THE Prince of Wales delighted hundreds of well-wishers who gathered to watch his visit to a Memorial by making an impromptu walk-about.
His Royal Highness is the patron of the fund set up by Robin Walton to honour the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties – elite teams of sailors and soldiers who were trained as frogmen and canoeists for covert beach explorations prior to Allied landings on enemy-occupied territory across the world.
It was set up in 1941 by the Prince’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, whose grandson, Honourable Timothy Knatchbull, welcomed the prince.
Mr Knatchbull praised Mr Walton and Coppist Jim Booth for their dogged determination to honour the servicemen who were trained to search coastlines to ensure the safe landing of tanks and heavy armoured vehicles on enemy land.
Their work was vital to the D-Day landings.
Mr Knatchbull added: ‘This island has a special place in history. It is the location of one of the most remarkable and important, yet little-known, units of the Second World War.
This island really has a very special place in history. It is the location of one of the most remarkable and important, yet little-known, units of the Second World War.Timothy Knatchbull
‘It was set up under the instruction of Lord Mountbatten. How proud my grandpapa would be today with the brave sacrifices and dedication of the Copp who are being brought to the attention of a new generation in a way that will reach the next generation.’
The prince laid a wreath at the memorial which is made of granite from a former Duchy of Cornwall quarry.
He was followed by Mr Booth, 93, who was awarded the Croix de Guerre, a military decoration of France, by the French for his outstanding bravery.
Days before the D Day landings Mr Booth spent long hours at the bottom of the sea off Normandy in a submarine so small he could not stand up in it.
He said: ‘We realised at the time what we were doing was pretty important.
‘And for such a long time no-one knew about us.’
Just hours before the performance by the Hayling College Glee Club yesterday there were tears of sadness after a long-awaited trip to perform at the Menin Gates, in Ypres, was cancelled.
Forty pupils from the school were due to sing at the Last Post Ceremony yesterday evening but the wildcat strike by French ferry workers which have caused chaos on both sides of the Channel meant it was unsafe for them to travel.
They were instead asked to perform for Prince Charles.
The school’s head of music, Neil Ogley, said: ‘They were so upset but the prince chatted to them and they were beaming.
‘He was lovely to them and really cheered them up.’
Summing up the prince’s visit Mr Walton said: ‘It’s taken four years to get him here but what a glorious day it’s been?’
Prince Charles spent 15 minutes chatting and shaking hands with well-wishers.