Base One Europe: Award for Derry museum

Patsy O'Kane and Mark Lusby pictured in the Museum Room at the Beech Hill Hotel. Photo: Lorcan Doherty
Patsy O'Kane and Mark Lusby pictured in the Museum Room at the Beech Hill Hotel. Photo: Lorcan Doherty

A small museum on the outskirts of Derry that tells the fascinating story of the US military in the city during World War II is to get an award.

The “Base One Europe-Beech Hill Camp Museum” - located at the Beech Hill Country House Hotel in Ardmore - charts the history of the US Naval Operating Base and US Marine Corps in Derry during the Second World War.

The museum - run entirely by volunteers - has been selected for an award by the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation in Quantico, Virginia, USA.

Each year, the foundation presents a series of awards to both Marines and civilians to recognise their exemplary work in advancing and preserving Marine Corps history.

Representatives from the Derry group will be honoured at the foundation’s annual awards ceremony, which takes place next month, where they will receive the 2014 Colonel John Magruder Award.

Owner of the Beech Hill Patsy O’Kane says she’s really excited at the news.

“The award is an important recognition of the value of the heritage we are preserving through our little museum,” she says.

“It also a tribute to the hotel staff, volunteers, advisers and funders who have been involved in creating this project.”

When the United States entered WWII, in December 1941, the US Navy had already chosen the Foyle as the location for its ‘Base One Europe’.

The woodlands around what is the now the Beech Hill Hotel were transformed into one of the main accommodation camps for the naval base. Marine Corps, billeted at the Beech Hill Camp, guarded the US Naval Operating Base, Derry, from 1942 to 1944.

A museum room and woodland trail at the hotel - featuring stories, images, film and artefacts - evokes the war-time presence of the US Navy and Marine Corps at various sites across the Foyle Valley and celebrates the enduring connections established between the United States and people of Derry.

Volunteer researcher for the ‘Base One Europe-Beech Hill Camp Museum’, Mark Lusby, says it is fascinating that the nine sites which comprised ‘Base One Europe’ are now being used to “underpin Derry’s development in tourism, education, innovation and, even, agriculture.”

As winner of the Colonel John Magruder Award, the Base One Europe-Beech Hill Camp Museum will receive a $1,000 cash prize, a medallion and a commemorative brick along the Semper Fidelis Memorial Park pathway at the Marine Corps Heritage Centre.