Combined Operations Pilotage Parties MemorialCombined Operations Pilotage Parties were a group of extraordinarily brave men who trained at the Hayling Island Sailing Club from 1943-5 in covert pre-invasion beach reconnaissance, following the fiasco at Dieppe which saw tanks stuck in the shingle and unable to move. COPPists were tasked with reporting on beach quality, beach defences, beach exits and so forth so that the best sites could be selected for landing troops and vehicles.
Put in the water from perhaps a midget submarine, the COPPist would have to swim a considerable distance, at night, to the beach, do the business and then swim back. Besides a heavy swimsuit and lifejacket, each man was weighed down with a shingle bag, brandy flask, sounding lead, underwater writing pad and pencil, compass, beach gradient reel and stake, .45" revolver, fighting knife, trowel, torch, 18" auger, 12 x 10" sample tubes and bandolier. Soil samples were also collected in condoms. Capture by either the Germans or the Japanese would have resulted in the COPPist being murdered, in spite of his wearing military insignia.
The COPPists’ training and mission were both so extremely secret that little was known about them for many years after the war. Considering the number of Allied lives saved by their incredibly hazardous exertions it is sad that public recognition has so long eluded them.
A memorial to the COPPists is now to be erected on the sea front at Hayling Island. A site has been agreed on council-owned land, planning permission has been granted, a suitable slab of granite for the memorial has been donated by a quarry in Cornwall, and HRH the Prince of Wales has agreed to be Patron of the project. What remains now is to get the stone moved, carved and erected and this is going to be a five-figure expense.
For more details, see http://www.coppheroes.org/index.htm .
Anybody with suggestions as to who - company or individual - might be successfully approached for a sizeable contributory sum please email [email protected] or pm me and I can then discuss details. Or, send a cheque to COPP Heroes Memorial Fund, PO Box 30, Hayling Island, Hampshire, PO11 9UD
For the story of COPP, read ‘Stealthily by Night’ by Ian Trenowden (copies from Amazon etc, or bully your public library into buying one).