To most, Hayling Island is a quiet backwater south of Havant whose entry and exit can be painful when traffic is at its busiest.
The road running north/south remains rural and the two other ‘main’ east/west roads are in rural countryside.
So, who would have thought that during the Second World War there were four naval camps and a small-boat dockyard on Hayling’s eastern shore?
Because of shallow mudflats, that part of Chichester Harbour was only suitable for small craft and boats with a shallow draft.
In 1940, the Admiralty requisitioned Northney, Sunshine and Coronation holiday camps and re-named them HMS Northney I, II and III. Mill Rythe camp was taken over by the Royal Marines and named Northney IV and Mill Rythe itself was used as a dockyard for the maintenance and repair of boats and landing craft.
Part of the training seamen received was how to use landing craft and not run them aground. This took on extra significance in the run-up to D-Day.
The man in overall charge of the camps and dockyard and all movements around the island and who was crucial to the success of D-Day, was Commander Harold Goulding – later awarded the Distinguished Service Order and mentioned in dispatches.
Little is known about him, his background and what he did, but it is said he became a secret agent and landed on foreign soil more times than any other agent. He was involved in some way with the Cockleshell raids on Bordeaux,
Next Friday there will be a memorial and remembrance service for Goulding with a Spitfire flying over Hayling.
The British Plaque Society will unveil two plaques marking his achievements and the work he did as chief training officer at HMS Northney during the war.
As the commanding officer of the Special Boat Service unit which the famous COPP (Combined Operations (assault) Pilotage Parties) came under, Cdr Goulding would have been responsible for training many of those who guided the landing craft on to the beaches of Normandy.
Until recently Cdr Goulding’s work has remained secret, but his granddaughter, Jill Goulding, who lives on Hayling, is glad part of the story can now be told.
In 2010 Jill found a stash of ‘Top Secret’ and ‘Most Secret’ documents in her mother’s loft.
Through these Cde Goulding’s covert operations revealed he made more landings on the enemy’s coasts than any other officer.
Jill would be delighted if veterans of the Special Boat Service would make contact so they may attend the plaque unveiling on August 21.
One plaque will be placed at the Langstone Hotel, which overlooks the site of former HMS Northney, while the second will be placed on Moss Rose Cottage, the house at Northney where Cdr Goulding lived.
A flotilla of Cockles will begin their journey from Hayling Island Sailing Club and be paddled up the east side of Hayling to the Langstone Hotel to deliver the plaque to Goulding’s former Moss Rose home.