WWII links a boost for Derry military tourism

The number of tourists coming to Derry to explore the city's historical links to World War II is rising significantly.

Friday, 22nd September 2017, 4:22 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd September 2017, 4:27 pm
Patsy OKane, centre, Chairperson of Base One Europe Museum, holding the original WWII Marines Plaque with, from left, Gerard J Boyle, Retired Colonel USMC, Dave Wall, Retired Colonel USMC and MHT Tour Leader, Carlton W. Fulford, Retired General USMC, Deputy Mayor John Boyle, and Dr Malachy " Néill, Provost, Magee Campus, Ulster University.

Patsy O’Kane, of the Beech Hill Country House Hotel - which boasts a small museum commemorating Derry’s WWII links to the US military - says the spike in visitors coincides with the 75th anniversary of the US Navy and Marines Corps arriving in Derry.

She says her hotel, in particular, has become “a touchstone” for US Marines, past and present, because of its key role during World War II.

Around 500 US military personnel were billeted in the grounds of the present day hotel in the early 1940s.

“We’ve been proudly telling the story of the Beech Hill camp for many years and it has definitely connected with a great many people, especially in the US,” says Mrs O’Kane.

Last Sunday, two groups representing the US Marine Corps came together at the hotel to commemorate the anniversary.

Military Historical Tours, led by General Carlton W. Fulford, USMC (retired). joined Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent, USMC (retired), serving Marines, and US Army and Navy personnel, for a service of remembrance in the grounds of the hotel.

Among the military personnel on this visit was Jeremiah Workman, US Marine Corps and a recipient of the Navy Cross - the second highest award for bravery in the US.

Mr. Workman said: “The history here has been a real eye-opener and it is something very special to walk where those who went before us walked. I hope my kids and their kids get the chance to see it and to experience Derry.”

Patsy O’Kane says the rise in military history tours is a boost to the wider NW region.

“Military history tours are a great benefit to the local economy,” she said.

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