Combined Operations Pilotage Parties Memorial

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by seaweed, Jun 9, 2011.

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  1. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Combined Operations Pilotage Parties Memorial

    Combined 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 COPP Heroes .

    Anybody with suggestions as to who - company or individual - might be successfully approached for a sizeable contributory sum please email 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).
  2. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    Were the Operation "Bellpush Charlie" people part of COPP, I have a copy of one of their maps dated 31st June of I think Gold ,Item, Red beach at Arromanche
  3. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    If you Google 'Bellpush Charlie' the name of Frank Berncastle comes up. Follow that in conjunction with 'Stealthily by Night' which mentions him and I think Bellpush Charlie was the name for his surveying ops carried out from small landing craft (see his D Telegraph obit). So not exactly COPP but related to it. At least that's my interpretation.
  4. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    Thats right in the book "Charts of War" by John Blake there's a description of the unit and one of their maps, showing the depths and angle of the beach all marked "Most Secret" and only downgraded in what looks like 98.

    And then of course there this

    COPP - Special Forces - Roll Of Honour

    Special Forces Roll Of Honour - Gallery - COPP
  5. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    In the sixties the RN had a little book called 'Let's Go Beachcombing' encouraging ships wherever they were in the world to send in mini-surveys of beach gradients etc.
  6. I was lucky enough to serve(well below) Maj Gen Scott Bowden. ''Mad,married and very bright'' RIP.
  7. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Not RIP just yet I think.
  8. I'm glad to hear that! I am (often) confused.

  9. The obit says he was senior officer of a landing craft flotilla at the time so probably carried COPPs at times and otherwise supported and complemented their operations.
  10. jim24

    jim24 Book Reviewer

    My Bellpush Charlie map

    Attached Files:

  11. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    The offshore surveying certainly complemented the inshore COPP work. The LCs used were I think specially fitted for the surveying, running taut wire measuring gear etc. Submarines, Midget submarines (X-craft, for which the associated COPPists had to qualify as X-Craft crew as there was no room for extra hands), MLs, MGBs and Landing Craft were all used at various times (depending on risk of detection, minefields, state of defence ashore, process of recovery etc etc) for launching COPPists either as swimmers or in canoes developed from the pre-war civilian Folbot. This all interacts with the fact that we were landing all sorts of other people on other sorts of sneaky expedition. It's an immensely complicated web once one starts to get into it.

    The RN Submarine Museum at Gosport provides a visit to HMS Alliance which includes an explanation of how canoes were got up on deck and floated off from full size submarines, and a walk through a sectioned X-craft.

    Thanks for the map, Jim, that's ace.
  12. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Honours for submariners who led secret D-Day invasion | Mail Online

    The beacon had to be established to the East of a reef that lies just off Sword Beach so that Landing Craft could pass safely if they left Jim to starboard. He came on stage in the Hayling Island theatre 15th & 16th and took questions - bright as a button and had been racing his son in law on the hotel exercise bikes. Why the Admiralty thought someone of 6' 4" was just the chap to spend days cooped up in an X-craft is another matter! If they were running out of oxygen they could not surface in daylight as that would have given everything away. So they KNEW that if that happened, they would just have to stay on the bottom and die. But Jim doesn't mention that.

    There is an X-craft on show at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport.
  13. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

    Word is that the filming of Jim Booth by Meridian TV MAY be on the 1800 local news slot on ITV in the South on Thursday 28th.
  14. seaweed

    seaweed LE Book Reviewer

  15. I'd never heard of COPPS until this evening when I received the Combined Services Museum Maldon Newsletter - they have some COPPS artefacts along with SOE ones and SAS Iranian Embassy Siege stuff. Sorry it's Adobe so I can't copy link but this is their website MSM Magazines Ltd