World War Two and special operations veteran Jim Booth passed away aged 101 (Picture: Royal Navy).
World War Two and special operations veteran Jim Booth passed away aged 101 (Picture: Royal Navy).
Navy

D-Day submariner whose work influenced history dies aged 101

World War Two and special operations veteran Jim Booth passed away aged 101 (Picture: Royal Navy).
World War Two and special operations veteran Jim Booth passed away aged 101 (Picture: Royal Navy).

A submariner who was part of an elite unit that paved the way for the D-Day landings has passed away aged 101.

In 1944, Jim Booth was part of an elite unit which was tasked in clearing a path for the landing forces to the beaches in one of the most important operations in military history.

As a member of the COPP – Combined Operations Pilotage Parties – he spent 48 hours in a midget submarine off the Normandy shoreline, making sure the invasion armada landed at the right spot.

The submariner was the only known surviving member of COPP, whose units served and fought all of the world in support of critical operations and daring raids.

On June 6, 1944, his HMS X-23 lay one mile away from codename 'Sword Beach' on the eastern flank of the D-Day front. 

Their mission was to 'flash' and act as a lightship beacon for the invasion force to aim for.

Jim later recalled his mission, 75 years after the landing.

June 1944, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy image ID EJW5G0. CREDIT World History Archive Alamy 06062022.jpg
June 1944, the D-Day Invasion of Normandy (Picture: World History Archive Alamy).

He said: "The world was alive with ships – our ships by the thousand, just unbelievable."

As an 18-year-old, Jim joined the Royal Navy as a seaman and served during the Second World War.

After a year of service, he became a Lieutenant and spent the first half of the conflict on regular duties in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. 

At the age of 23, he transferred to the Submarine Service and became a submarine pilot on X- craft mini submarines, employed on a range of specialist missions such as attacking Germany’s feared Tirpitz in the Norwegian fjords.

Landing Barge D-Day Invasion Of France World War II - Image ID D2A5BW CREDIT Universal Images Group North America LLC Alamy 06062022.jpg
Landing Barge D-Day Invasion Of France World War II (Picture: Universal Images Group North America LLC Alamy).

When it came to the invasion of Normandy, the crew’s accuracy was vital to the success of the landing, and by default the outcome of history.

While D-Day was COPP’s most significant operation, the unit also served extensively in the Far East in 1945 as the Allied powers closed in on Japan.

Jim’s COPP 9 was committed heavily along the coast of Arakan, Burma, testing possible landing sites, assessing – and, where necessary cutting – defences.

He continued to serve in the post-war Royal Navy, notably in the Mediterranean, then turned to farming in the West Country.

Upon retirement, he was instrumental in the campaign to see his 200 fellow members of the COPP honoured with a permanent memorial – a goal he witnessed accomplished when a monument was erected on Hayling Island, the unit’s wartime home in Hampshire.

His 100th birthday a year earlier had been celebrated with full pomp and ceremony, with a surprise appearance at his party by the Royal Marines Corps of Drums.