In terms of size, Derry was a very small city in 1945 but in terms of the role it played in bringing the Battle of the Atlantic to a conclusion, the significance was huge.
The importance of Derry’s port was so great that then leader of the Western Approaches and the man in charge of the British participation in the Battle of the Atlantic, Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton, came to Derry to oversee the official surrender of a fleet of German U-boats.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the German surrender along the River Foyle and on Saturday May 16, Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) will host a variety events to mark the milestone.
“It’s very important that we mark this anniversary because Derry played a pivotal role in the ending of the Battle of the Atlantic,” said DCSDC Education Officer, Margaret Edwards.
“In fact, the part Derry played was viewed with such appreciation and significance that the leader of the Western Approaches, Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton came here in person to oversee the surrender,” she added.
The list of activities taking place on May 16 will get anyone with even an ounce of interest in history excited.
The Tower Museum have sourced seven separate photo albums from a private collector in England. The photo albums document life on board many of the German U-boats. All of the photos in the albums, a couple of hundred, have been digitised and will be available for people to look at in the education room in the Tower Museum on May 16.
DCSDC have also commissioned the Playhouse Theatre in Artillery Street to perform a short play about the German U-boat surrender in Derry.
“It’s really important that we put on events for everyone and the activities taking place in the Guildhall are aimed at a younger group - it’s up to us to introduce younger generations to what happened and why it happened,” said Margaret.
Also taking place in the Guildhall will be the chance for visitors to handle some of the items from the time of the surrender and there will also be the opportunity for people to sample a truly authentic 1940s experience and have their photos taken.
Harbour House, beside the Guildhall, operated as the headquarters of the ‘Londonderry Port and Harbour’ during the war and free guided tours will be available on the day.
For history enthusiasts there will be a special discussion with Michael Kennedy, Pauline Mitchell, Joe O’Loughlin and Emmet O’Connor in the Guildhall’s Whittaker Suite at 3pm. The discussion is called ‘War and Peace - the Northwest during the Second World War’ and is being organised by History Ireland.
Everything is free of charge and impressively, the Tower Museum is offering people the chance to visit the museum at the cut down price of £1 on the day.
There will also be displays from other exhibitors such as Base One Europe, Royal British Legion and Bedlam and visitors will also be able to watch a short drama about the surrender of the U-boats and listen to interviews with people who remember the event.
“I think this is a chance for Derry to make this celebration into a regular thing because there is still so much of this story that is just waiting to be told,” said Margaret.
“Obviously, the 75th anniversary will be in in 2020 so there is no reason why we couldn’t look to putting an even bigger and better celebration on.
“What many people don’t know is that Derry was the headquarters for the Canadians in Europe during the war and the city was awash with sailors and military men from England, America, Poland, Holland, France and even Russia.
“The city was really cosmopolitan and was full of colour so that’s why I think it’s important that we not only celebrate the anniversary but we remember all that happened too,” she added.
For further information on what DCSDC has planned for The U-boat Surrender celebrations on May 16 contact the Guildhall by telephone on 028 7137 6510 or email email@example.com