Londonderry took a step back in time to the 1940’s this week with the launch of a special event remembering the 70th anniversary of the surrender of the German U-Boat fleet marking the end of the dramatic Battle of the Atlantic campaign during the Second World War.
Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the event will take place on May 16. It will cast a look back at the war era, when American and Canadian sailors strolled the quayside with local girls and the dances at the American base were the place to be.
The city’s port was used by the Allied Forces during the lengthy Battle of the Atlantic which ended with the surrender of the German U-Boat fleet at Lisahally on May 14, 1945. About a dozen boats initially arrived at the docks for the formal surrender and over the coming weeks more arrived before they were scuttled in the Atlantic.
The U-Boat Surrender event will focus on exploring the history of the region through a series of exhibitions, discussions, activities and even a drama about the surrender.
The Mayor, Elisha McCallion, said: “The U-boat Surrender was a significant occasion in the city’s history and the events planned for May provide an opportunity for people to find out more about how the city played a pivotal role in World War II. I would encourage adults and families to go along and learn a bit more about the city’s key maritime role throughout history, at a time when the Foyle was buzzing with activity and the North West of Ireland was known throughout the world.”
The Council’s Education Officer, Margaret Edwards, said the programme offered a great opportunity for younger people to find out about the city’s strategic role in one of the most significant events in our history.
“We are delighted to be hosting this free event which will reveal more about a milestone event in the city’s maritime history. Derry played a vital role as an allied base, with over 100 military ships docked here from 1943, facilitating the domination of the Atlantic sea lanes and playing a key role in the invasion of France in 1944.
“On May 16 visitors and families will be able to come along and find out more about this fascinating era when Derry provided a strategic vantage point for the Allied troops, and discover what it was like for local people to live here during the war.”
Among the host of celebrations taking place throughout the city will be a History Ireland Hedge School debate focusing on life in the North West during the Second World War. A panel of guests will lead the discussions including Michael Kennedy (Royal Irish Academy), Pauline Mitchell (Ulster University), historian Joe O’Loughlin and Emmet O’Connor (Ulster University). Tommy Graham, Editor of History Ireland, will be the master of ceremonies.
Anyone who would like an insight into the region’s role during the Battle of the Atlantic can view a newly commissioned short drama piece by the Playhouse on Derry and the North West which will be showing throughout the day at regular intervals in the Guildhall. The 15 minute performance will focus on the significance of the city’s location, the surrender of the U-boats, the people involved in this surrender and the impact on local people and city and the world.
There will also be the opportunity to see photographs of the city and artefacts highlighting the strategic role it played during the War and its impact on the people here as well as Second World War inspired clothes and accessories to set the scene.
There will be a range of fun activities for all the family as well as guided tours of Harbour House looking at the Londonderry Port and Harbour’s history and its role during the War and the U-boat surrender.
For more information on all the events and how you can take part contact the Guildhall on 02871 376510.