The Yanks are coming....back again

The American Navy officers who were based in Derry around 1970.
The American Navy officers who were based in Derry around 1970.

Much has been written about the strategic importance of Derry as a military base during World War II. The geographic location of the city and its close proximity to the western Atlantic meant that in the wake of the blitz on England, local waters became more and more important.

After the USA entered the war in December, 1941 such was the scale of the war effort in Derry that it became not only the largest convoy base in the British Isles but also the main American communications base in Europe.

A inspection of sailors at the U.S.Naval base

A inspection of sailors at the U.S.Naval base

The U.S. Naval Radio Station (NAVRADSTA) was established as a separate activity from the U.S. Naval Operating Base on July 10, 1944. In August 1944 that operation base was decommissioned, leaving NAVRADSTA as the only U.S. military activity in the city. They remained here until 1977 ending a 35 year history of what had been a very long and close relationship of U.S. sailors with the Derry community.

An alumni association for all those who had served in the city was established in 2000 or the purpose of reuniting those sailors and civilians, and their families, who served at the U.S. Naval Communication Station here.

A website which can be accessed at provides both an in-depth history of the American presence in the city, a fascinating pictorical record of the entire 35 years and many personal insights of those who served here.

Down the decades of the American presence in Derry many marriages took place and U.S. sailors were a regular feature of the social life of the city. Many Derry women left here and travelled to the USA when the military presence ended, but conversely many sailors remained here and built their lives locally.

A Reunion is being held in the city July 26-30, 2015 at The City Hotel for all the United States Navy sailors and Derry civilians who worked at the former US Navy Base in Derry. This will be the fourth reunion in Derry, with previous reunions having been held there in the years 2003, 2007, and 2011 and organisers are urging all those eligble

to attend.

Dennis Kolodziej, Co-Founder and Treasurer of US Navcommsta Londonderry Alumni Association told the Journal: “I have yet to meet a sailor who served in Derry who did not consider it the finest duty station in the entire U.S. Navy. And I must add it was the wonderful and friendly people of Derry who made it the finest duty station.

“With open arms they welcomed us into their homes and into their hearts and made Derry feel very much like our home away from home. Many of the sailors married Derry girls and we expect that over Derry brides will attend the reunion. Needless to say, we U.S. Navy sailors, along with our families who were stationed in or originally from Derry are looking forward to coming back ‘home’ once again

for the reunion.”

It was once written that America and those of us who also speak English were ‘nations divided by a common language’. Being told as a military serviceman that you are to be stationed overseas goes with the job, but there are problems perhaps in understanding the local langauge when you arrive. We are aware that in Derry we have, shall we say, some peculiarities in our linguistic output. These were thought to have been of a sufficient difference that the U.S. Navy thought it prudent to issue their sailors with a handbook outlining some of these as standard military issue for Derry. What follows are some of those phrases.

Away wi the fairies-Demented

Alright there!-A Greeting




Beaten Docket-Unsuccessful


Broke to the bone-Highly Embarrassed

Broke Dead-Violently ignored

Bake-Face or mouth

Cat-Not good

Cat Melodeon-Worse

Chance’ll Bother You-An opportunity not to be offered one

C’mon You-Attracting someone’s attention with a view to getting them to do something

Duck (Rare)-Eccentric person

Dead Broke-Very Embarrassed

Even Your Wit T A WEAN-Compete unfairly against a minor

Failed-Having lost weight

Fading away to a mountain-Having put on weight


Good steever-Sore kick in the posterior

Get into-To remonstrate with

Get away-Expression of disbelief

Gunk-Severe disappointment

Juke-A quick look

Just-The motivation for most anti-social behaviour

Join-To tell off

Lock-Amount of

Lured stiff-Delighted


Make a pig’s knickers of-Make a mess off


Odds-Spare Change

Pee-the bed-Dandelion

Peg-To throw stones


Ready for the hills-Harrassed


Steever-Kick in the posterior



Stews-Doherty’s mince, potatoes, onions

Skelp-A good slap

Stickin out-Wonderful

Start-To provoke to the point of argument

So seen on ye


Tapping-Seeking “odds” (spare change)

Up a tree in Rosemount-Whereabouts unknown and absence unlamented

Wee bunS-Easy (or a former bishop)

Wee sope in your hand-Cup of tea


Wile colour-Of pale complexion

Yes-A greeting

You’re a teller-Expression of surprise

You’re a liar-Tell me more