Combined Operations Pilotage Parties

Memorial Fund





Ashford, John

Booth, Jim

Brand, David

Crane, Jack

Harbud, Robin

Kennedy, Lawrence

Ogden, Smith, Bruce

Palmer, P

Scott-Bowden, Logan

Smith, Philip

Turner, Thomes


Memories of COPP

Early in 1945 I was serving in a Field Company in Maidstone when I was called by the CO to meet a RE Major from Combined Operations. How he knew of me I never found out. He outlined what COPP did and asked if I would like to join them. Being 20 years old I would have volunteered for anything!

I then reported to Hayling Island, the training base for COPP where I met the CO LT/Cdr Nick Hastings and the Training Officer Geoff Galway. Amongst others training were Dick Preedy and Sgt Lomas RE and he and I trained together.

We learned how not to capsize a canoe (and how to when taking a pretty Wren for a paddle) and did a lot of paddling including round Hayling Island and across to Bosham to the pub. We were kitted out in Siebe Gorman swim suits and did a lot of swimming off the Island day and night. A certain amount of basic navigation was included and I also learned how to darn a sock Naval style.
At Portsmouth we underwent the Davis escape routine in a very warm swimming pool fitted with a dummy Conning tower and then to Scotland embarking on a submarine and carrying out exercises at night in the Kyles of Bute.  

At that time the Civilian population of the Island seemed to be returning home, the Cinema was operating and I recall a local pub, within walking distance of our base, where the local Postman, known to all as Postie, entertained us with rousing songs after a few pints.

Sgt Lomas and I were then sent to Sri Lanka (Ceylon in those days) as replacement for two Sappers reported missing on operations. The RAF flew us to Malta, Cairo Middle East Karachi and then to Colombo, the journey taking about a week. From there by overnight train to Jaffna and truck to Hammenheil Camp a Royal Marine Base.

We joined Copp 3 and met the other members -
CO Alec Hughes,
Lt Canada Alcock RCNVR
S/Lt Thomas and Hood
Ratings Ruberry, Turner,Souter and
Sapper Cockram.


A lot of swimming and canoeing followed including demonstrating firing a 2" mortar from the front seat of a canoe! Lomas and I did the paddling and we went from 20 mph ahead to ditto astern in a split second! Four of our Naval personnel were reported missing on an operation (and eventually reached Singapore ) and we then joined Copp 10, I think CO George Talbot and Lt Jim Booth. More paddling south of Colombo and then we learned we were to take a Parachute Course. We travelled by train from the south of India to Rawalpindi where we joined Indian troops for Parachute training. 7 Jumps and two weeks later we were considered trained and given our"wings".

Back to Hammenheil where we learned that the Japanese war had ended and we were to return to the UK as the COPP teams were being disbanded. I travelled as a Passenger on a Destroyer HMS Rotherham which was "paying off" - an enjoyable Cruise (!) to Portsmouth taking a month. I was then told to go on leave as the Hayling Island Base was closed and in November 1945 all COPP teams disbanded.

Over the past 11 months I had met some splendid "Mates" mostly from the Navy and my only regret was that I had not been able to put my training into practice.

October 2011 John Ashford.
(Sometime Captain Royal Engineers)



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