Londonderry Branch Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration May 2018

Shipmates from various branches arrived in Londonderry to take part in BoA 2018. They were joined by Royal Canadian Navy and United States Navy Veterans and family members from Canada, America, Southern Ireland and other parts of the UK. Over the four days of events old friendships were renewed and new friends were made.
The special project for BoA 2018 was the commissioning and dedication of the Newfoundland Escort Force Bell, which is the third of three Convoy Bells representing the ‘Triangle Run’ of the North Atlantic Convoy Escort groups, during the Second World War.
VIP’s attending included, The Lord Lt of the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey. The Deputy Mayor of City of Derry and Strabane District, Cllr John Boyle, Lord Hay of Ballore, Prof Sir G Bain. Rear Admiral John Weale OBE Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland, Cdr Corey Bursey RCN representing the Canadian High Commission, Capt Chris Smith RN Naval Regional Commander for Scotland & Northern Ireland, J Reddy RCN Rtd CO of HMCS Sackville, Capt J Rodgaard USN Rtd and other distinguished guests.
Thursday 17th May 2018
The first function was a ‘meet & greet’ to welcome our visitors on Thursday evening. It was hosted by the Londonderry Branch RNA in the RBL Waterside and was a great start to the forthcoming events.
Friday 18th May 2018 HMS Laurentic Commemoration WWI
On Friday morning a large coach load and many cars left the City and travelled to the scenic shores of Lough Swilly in County Donegal. Lough Swilly was a temporary home to the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet during WWI.
The Ulster Canada Initiative, chaired by Newfoundlander Don McNeill, had organised a Church Service and Wreath Laying in Fahan Church of Ireland.
We were welcomed into the Parish Church of St Mura’s in Fahan where the Rev Judi McGaffin led us in a very meaningful service, in memory of the crew of HMS Laurentic. HMS Laurentic was lost off the mouth of Lough Swilly on 27th January 2017, when she struck two German mines. After the service our Branch Piper, S/m Billy Doherty led the Standards and wreath layers to the memorial at the mass grave in the churchyard. Wreaths were laid by local dignitaries, Cdr Corey Bursey on behalf of the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland and Veterans Group Leaders from Canada, America and the UK. The children from the local Primary School attended the ceremony.

The group then moved on to Fort Dunree where the Ulster Canada Initiative hosted a lunch and presentation were made to the visitors. On the way back to the City the group were treated to a visit to The Stone Fort of Grianán of Aileach, the origins of which date back to 1750 BC. It was a perfect day to enjoy the spectacular views from the elevated position.

Saturday 19th May 2018
The city’s Museum Services organised a very interesting exhibition of WWII collections in the Guildhall, with local historian Richard Doherty giving talks on how the BoA affected the City and its citizens during the long campaign.
In special recognition of the Royal Wedding, a large screen tv was set up in the City Hotel to allow our visitors personal space to enjoy the event. Hats and fascinators were the order of the day (for the ladies!!)

At 18.00, The Tower Museum was the venue for a civic reception hosted by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr John Boyle. International greeting were exchanged and the hospitality was enjoyed by all.
RAdm John Weale OBE and Cdr Corey Bursey were pleased to Join S/m’s Eddie Lavery and Robert Buchanan for a photo with the second bell in the series of three. This bell is known as the Newfie – Derry Convoy Bell and is on permanent display in the Tower Museum.

After the reception, all our guests made their way to the City Hotel for the Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration Dinner. The No 12 Area Standard and four Branch Standards were piped in and received by Cdr Peter Campbell LVO OBE DL RN, National Life Vice President RNA and President of No 12 Area Ireland RNA. He was assisted by other Area and Branch Officers. The Newfoundland Escort Force Bell was on display, much to the delight of our guests. After a short welcome speech by Londonderry Branch and No 12 Area Chairman, S/m Robert Buchanan, grace was said by the Branch Hon Chaplin, Rev D McBeth BEM BTh and the serious business of enjoying dinner began.
On completion of the dinner, Cdr Campbell read a letter from Her Majesty The Queen, conveying warm thanks to the Londonderry Branch of the Royal Naval Association for our loyal greetings which we sent on the occasion of our annual Battle of the Atlantic Dinner and she sent her best wishes to all for a memorable and enjoyable event. Cdr Campbell then proposed the Loyal Toast to our Patron. He then carried on with an interesting speech on the Battle of the Atlantic and proposed the second toast in memory of all those who served during the BoA.
Rear Admiral John Weale OBE gave an informative and interesting speech and was extremely encouraging to the Londonderry Branch, in their quest to keep the BoA Commemorations to the fore.

Presentations were then made to the Lord Lt, Deputy Mayor, RAdm Weale, Pro Sir George Bain, Capt John Rodgaard USN Rtd, John Shanaghan American Legion and other vip’s.

Jim Reddy Lt CdrRCN Rtd , CO of Canada’s Naval Memorial Ship, HMCS Sackville presented our Branch Treasurer S/m Eddie Lavery with a generous donation to the Bell Project. It made our 88 year old shipmate Eddie very happy indeed! Dancing commenced until late.

Sunday 20th May 2018
The parade mustered at 10.15 with everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed! They marched a short distance to St Columb’s Cathedral for the BoA Commemorative Service. There were eleven Standards on parade. The Dean of Derry the Very Reverend Raymond Stewart welcomed the VIP’s and the veterans and there followed a very fitting service, with the highlight being the Dedication of the Newfoundland Escort Bell.

After the service the Parade formed up and marched to the city’s War Memorial where the Lord Lt laid a wreath followed by the Deputy Mayor, Rear Adm Weale, Cdr Bursey RCN, Capt Rodgaard USN Rtd, J Shanaghan American Legion, Jim Reddy RCN Rtd CO of HMCS Sackville. Mrs L Nicholl Canadian Legion, S/m R Buchanan RNA, and S/m B Doherty MN. There was a squad from HMS Hibernia and a large contingent of Sea Cadets and Combined Cadet Force in attendance.

The ceremony concluded with the National Anthem and the VIP party were lead to the Dias for the March Past. The salute was taken by the Lord Lt of the City of Londonderry, Dr Angela Garvey. The band and parade were thanked by S/m Buchanan and everyone retired to the RBL Waterside Branch for some well-earned lunch and refreshments.

The Londonderry Branch of the Royal Naval Association would like to thank all those who took part in BoA 2018 and helped to make it a very memorable weekend. A special word of thanks must go to our international visitors and the Royal Navy for their ongoing support of our BoA Commemorations in Londonderry.
The Newfoundland Escort Force Bell will be on display in the Tower Museum Londonderry until we take it to Newfoundland in early September where it will be presented to the City of St John’s and the People of Newfoundland, in recognition of their Veterans service and sacrifice during the longest battle of the Second World War.

S/m R Buchanan.
Photos courtesy of S/m James McCurdy, Hon Sec Limavady Branch RNA.