special Boat Service Association - £1000

  • Jennifer Cook £1000 

  • The Borough of Havant £1000

MAJOR SUPPORTERS IN KIND

  • Ian Piper - Stonemason

  • Island Amateur Dramatic Society

  • Special Boat Service Association

  • 24 Regiment Royal Engineers Commandos

  • 47 Regiment Royal Artillery

  • Marsh Plant Hire

  • Hayling Island Sailing Club

  • Newtown House Hotel - Keith Boothroyd

  • Ramsbottom and Co Ltd - Ian Murray

  • Terracotta Pot Shop

  • County Councillor Frank Pearce

  • Simon Udall Design

  • Andrew Griffin

  • Dougles Sharp

  • Mike Beel

 

Legal matters related to using this site.

 

While every reasonable effort is made to ensure that the information provided on this site is accurate, no guarantees are made. 

The COPP Heroes website and material relating to information, products and information (or to third party information, products and services), is provided 'as is'. It is provided without any representation or endorsement made and without warranty of any kind, whether express or implied, compatibility, security and accuracy.

The COPP Heroes does not accept any responsibility for any loss, disruption or damage to your data or your computer system which may occur whilst using material derived from this website. The COPP Heroes does not warrant that the functions contained in the material in this site will be uninterrupted or error free. 

Also, the COPP Heroes does not warrant that defects will be corrected, or that this site or the server that makes it available is free of viruses or represent the full functionality, accuracy, and reliability of the materials.

In no event will the COPP Heroes be liable for any loss or damage including, without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damages whatsoever arising from use or loss of use of, data or profits arising out of or in connection with the use of the COPP Heroes website.

These Terms and Conditions shall be covered by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales. Any dispute arising under these Terms and Conditions shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.

Copyright © COPP Heroes - www.coppheroes.org

 
Swimsuit, each man was

weighed down with a shingle bag, brandy flask, sounding lead, underwater writing pad and pencil, compass, beach gradient reel and stake, watch, .45 service revolver, fighting knife, trowel, torch,18-inch auger, 12 x 10” sample tubes and bandolier, and soil samples were collected in condoms!