Hayling Island made an extraordinary contribution to the nation’s war effort during World War Two, yet it has always been overshadowed by its famous neighbour Portsmouth. As a result, it has been largely overlooked in official histories of life on the home front.
In 1939, the Island was virtually taken over by the armed forces, and the population trebled as holiday camps, hotels and large houses were all requisitioned for military use. A particular point of interest to emerge, is the huge contribution to the cause made by women serving in all sorts of capacities, and even the male dominated Civil Defence unit was under the command of a very smart lady.
The list of military activities is quite remarkable - landing craft training and repair, anti-aircraft defence, construction of elements of the D-Day Mulberry Harbour, the D-Day rehearsals, and not least the extraordinary Combined Operations Pilotage Parties unit based at Hayling Island Sailing Club.
All the while the civilian population got on with life as well as they could, joining the Land Army, Air Raid Wardens, Home Guard, and the Red Cross. Robin Walton has been tireless in seeking out so many fine stories, mementos and first-hand accounts of the war years, and especially a mass of wonderful photographs, which illustrate those times for us so effectively.
The big story nationally and indeed internationally, has to be that of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties, the top secret unit which was based at Hayling Island Sailing Club from 1943 up until the war’s end. Their memorial on Beachlands now forms the centrepiece of the Hayling Island WWll Heritage Trail, which runs along the Island’s southern shores, and is the very first WWll Trail in the whole UK..
All of this is beautifully captured in Robin Walton’s book, which highlights the enormous part played by women, just how young most of the people in our story were, and yet how mature they all seem in the many photographs illustrating our Island’s story.
For further details about the book contact :
50 Bacon Lane
Tel: 02392 718441
Author - Robin Walton
Illustrator - Mike Beel