COMBINED OPERATIONS COMMAND
*    UNITED WE CONQUER    *

Home Page

Membership

Memorial

Roll of Honour

Books

FAQs

All Pages Index

Notice Boards

Donate

Search

Contact Us

About Us

 Combined Operations - 170 webpages, 2,000 photos, 250,000 visits and 7 million hits each year. The definitive Combined Ops website.

Please 'like' the Combined Operations Command memorial on Facebook in appreciation of  Allied veterans of WW2.  News and Information at the bottom of this and every webpage.

 ~ H.M.S. 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 over 200 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 events are featured on their anniversary dates. 

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.

Legion díHonneur Applications. In conjunction with events to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Normandy landings, the Government of France has advised the Ministry of Defence that it wishes to award the Legion díHonneur to all surviving veterans; not only of the landings, but also the wider Battle for Normandy; the Invasion of Provence (Operation Dragoon); the Liberation of Paris and the Liberation of France.

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.

 

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.

 

Newsletter. The latest occasional newsletter can now be read here.

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.

 

 

 

 

Thames River Cruiser FARMAR. Do you know what this craft did in WW2? If so you may have information to help a restoration project. More information on our Notice Board.

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.

 

 

 

Print too small or large? Easy solution when browsing. I) PC. To increase hold down Ctrl and shift and press +. To decrease hold down Ctrl and press -. 2) MAC. To increase Command + and to decrease Command -.

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

Copyright © 2000 to 2014 inclusive [www.combinedops.com]. All rights reserved.