COUNTESS Mountbatten is set to officially unveil a new memorial to a top-secret commando unit based at Hayling Island during the Second World War.
The daughter of the late Lord Louis Mountbatten – and third cousin of the Queen – is to be the guest of honour when the stunning COPPs memorial on Hayling Seafront is dedicated at 11.30am on September 27.
She served as a wren signal rating in Combined Operations during the war and knew the men of the clandestine Combined Operations Pilotage Parties (COPP) through her work.
Her father, who was Commander in Chief of Combined Operations, established the elite unit at Hayling in 1943. Small teams of sailors and soldiers trained as frogmen and canoeists at Hayling Sailing Club for covert beach reconnaissance and other essential missions prior to Allied landings on enemy occupied territory all over the world.
It was Coppists who took part in top secret missions to survey the Normandy beaches ahead of the D-Day landings in June 1944.
The Countess, 88, will be joined by nine COPPs veterans, and senior military officials for an hour-long ceremony to honour the heroes and remember the war dead.
Islander Robin Walton, who has organised the grand tribute, said: ‘We are honoured that Countess Mountbatten can join us to dedicate the memorial.
‘The work these men did was incredibly important and incredibly dangerous. It’s only right that they are finally recognised.
‘The point was that they had to be secret; they had to go in and get out of places without anyone knowing.
‘There were 200 guys and the work they did saved tens of thousands of lives.’
The 12-tonne granite memorial stone was delivered to Hayling seafront from Cornwall with the help of the Royal Engineers in July.
Its official unveiling on September 27 promises to be a major event and there will be people travelling from all over the country to be there.
Hundreds of spectators are expected to turn up.
Mr Walton said: ‘It’s grown and grown.
‘We’ve had massive military support. We are getting a lot of support from both the Royal Engineers and from the Royal Artillery at Thorney Island. It takes a lot of people to make something like this happen. But there should be ample room for hundreds of spectators as well.
‘It’s going to be a gigantic event. I don’t believe there will be anything of its kind for a very long time on Hayling Island.’
The dedication is scheduled to start at 11.30am, but people are being advised to arrive at the site from 11am.
Thousands of pounds has been raised to pay for the memorial, but more money is needed to fund its upkeep.
To donate, make a cheque payable to Copp Heroes Memorial Fund, PO Box 30, Hayling Island, Hampshire, PO11 9UD. Alternatively, visit coppheroes.org to make an online donation.