An explorer's guide to the islands of Britain

Hayling Island walks

The ‘WWII Heritage Trail’ along the coast of South Hayling is a walk through an important part of British wartime history, when the armed forces lived in the holiday camps, hotels and large houses here. Starting at the Hayling-Portsea Ferry there are six information points to see, including the COPP Memorial. The World War II Combined Operations Pilotage Parties unit, code-named COPP, is one of the greatest clandestine operations in history and the key to the success of the D-Day landings. The Hayling Island Sailing Club was once the base for this top secret unit of less than 200 men who won over 90 medals and commendations for their secret reconnaissance missions to enemy-held beaches. The secluded waters of the Harbour were perfect  for testing specialised military canoes to extract secret agents, gather intelligence and mount guerrilla attacks all around the world. The canoes’ most ingenious low-tech feature was the outrigger support floats which were filled with ping-pong balls to retain their buoyancy if hit by a bullet. The most famous canoe mission was the ‘The Frankton Raid’ on Bordeaux Harbour, undertaken by ten Royal Marine commandos who became known as the The Cockleshell Heroes – as their canoes were codenamed ‘cockles’. They entered the harbour unnoticed and sunk one ship, severely damaged four others and disrupted the use of the harbour for months in a sortie that Winston Churchill said helped to shorten World War II by six months. Find out more here

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