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 ~  HMS COPRA  ~

HMS COPRA was a Royal Navy shore base for the maintenance of personnel records and the calculation of  pay and allowances for RN personnel attached to Combined Operations. COPRA stands for Combined Operations Personnel Records & Accounts.

Background

'HMS Copra' is sometimes noted on war graves in Normandy. Tony Chapman, Archivist and Historian of the LST and Landing Craft Association explains;

HMS Copra, was never anything other than a shore base. I have the names of many recorded lost from HMS Copra because, sadly, the names of the craft they were serving with at the time of their deaths, was not recorded. The use of HMS Copra on grave stones, in pay books and other service records confirms that the men concerned were in the Royal Navy and assigned to Combined Operations..... and that they served on and/or were lost from an unknown landing craft. I have the names of all the craft and ships assigned on D-Day and nowhere is HMS Copra recorded as a vessel.

Lt Cdr B Warlow's book 'Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy' shows that parts of HMS Copra were located in Southend and London as well as Largs as follows; Commissioned 30/8/43 at Chelsea Court, London as Combined Operations pay and drafting office. Vacated on 3/8/44. Copra (drafting) to Southend by 11/43 and to Largs by 5/10/45. Copra (pay) at Largs by 3/8/44. Pensioned off 30/6/46.

Now to Jean's story about HMS Copra.

The Building

HMS Copra had been established in Largs for several years when bank clerkess Jean (photo opposite) volunteered for the WRNS and was posted to Copra in the early months of 1945. In wartime the military authorities had the power to requisition property in the national interest, and the venue selected for HMS Copra was 'The Moorings' - a shopping and entertainment complex, built pre-war, in the town of Largs. The building had a nautical look with railings around the roof line and a flag pole prominently positioned in the superstructure. The accommodation used by Copra, within the complex, comprised a tea room, a ballroom and a cafe.

The Work

Around 300 Wrens and 300 Chief Petty Officers/Petty Officers were employed there. They worked in 15 sections, each comprising around 20 Wrens and 20 CPOs and POs under the general command of a Captain and a Commander. Each section was headed by a Lieutenant and was responsible for an alphabetical sequence of surnames. Jean's section was responsible for 'K to L' and her 'Opo' was called 'Knobby' Hall. There was a steady stream of work as information arrived each morning on new postings to Combined Operations and on changes to existing postings, both of which required pay entitlements to be assessed or re-assessed. In essence pay, once calculated, remained the same unless and until changes affecting entitlement were received. Most common amongst these were changes in rank and postings.

Wrens selected for these duties underwent a 3 week training course in Leeds. Those, like Jean, who were high achievers in the course examination, were given the rank of Leading Wren with a commensurate increase in pay. Jean recalled, "We were known as 'pay writers' doing a job similar to a modern day wages clerk. We calculated the pay due to the service  personnel themselves - others were involved in calculating the 'allotments' due to dependent relatives and authorising the payments. The going rate was 4 shillings and 9 pence (about 25p) plus 'grog' (rum) money per day. The most difficult of cases, which required further investigation, were handled by more senior ranks.

Pay books did not pass through Copra as a general rule but when they did they were duly stamped to that effect. However the location of the actual posting of the RN personnel was also noted in the book

The working conditions in The Moorings were pretty good. Our section sat about 20 or so each side of a long table with the 'Opo' at the head. The room was open plan, well lit, warm and the seating comfortable. We worked from 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Saturday and 9am to 12 noon on Sunday. One week in three we finished at 12 noon on the Saturday."

The Billets

A large number of the Wrens were billetted at the Skelmorie Hydro Hotel about 6 miles north of Largs. The hotel itself probably accommodated 2

300 Wrens three to a room and there were 3 Nissen huts in the grounds each accommodating 12 Wrens and a Chief Petty Officer. A fourth Nissen hut provided ablutions. The best accommodation, in the hotel itself, was allocated on a first come first served bases so Jean, being a late appointment, stood no chance of moving into the main building. Transport to and from work was provided by RN buses and this included returning to the hotel for lunch. In the evenings 'liberty buses' provided a service to Largs, where there were connecting service buses to other towns. 

The Final Months

Jean continued to work at HMS Copra until her marriage in June of 1946 when, as was normal in those less enlightened times, her employment was terminated. HMS Copra continued to function for another 6 months or so but finally closed as the mass demobilisation came to an end. After the war The Moorings resumed its pre-war role but today the site is occupied by a complex of luxury flats and shops.

Further Reading

There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page which can be purchased on-line from the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE) whose search banner checks the shelves of thousands of book shops world-wide. Type in or copy and paste the title of your choice or use the 'keyword' box for book suggestions. There's no obligation to buy, no registration and no passwords. Click 'Books' for more information.

Acknowledgments

HMS Copra was a long forgotten RN shore base. Grateful thanks are due to Mrs Jean Clark (nee Mathie) of Maybole, Ayrshire for providing information and photographs and helping us to preserve the memory.
 

News & Information

 

Please 'like' the Combined Operations Command memorial  Facebook page in appreciation of our WW2 veterans. See the 'slide shows' of the dedication ceremony and the construction of the memorial plus the 'On this day in 194?' feature where major Combined Ops events are highlighted on their anniversary dates with links to additional information. Also posts and questions from visitors.

70th Anniversary of Victory in Europe. William Hague, Leader of the House of Commons, recently announced that there are to be three days of commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day during May 2015.

A later commemoration is planned to mark the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ Day) day on the 15th August 2015. More information will appear in the  national & local media.

Forthcoming Events

To organisers; Reach the people who will be interested to know about your Combined Operations or war related event by adding it to our forthcoming events page free of charge.

To everyone else; Visit our forthcoming events page for things to see and places to visit. If you know of an event of possible interest, that is not listed, please let us know.

To notify an event click here.

To visit the webpage click here.

Raffle of a  Painting “Let's Play, not Slay" by David A Thorp depicting the legendary football match between the opposing forces in no man's land on Christmas eve 1914.

The painting has a value of £2,500 and will be raffled during the summer of 2015 in aid of the Royal British Legion and the Cheshire Regimental Benevolent Fund.

Tickets costing £2.50 will be sold at the Cheshire County Show, Tabley  (23 & 24 June), the Royal Welsh Show at Builth Wells, Powys  (20 to 23 July), the Nantwich Show  (July 30) in  Cheshire and the Cheshire Country Game Fair at Tabley (August 29 - 31) where the draw will take place. There will be three further prizes.

Free WW1 Teaching Resource. Newspaper cuttings in the form of a 13 page booklet (26 sides) with published accounts of aspects of the war during 1914 to 1919. Available to schools, universities, libraries and accredited education establishments.  Pdf version or
www.historic-newspapers.co.uk/ for printed version.

WW2 Combined Operations Handbook. This handbook was prepared for Combined Operations in the Far East. It illustrates the depth and complexity of the planning process necessary to ensure that the 3 services worked together as a unified force.

 

The Salvage and Restoration of LCT 7074. 7074 has been raised from the docks at Birkenhead and transported to Portsmouth where restoration work will be undertaken with the aim of revealing it to the public during the 75th anniversary year of D-Day. Google 'LCT 7074' or visit the BBC at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29655649

Find Books of Interest.  Search for Books direct from our Books page. Don't have the name of a book in mind? Just type in a keyword to get a list of possibilities... and if you want to purchase you can do so on line through the Advanced Book Exchange (ABE). 5% commission goes into the memorial fund.

The Gazelle Helicopter Squadron Display Team. The Gazelle Squadron is a unique team of ex-British Military Gazelle helicopters in their original military colours and with their original military registrations. The core team includes four Gazelles, one from each service; The Royal Navy, The Royal Marines, The Army Air Corps and The Royal Air Force. A fifth Gazelle in Royal Marines colours will provide intimate support for the team. Their crest includes the Combined Operations badge. The last, and possibly, only time the badge was seen on an aircraft was in the early mid 40s. A photo of the Hurricane concerned is included in the 516 Squadron webpage.

Legasee Film Archive. As part of an exciting social history project, the film company Legasee is looking for veterans from any conflict who would like to have their stories filmed for posterity. Films are now available on line.

New to Combined Ops? Visit Combined Operations Explained for an easy introduction to the subject.

Legion d’Honneur Applications.

Any veterans, not only troops that landed, but also Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel who operated in support of the landings may apply. Click here for application form and further information from the MOD.

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Remember a Veteran. Add names to our Roll of Honour and They Also Served pages and read the Combined Operations prayer.

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