Memorial stone for commandos makes its way to Hayling Island

EXTRACTION Sgt Tony Hunnisett, WO2 Greg Morgan, Ian Piper who leases the quarry, chairman of the COPP memorial fund Robin Walton, Spr Barrett and Spr Render
EXTRACTION Sgt Tony Hunnisett, WO2 Greg Morgan, Ian Piper who leases the quarry, chairman of the COPP memorial fund Robin Walton, Spr Barrett and Spr Render

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BATTLING against the rain, soldiers managed to haul this huge lump of granite from the side of a quarry.

The 12ft high, 11-ton piece of stone is now heading to Hayling Island where it will take pride of place on the seafront, a permanent memorial to crack commandos who risked their lives for their country.

The stone will be erected on the seafront at the bottom of Seagrove Avenue.

It will stand in tribute to the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties, who used canoes to survey the beaches of France in preparation for the allied landings in the Second World War.

They were made up of personnel from across the Armed Forces but half came from the Royal Engineers.

And fittingly it was soldiers from 24 Commando Engineers Regiment, based in Devon, who volunteered to take on the huge task of transporting the granite 220 miles to Hayling.

Warren Officer Greg Morgan, who was in charge of the operation, said: ‘It’s a privilege to be able to be involved with this and to be asked to move the stone.

‘It took us about an hour because of the weight and size of it. It was a tricky job but we’re ready to take it to Hayling now.’

Robin Walton, the chairman of the COPP memorial fund, oversaw the operation in Cornwall where the rock was quarried from an estate leased by Ian Piper from Prince Charles’ Duchy of Cornwall. Over 48 hours it is making its way through the west country to Hampshire and the stone will be erected tomorrow.

Mr Walton said: ‘Watching the granite being craned up out of the side of a mountain was an awesome sight.

‘There were soldiers scurrying around everywhere making sure it was safely in place before they hauled it onto the massive truck using a huge crane.

‘It’s been very exciting. It’s been a long road to get to where we are now and I find it hard to believe this day has actually come.’

Members of the secret COPP unit were trained as frogmen and canoeists for covert beach reconnaissance and other essential clandestine operations.

Only 10 surviving members have been traced and they are now all in their 90s.

They have been invited to the official dedication ceremony on September 27 by Countess Mountbatten, the daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten who set up the COPP unit in 1942.