Heritage trail will highlight role of Hayling Island during war

VISION An artist's impression of the COPP memorial on Hayling Island
VISION An artist's impression of the COPP memorial on Hayling Island

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HAYLING Island was a hub of military activity during the Second World War, with its population almost trebling overnight.

Now its vital role in defending our country is set to be brought to life in a new heritage trail.

Plans are afoot for six information boards telling the story of wartime Hayling through words, pictures and maps.

The centrepiece will be the striking granite memorial, which is set to be built on the seafront near Seagrove Avenue after getting planning permission last year.

The memorial will commemorate the heroic men of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP), a team trained on Hayling who went on top-secret missions to survey beaches before the Normandy landings.

The information boards – set to be given planning approval by Havant Borough Council tomorrow – are being funded by a £10,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency.

Robin Walton, chairman of Discover Hayling, which is behind the plans, said: ‘What’s nice is that this underpins the COPPs memorial, instead of it being a standalone thing.

‘Obviously the COPPs was the biggest thing internationally and what they did was quite remarkable. It’s good to be able to highlight the other things that Hayling did on the frontline.’

An information board at Eastoke Corner will give details of a crucial amphibious training exercise.

Mr Walton explained: ‘The eastern side of Hayling Island was the site of Operation Fabius II which was the rehearsal for D-Day which was apparently watched by Churchill and Eisenhower from the Royal Hotel.’

A second information board will give the history of the Gun Site and a third at the ferry car park would give details of pillboxes and the famous Mulberry Harbours, artificial harbours that were floated across the channel.

Other information boards are planned for the Inn on the Beach pub, at the stone memorial, as well as at the Station Theatre to explain the role of the railway to bring in troops and armaments.

Fundraisers are three-quarters of the way to raising the £30,000 for the memorial.

To donate visit coppheroes.org.