Derry took a step back in time to the 1940s this week with the launch of a special event to remember the 70th anniversary of the surrender of the German U-Boat fleet on the River Foyle.
Organised by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the event will take place on May 16 and casts a look back at the war era when American and Canadian sailors strolled the Derry 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 off the coast of Inishowen.
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.
Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Elisha McCallion, is encouraging people to ensure they catch a glimpse of Derry in a bygone era.
“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,” she said.
“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 says the programme offers a great opportunity for younger people to find out about the city’s strategic role in one of the most significant events in history.
“We are delighted to be hosting this free event which will reveal more about a milestone event in the city’s maritime history,” she said.
“Derry played a vital role as an allied base, with more than 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 looking for an insight into the region’s role during the Battle of the Atlantic can see a newly commissioned short drama piece by The Playhouse which will be showing throughout the day at 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 and artefacts highlighting the strategic role Derry played during WWII.
There will also be a range of fun activities for all the family as well as guided tours of Harbour House looking at Derry 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 Tel: 028 7137 6510.