Combined Operations Pilotage Parties
COPP Heroes of Hayling Island
HRH Prince of Wales Patron.
A Gala Fund-raising event at the HIADS Station Theatre on 15th July 2011, featuring our completed film, ‘Hayling at War’, and an interview with COPP Hero Jim Booth. Click here
The Memorial Dedication ceremony was held on 27 September 2012. It was preceded by a week of WW2 events including the opening of the heritage trail and a COPP exhibition. Click here
The Memorial Completion ceremony was held on 21st July 2014 along with the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Click here
A private visit by HRH The Prince of Wales 1st July 2015. Click here
The Memorial Ceremony was held on 6th June 2019 to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Click here
HAYLING HEROES RETURN
There was a Gala Fund-raising event at the HIADS Station Theatre on 15th July 2011, featuring our completed film, ‘Hayling at War’, and an interview with COPP Hero Jim Booth.
Click to read.
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Memorial Dedication Ceremony
The granite stone with an inscribed memorial was dedicated by Countess Mountbatten to the COPP Heroes on 27th September 2012 in a ceremony attended by surviving COPPists and their family and friends, representatives of the army and marines, the Mayor of Havant, hardworking committee members of COPP Heroes, local people and the media.
The granite was very generously donated by Ian Piper, stonemason, of C F Piper & Son, Trenwith, Henwood, Liskeard, Cornwall PL14 5BP.
Sir David Richards
A COPP Truck
Back row: RSM SBS, John Ashford, Peter Palmer, Major General Ed Davis, Roger Gilbert Front Row: John Ainsworth-Davis, David Owen, Countess Mountbatten, John Bowden, Jim Booth
Roger Gilbert, Peter Palmer, Jim Booth, John Ashford, John Bowden, John Ainsworth-Davis, Robin Walton (Chairman of COPP Heroes Memorial Fund)
Memorial Completion Ceremony
DAN SNOW HONOURS THE COPP HEROES
Wednesday 21st May was a very big day for Hayling Island, when the final event was held to celebrate the work of Combined Operations Pilotage Parties. Many hundreds turned up to celebrate and commemorate the achievements of Hayling’s wonderful WWll COPP unit, marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and their vital contribution to the success of the Normandy landings on 6th June 1944.
There were speeches led by the Association president, Lord Richards of Herstmonceux, the former Chief of Defence Staff Sir David Richards, wreath laying and the unveiling of a dedicated COPP seat by the Hon Timothy Knatchbull, the grandson of Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Head of Combined Operations in WWll.
The service was beautifully conducted by the Reverend Anthony Ingham, Padre of 47 Regiment R.A. supported by the Hayling College choir, while throughout, the brass ensemble of the Queen’s Minden Military Band provided fine musical support.
The celebration was presented by Sally Taylor of BBC South Today, and we were absolutely delighted to welcome TV historian Dan Snow who delivered the keynote address. Dan commented on how honoured he felt, to be asked to give the background to the day’s events and the bravery of Hayling’s COPP Heroes.
The Three Belles vocal group entertained us with songs from the times, and the men and women of our local 47 Regiment Royal Artillery, who did such a great job for us 18 months ago, helped us once more on the big day. The 3 Platoon Hayling Army Cadets assisted plus the Hayling College senior students and choir. We had a spectacular display of military colours which gave real gravity the Last Post and Reveille, so ably played by our Royal Marines bugler.
Sadly over the past seven months we have lost several of our COPP veterans, so this will probably be our very last opportunity ever to publicly celebrate their great courage. Three were present, John Bowden, John Ashford and Roger Gilbert, but sadly Peter Palmer was too unwell to travel. Jim Booth was unfortunately taken ill the evening before, so his granddaughter Polly, bravely stepped in at the last minute to deliver his address with great aplomb. She was absolutely terrific, commenting later it was the most wonderful day of her life.
Chairman COPP Heroes Memorial Asociation
A Private visit by H.R.H The Prince of Wales
We were delighted to welcome our patron His Royal Highness Prince Charles to visit the COPP Memorial on Wednesday July 1st this year. He spent over an hour on the site, laying a wreath and listening to an excellent introduction and short prayer by the Reverend Pennie Paine.
This was followed by a splendid speech by the Hon. Timothy Knatchbull, Lord Mountbatten's grandson, who was deputising for his mother Countess Mountbatten. Mr Knatchbull said the Island has a special place in history as the location of one of the most remarkable, important but little known units of the Second World War.
The Prince had a special word with the 4 remaining COPPists, JIm Booth, John Ashford, Roger Gilbert and Stanley Pond. He was also able to talk to Ian Piper whose generous gift of granite from the former Duchy Quarry made everything possible. He then met Mike Beel, Eileen Walton and Rosemary Satchwell of the organising committee.
A splendid additional feature was the performance of an anthem by the pupils of Hayling College.
Finally the Prince did an extensive 'walkabout' among the large crowd of well wishers.
Timothy Knatchbull's speech.
Your Royal Highness,
I think it was in 2010 that Robin Walton and Jim Booth came to see you. The half hour booked in your diary turned into something very much longer, and it is typical of the support you give to caring citizens and local communities across the UK that you swung into action. The rest is history.
Robin and his committee were able to secure the generous support of so many extraordinary people and organisations that obtained this magnificent piece of granite, transported it from Cornwall, engraved it, and erected it here on Hayling Island.
Hayling Island has a special place in history, as the home of one of the most remarkable, important and little known units of the Second World War.
COPP was set up in 1941 on the instruction of Lord Mountbatten - the man you called Uncle Dickie - for me 'Grandpapa' . How proud he would be today that the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of the men of COPP were being honoured and brought to the attention of a new generation, in a way that will reach all future generations.
Anyone in doubt of the absolutely unique contribution of these men to the world we live in today should bear in mind this historic signal, sent from the Chiefs of Staff having visited the D Day landing beaches in 1944, to Lord Mountbatten, who had by then been sent by Churchill to be Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia.
This is that message from the Chiefs of Staff:
‘Today we visited the British and American Armies on the soil of France. We sailed through vast fleets of ships with landing-craft of many types pouring more men, vehicles and stores ashore. We saw clearly the manoeuvre in progress of rapid development. We have shared our secrets in common and helped each other all we could. We wish to tell you at this moment in your arduous campaign that we realise how much of this remarkable technique and therefore the success of the venture has its origin in developments effected by you and your staff of Combined Operations.
(Signed) Arnold, Brooke, Churchill, King, Marshall, Smuts.'
It is a very rare message in the long history of warfare, and it acts as testament to the unique contribution made by Combined Operations, and its almost unbelievably brave men, typified by the Pilotage Parties, the men we now know and love as COPPists. How wonderful that we have some survivors here today - they are VIPs above all others - and their families. We salute you, and we thank you.
The one man above all who would have liked to be here would have been my dearly beloved grandfather Lord Mountbatten. How proud he would be of the recognition being given to the COPPists today. His daughter, my mother Patricia, godmother to Prince Charles, has sent this message from her home in Kent. Her name is Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and many of you were here in 2012 to see her dedicate the memorial. It meant a great deal to her, as she had personal knowledge of the COPPS while serving as a Wren on the south coast.
This is her message:-
“I am so really delighted to know that HRH Prince Charles is visiting you today to lay a wreath at the wonderful COPP Memorial he was such a great help in achieving.
I am very sorry not to be present myself but do send everybody my best wishes and congratulations”.
As usual Mum has summed it up beautifully. Thank you to Robin Walton, Mike Beel, and all the hard working people in this community of Hayling Island which hosted these men in the hardest days of their lives, and helped them make it possible for us to live in freedom and prosperity. May they never be forgotten.
Your Royal Highness, when you are ready, Major Pilcher has your wreath, ready for you to lay. Thank you Sir for honouring these men.