By Richard O'Reilly
A day of special activities has been planned by Derry City and Strabane District Council to mark the 72nd anniversary of the historic U-boat surrender on Lough Foyle, which signalled an end to the Battle of the Atlantic in May 1945.
Saturday May 6th will feature a packed programme of indoor and outdoor family friendly activities taking place in the city centre, commemorating the city’s role in one of the most strategic military operations of the Second World War.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Alderman Hilary McClintock, said the events mark one of the most significant eras in the region’s maritime history. “Saturday will be a fun packed day with lots of activities centring around the history of the city at that time. It’s not really that long ago that the city’s streets were busy with troops from America, Canada and across Britain, and the port at Lisahally was a bustling military base which was of major strategic importance to the Allied troops.
“This is a great opportunity to find out more about how the North West featured in the story of the war, and to view some of the amazing artefacts from the time which form part of our important local collections and archive.”
In May 1945, the German U-boat fleet was ordered to surrender to the Commander of the Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Max Horton in 1945 at Lisahally. The surrender highlighted the significance of the city in protecting the Atlantic convoys and in keeping the western front open for the duration of the war.
Education Officer at the Tower Museum, Ronan McConnell, said: “Saturday will be a fitting way to commemorate this exciting era and to give people an insight into what the city would have been like 72 years ago.
“Local people would have been rubbing shoulders on a daily basis with troops from around the world, including Sailors and WRENS. It was a real cultural hotpot and the city was a very lively and vibrant place to live in during the war.”
On Saturday history enthusiasts will also be able to view a variety of unique museum collections, both from the Council's own collection and also from private collectors around Northern Ireland. A full size replica spitfire from the Ulster Aviation Society will be on display in the Guildhall Square, as well as US Troop Re-enactors from Wartime Living History Association, and American Willys Jeeps from the Ulster Military Vehicle Club.
A range of family activities will be taking place in the Guildhall, including a photo booth, costumes of the time and Morse Code signal machines. A series of talks are also scheduled, beginning with renowned historian Richard Doherty at 12pm speaking about the importance of HMS Ferret and role of the city in protecting the Atlantic convoys. At 1:30pm vintage stylist Elaine Duffy will be giving tips on how to achieve that glamorous 1940’s look, and at 3pm keynote speaker Guy Warner will be looking back at the first time US troops were stationed near the city, at the short-lived Lough Foyle NAS at Ture