- HMS Peregine, RNAS Ford during the Second World War -
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HMS Peregine, RNAS Ford
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Those known to have sailed in
HMS Peregine, RNAS Ford
during the Second World War 1939-1945.
- Copping Clifford Frederick Lewis. Pte.
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Pte. Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping Royal Sussex RegimentIn April 1940, my father Clifford Frederick Lewis Copping of Southcroft Rd Tooting, South London lied about his age to join the army and enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was just 17 and had become Private 6405092 Copping. He spent the first few weeks training (I think) near Wincanton and then six weeks guarding a railway tunnel and had a short spell in Northern Ireland.
One incident that happened during this period was when a barrack bully kept picking on someone for no reason and my dad didn't like the way it was going, so he floored the guy with one punch. Just as the guy hit the floor the Regimental Sergeant Major happened to pass by and asked who was responsible for the blow. My Dad owned up and was immediately placed on the regimental boxing team! A few days later he found himself in the ring sitting opposite someone by the name (I think) of Tonner - who happened to be from a family of very good amateur boxers on civvy street. All my Dad can remember is the bell sounding for the first round and then the lights suddenly went out! His budding army boxing career had sadly been terminated.
Back to the war his unit was posted to HMS Peregrine RNAS Ford Aerodrome in Sussex. Here he was stationed in an anti-aircraft gun pit and assigned the job of radio operator. Whilst at Ford - he volunteered to undertake "Glider Pilot Training" which I understand went on near High Wycombe. Had he been accepted and completed the training he would almost certainly seen action in both Normandy and Arneham.
During the Battle of Britain, on 18th August at about 4.30 pm the airfield was attacked by a squadron of Junkers 87B "Stuka" divebombers. The Germans had mistakenly thought it to be an operational base rather than the training station it was. One of the Stukas attacked his gun pit and dropped its bomb just short of its target. The explosion killed the British officer in charge of my father's pit instantly and when the rescue party arrived they found my Dad buried up to his neck in sand from the punctured sandbags surrounding him. He recalled them saying "Here's Copping's head -where's the rest of him?" After digging him out he was found to have numerous shrapnel wounds all over his body and some burns to his back. As he lay on a stretcher waiting for transportation to hospital he heard the "last rights" being read out and thought he was going to die - only to realise that it was in fact some poor devil next to him instead. Altogether 18 people were killed in this air raid and there were a number of casualties. He later found out that the pilot of the Stuka was killed in action whilst flying on the Russian Front.
He spent the next 11 months in hospital at Chichester (where unbeknown to him at the same time his future wife Mavis was evacuated in a house whose garden backed onto the hospital). During his time in hospital he was given a lot of quinine which rotted his teeth and caused him to be toothless by the time he was 21! Having also been burned he also received treatment at the famous burns centre at East Grinstead and received pigskin grafts pioneered by the famous Dr McEndoe.
At the end of his hospitalisation he was deemed "unfit for service" on health grounds and honourably discharged. He spent the rest of war working for the London County Council LCC driving bombed out families and their possessions to safer parts of the country.
In 1948 he married my mother Mavis Woodard, also of Tooting and they had three children. He worked for both Martin's and Barclays Banks and retired early to care for my mother who had MS. He died in June 2000.Gary Copping
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