No. 11 AREA

 The International Sailor

Battle of the Atlantic Commemorations

Londonderry, 10-12 May 2013

The long awaited 70th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of the Atlantic was held in Londonderry over the weekend of 10th to 12th May 2013. HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO attended as the Guest of Honour along with other VIPs, notably Rear Admiral Chris Hockley, Brigadier Rob Thompson and Air Commodore Stephen Kell. HMS Bangor and HMS Pursuer also represented the Royal Navy over the weekend.

The weekend commenced on Friday with a commemoration for the crew of HMS Laurentic hosted by the Ulster Newfoundland Initiative. The ship was a WWI armed Merchantman vessel which was lost off the Co Donegal coast with huge loss of life and a large Newfoundland connection. On Friday evening HMS Bangor held a reception for Civic leaders, International representatives and veterans.

On Saturday at 1230 HRH unveiled the “International Sailor” statue in front of a large international audience at a ceremony in Ebrington Square. Ebrington was known as HMS Ferret during the war and HMS Sea Eagle after the war. Once the Statue was dedicated HM Royal Marine Band, Scotland Beat the Retreat and on completion lunch was provided for approximately 450 guests hosted by RNA Londonderry Branch and their sponsors. On Saturday evening, after a Civic Reception, HRH and the assembled guests enjoyed a Gala Dinner in the City Hotel.

On Sunday morning the shipmates mustered and paraded to St Columb’s Cathedral Londonderry for the annual Battle of the Atlantic Commemoration Service. The Historic Cathedral was packed to the doors. HRH read one of the lessons along with Cdr. PCD Campbell, President Area 12 (Ireland). The “Derry-Newfy” Convoy Bell was used to toll the silence. A detachment of the RM Band Scotland took part in the service and added to a very moving service of remembrance, to the fallen of the Battle of the Atlantic. HRH took the Salute, as the parade made its way to the Cenotaph, and then laid the first wreath followed by Tri services and international representatives.

A group of Battle of the Atlantic Veterans were given a round of applause as they laid wreaths on behalf of their fallen shipmates. Canadian Sea Cadets laid wreaths of behalf of numerous Canadian naval associations. Finally HRH boarded HMS Pursuer which slipped and moved mid river Foyle to enable a wreath casting viewed by the assembled audience on the river bank. Lunch followed for 300 invited guests in the City Hotel again hosted RNA Londonderry Branch and their sponsors. On completion of lunch the last event of the weekend featured a private screening, immediately after lunch, of BBC’s new documentary, Dive WWII Our Secret History.

The Londonderry Branch of the Royal Naval Association wish to thank all those who helped in any way to make this 70th Anniversary Commemoration and Statue unveiling so special. The International Sailor Statue now stands in, what was, the “Most Important Escort Base” in memory of those people from all nations who lost their lives during the Battle of the Atlantic.