I think it was in 2010 that Robin Walton and Jim Booth came to see you. The half hour booked in your diary turned into something very much longer, and it is typical of the support you give to caring citizens and local communities across the UK that you swung into
action. The rest is history.
Robin and his committee were able to secure the generous support of so many extraordinary people and organisations that obtained this magnificent piece of granite, transported it from Cornwall, engraved it, and erected it here on Hayling Island.
Hayling Island has a special place in history, as the home of one of the most remarkable, important and little known units of the Second World War.
COPP was set up in 1941 on the instruction of Lord Mountbatten - the man you called Uncle Dickie - for me 'Grandpapa' . How proud he would be today that the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of the men of COPP were being honoured and brought to the attention of a new generation, in a way that will reach all future generations.
Anyone in doubt of the absolutely unique contribution of these men to the world we live in today should bear in mind this historic signal, sent from the Chiefs of Staff having visited the D Day landing beaches in 1944, to Lord Mountbatten, who had by then been sent by Churchill to be Supreme Allied Commander in South East Asia.
This is that message from the Chiefs of Staff:
‘Today we visited the British and American Armies on the soil of France. We sailed through vast fleets of ships with landing-craft of many types pouring more men, vehicles and stores ashore. We saw clearly the manoeuvre in progress of rapid development. We have shared
our secrets in common and helped each other all we could. We wish to tell you at this moment in your arduous campaign that we realise how much of this remarkable technique and therefore the success of the venture has its origin in developments effected by you and your staff of Combined Operations.
(Signed) Arnold, Brooke, Churchill, King, Marshall, Smuts.'
It is a very rare message in the long history of warfare, and it acts as testament to the unique contribution made by Combined Operations, and its almost unbelievably brave men, typified by the Pilotage Parties, the men we now know and love as COPPists. How wonderful that we have some survivors here today - they are VIPs above all others - and their families. We salute you, and we thank you.
The one man above all who would have liked to be here would have been my dearly beloved grandfather Lord Mountbatten. How proud he would be of the recognition being given to the COPPists today. His daughter, my mother Patricia, godmother to Prince Charles, has sent this message from her home in Kent. Her name is Countess Mountbatten of Burma, and
many of you were here in 2012 to see her dedicate the memorial. It meant a great deal to her, as she had personal knowledge of the COPPS while serving as a Wren on the south coast.
This is her message:-
“I am so really delighted to know that HRH Prince Charles is visiting you today to lay a wreath at the wonderful COPP Memorial he was such a great help in achieving.
I am very sorry not to be present myself but do send everybody my best wishes and congratulations”.
As usual Mum has summed it up beautifully. Thank you to Robin Walton, Mike Beel, and all the hard working people in this community of Hayling Island which hosted these men in the hardest days of their lives, and helped them make it possible for us to live in freedom and prosperity. May they never be forgotten.
Your Royal Highness, when you are ready, Major Pilcher has your
wreath, ready for you to lay. Thank you Sir for honouring these men.