Royal visitor for Hayling Island’s D-Day 75 celebrations
HAYLING’S contribution to some of the country’s finest and most secretive hours in wartime will be celebrated during a special D-Day service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allies’ invasion of France – in the presence of The Duke of Gloucester.
The organisers are inviting the public to come down to the seafront and gather at the Hayling COPP Heroes Monument to join the dozens of schoolchildren who will take part in a mixture of remembrance, music and pageantry on June 6, at 11am.
More than 200 men and women formed part of the clandestine COPP commando unit that spent 18 months putting their lives on the line to help wartime leaders plan for the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
And the bravery shown by members of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) will be remembered during the event being held next to the monument – erected in the unit’s honour seven years ago.
Robin Walton, who founded the COPP Heroes Memorial Fund monument appeal in 2010, said: ‘We have been working on our plans for the 75th anniversary of D-Day for several months.
‘I am delighted to be able to announce His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester has agreed to be our VIP guest and will lay a wreath in memory of all our D-Day heroes from Hayling.
‘It is totally appropriate we should mark the incredible contribution COPP made to the D-Day invasion, as well as the Island’s important role in those monumental hours in the early hours of June 6 – when hundreds of thousands of troops went ashore on Gold, Juno, Sword and Omaha Beaches.
‘Hayling was also the major base for training landing craft crews in 1943 and 1944, and we must not forget Operation Fabius II – the rehearsal for Operation Overlord and Neptune – took place on Hayling Bay in front of Winston Churchill and the Allied Supreme Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, on May 3, 1944.
‘British troops from the 50th Infantry Division came ashore from 200 ships amid great secrecy with Islanders told to stay indoors.
‘They were prevented from visiting the seafront as the Allies practised their plans for the invasion of Europe.
‘We now want to invite as many people from the Island as possible to come and join the celebrations of some of our great wartime secrets.’
A choir of 45 pupils from the Island’s two primary schools and Hayling College students will perform a specially written song for the D-Day anniversary – music will also be provided by the Hampshire Police Band.
The Fort Cumberland Guard will also bring some drama and pageantry to the occasion, firing a canon – and a number of military vehicles from World War II will be on display.
Prince Charles was the first member of the Royal Family to visit the monument four years ago, having accepted the invitation to become the appeal’s patron.
The Prince of Wales helped to secure the huge granite stone from Ian Piper, who runs a quarry on land that used to belong to the Duchy of Cornwall.
Mr Piper will be joined at the ceremony by the Honorary Timothy Knatchbull, whose grandfather – Lord Louis Mountbatten – was the head of Combined Operations, and signed the order to set up COPP in December 1942.
Mr Knatchbull’s late mother – Countess Mountbatten – performed the original dedication of the COPP monument in September 2012.
He will lay a wreath in memory of the COPPists and D-Day veterans based on Hayling 75 years ago, along with the Duke, the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, who will represent the Queen, the new Mayor of Havant, plus members of the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Marines as well as the Royal British Legion.
The event will start at 11am on Thursday, June 6, and should last for 90 minutes. Everyone is welcome to attend.