Between Asnelles to the West and the estuary of the Orne at Ouistreham to the East, the Normandy coastline is low-lying, particularly suitable for a landing one of the best sectors to the East of the Contenin Peninsula. A low-lying coastline, however, is not entirely free of traps. There, in common with the future Utah Beach sector a chain of dunes fronts a low and often marshy zone. In addition, a sandy beach can present difficulties to tanks and other heavy vehicles coming ashore. Towards the end of 1943, the Allied high command responsible for planning Operation Overlord became worried by a section of what appeared to be peat indicated in front of Ver-sur-Mer. The beach in front of that village was one of the landing sites chosen for what was to become Gold Beach. Nothing could be left to chance and a reconnaissance had to be mounted to determine the geographic characteristics of that beach. The mission was entrusted to COPP, Combined Operations Pilotage Parties, which had been commanded by Lt. Cdr. Nigel Clogstoun Wilmott since the late summer of 1942 (1). Before that, in March 1941, the same naval officer had carried out a clandestine reconnaissance mission on the coastline of Rhodes, demonstrating his understanding of the technique as well as the value of the information gained. At that time the flexible rubberised diving suit did not exist, so Clogstoun-Wilmott and his swimming "spies" wore pullovers and long johns impregnated with grease. This small section of commandos was brought near the coast from where they could approach the shore by canoe at night paddling as silently as possible. One of the "spies" stayed with the frail vessel while the other swam ashore to gather information. Assisted by Lieut "Jumbo" Courtney, Clogstoun-Wilmott subjected his men to a particularly rigorous training regime under all possible weather conditions. The commando was subdivided into ten two-man teams - one a Royal Navy navigator and the other a specialist from the Royal Engineers. The remarkable espionage carried out by Clogstoun Wilmott and his men culminated in the establishment of COPP during the summer of 1942, eight weeks before the Torch landings in North Africa. The new unit was successfully employed during the various landings in the Mediterranean and on raids along the western coasts of France. It also became involved in the preparations for Overlord. Thus on 31 December 1943, two specially equipped landing craft (LCN's) were towed across the Channel by motor gun boats (MGB's). Two hundred metres out to sea off the beach at Ver-sur-Mer, two swimming spies, Major Scott-Bowden and Sergeant Ogden Smith prepared to set off for their two hour swim to the shore. Since 1941 the swimmers' equipment has been considerably improved. They wore voluminous one-piece suits, plastic coated and lined with kapok to ease flotation. Elasticated cuffs sealed their necks, wrists and ankles. On their feet they wore a type of espadrilles. They swam without breathing apparatus but were equipped with watches, waterproof torches, pencils, a compass, and a tablet on which to write underwater, as well as emergency rations, an alarm signal and a small bottle of brandy. The special Clothing of the men from COPP As the two swimmers approached the shoreline they saw the lights in the houses but did not attract any attention. At midnight the sergeant wished the major a happy new year, and the two men swam back to their boats with their precious samples of the beach. Area of clay on the Ver-sur-Mer beach, the presence of which greatly worried the Allied high command and which justified the sending of a COPP team in the last night of 1943 to collect samples.