Battle of the Atlantic anniversary in Derry

The 'International Sailor' statue at Ebrington Square was unveiled during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic.
The 'International Sailor' statue at Ebrington Square was unveiled during the 70th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of the Atlantic.

Hundreds of servicemen and women will gather in Derry this week to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The local branch of the Royal Naval Association (RNA) is the only such organisation in the UK that continues to mark the event on an annual basis.

The battle was the longest continuous military campaign of WWII and Derry played a pivotal role.

It was fought for the control of vital supply routes, beginning as war broke out in 1939.

The naval base at Derry - shared by the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the United States Navy - was vital to the protection of convoys in the Atlantic and, at one time, 140 Allied escort ships were based on the River Foyle.

As part of this year’s commemoration, a specially-cast ship’s bell, honouring the Newfoundland Escort Force (NEF) - established in St John’s in 1941 when the Royal Canadian Navy was designated responsible for protecting convoys in the western zone of the North Atlantic - will be blessed at a ceremony in St Columb’s Cathedral.

Back in 2005, the first bell in a series of three - connecting the wartime port cities of Derry, Halifax (Nova Scotia) and St John’s - was consecrated at St Columb’s. It is currently on display in St Brendan’s Church, Halifax.

In February 2007, in a similar ceremony, the second bell named after the famed ‘Newfie-Derry Run’ was consecrated in the Anglican Cathedral of St John the Baptist in St John’s, Newfoundland, and was transported to Derry where it is a prominent feature in the Tower Museum.

In attendance at Sunday’s service in St Columb’s will be Commander Corey Bursey, a Newfoundlander, representing the Canadian High Commission in London.

Thirty-four Canandian Naval Memorial Trustees are also planning to attend Sunday’s event, after which the bell will be transported to St John’s.

Capt John Rodgaard USN (Ret), the author of “A Hard Fought Ship: The Story of HMS Venemous”, is also planning to attend the commemorative events in Derry. HMS Venemous was based in Derry between 1940-2 while escorting convoys.

A dinner will take place at the City Hotel on Saturday evening. Before that, a wreath casting ceremony will take place on River Foyle.