The following article is from "Building the Navy's bases in World War II:
History of the Bureau of Yards and Docks and the Civil Engineering Corps, 1940 - 1946"
Department of the Navy - Bureau of the Yards and Docks

The complete article is located at:

Lend-Lease Bases in the British Isles

In April 1941, arrangements were made with the British government to construct four naval bases in Northern Ireland and Scotland, at Londonderry and Lough Erne in Ireland and at Rosneath and Loch Ryan in Scotland. Funds for the construction of these bases were to be provided by both the British and the American governments, in accordance with Lend-Lease agreements reached in March 1941.

Londonderry and Rosneath were to provide repair and fueling facilities for destroyers and submarines, ammunition storage, hospitals, and barracks for shore-based personnel; Lough Erne and Loch Ryan were to be used principally as operations centers for seaplane squadrons.

After the entry of the United States into the war, the construction of a huge pipe line in the vicinity of Rosneath was begun.

Approximately 1,150 American workers and 4,800 local workers, mostly Irish, were employed in the construction of these bases, which represented the initial effort of the United States Navy to erect portable facilities overseas. Supervision was given by 25 officers of the Civil Engineer Corps.

Base I, Londonderry.

With the advent of war, Londonderry immediately became a port of inestimable value as a base for North Atlantic convoy escorts.These escorts consisted principally of destroyers and lesser craft of the United States, Canadian, and British navies. The essential North Atlantic sea lane had its terminus in ports bordering the Irish Sea in western Scotland and England. As the maintenance of this thin supply line through the ever-tightening German blockade was imperative to the continuance of British resistance, the top priority was given the project of establishing at Londonderry the first United States naval base in the United Kingdom.

Londonderry is situated some 4 miles up the River Foyle, on the northern coast of Ireland.Its location also made it the most suitable port for the allocation of supplies to other projects.

Four miles downstream from the city of Londonderry, and on the opposite bank, an area, known as Lisahally, offered deepwater and adjoining land space sufficient for unloading and storing large quantities of supplies.

A week before the contract was signed in Washington on June 12, 1941, the CEC officer-in-charge arrived in Londonderry to prepare the way for the arrival of contractor's forces and construction materials and equipment.

Many activities were to be scattered within a 4-mile radius of administration headquarters, located in the center of Londonderry. An abandoned shipyard, where the Admiralty had been engaged in the construction of a small slipway and services for that work, became the center of industrial facilities for ship repair. At Lisahally a deep-water unloading wharf, storehouses, and a tank farm were established. Tanker and fueling berths were available along an existing Admiralty jetty.Three bed hospital, an ammunition depot, and a radio station were constructed in the surrounding countryside. In planning the project, considerable emphasis was placed on dispersal as a defense against bombing attacks, which, except for one minor incident,never materialized.


Irish and Scottish Bases


Work on the most pressing projects--the first of the personnel areas at Beech Hill, the storage area at Lisahally, and the ship-repair facilities--began in mid-July, when the first ship loaded with tools, equipment, and materials arrived from the States. In September the job expanded to include the second large hut camp at Beech Hill and the administration area. By October,the first pile=driving rigs had been received and assembled, and pile driving was begun for the loading wharf at Lisahally. At the same time, work was in progress on all the major projects except the tank farm, for which materials were a long time in arriving.

With the United States' entry into the war, a new plan of strategy was evolved which materially changed the base-building program in the European theater. Under this program, Londonderry was commissioned as a naval operating base. Notable additions were a 750-foot extension to the 1000-foot loading wharf at Lisahally and enlarged radio installations. The size of the hospital was reduced from 500 to 200 beds.

By the first of the year, work was being pressed to the utmost in spite of the almost incessant rainfall and the much-shortened daylight period characteristic of northern latitudes. Almost 600 Americans and a considerably larger number of Irishmen were employed. In January,most of the magazines in Fincairn Glen were completed, and the first materials for the new warehouses arrived at Lisahally.

With the Navy's efforts in European waters centered on escorting convoys, not only to Britain but also to Murmansk, as American aid to Russia was increased. Londonderry promised to remain essential to the fleet and there was not question of relinquishing its control to the British.

Londonderry was commissioned as a naval operating base on February 5, 1942, the first outpost of the Navy's shore establishment in the European theater. The first American warship had arrived in December 1941. As enlisted personnel arrived, facilities were placed in operation as quickly as they were usably complete. By February 22, many of the ship-repair facilities and shops were being readied for use; by March 3, the first major group of United States naval personnel had arrived and were quartered in the barracks at Springtown.

Much of the original work remained to be done and base operations were constantly expanding, which allowed no let-up in construction activity. By the middle of April, both the hospital at Creevagh and the ammunition depot had been substantially completed. By May 1, work in the industrial area was completed,and a week later the new extension to the loading wharf at Lisahally was ready for use.

As the remaining major projects moved rapidly to completion, the attention of the contractor's force was shifted to maintenance, and many skilled workmen were released for transfer to projects in progress in Scotland.The tank farm,begun in April, had been continually delayed by the difficulty in obtaining materials from the United States. However, this did not materially handicap the activity, as the delay had been anticipated and adequate supplies of oil from British sources had been made available. Operating activities along the waterfront were then at a peak in preparation for the invasion of North Africa.

A250-man addition to the barracks at the Lisahally storage area, approved in August 1942, was completed on September 5. Londonderry ceased to be the focal point of construction effort, and headquarters of the officer-in-charge were moved to Helensburgh, Scotland, where the Dumbartonshire pipe line was the last major project to be constructed under the CPFF contract. A small local office was left in Londonderry, to supervise the force of 1,00 men handling base maintenance and the remaining construction.

During the course of the civilian contract at Londonderry, a great naval base had been constructed and put into operation.The work, dispersed over an area of 426 acres, included 1,350 separate buildings, of which 55 were structures either 40 by 100 feet or 60 by 90 feet; more than 90,000 square feet of wharfage; construction and paving of more than 12 miles of roadway; 12 miles of water pipe; 8 miles of drainage ditches; 20 miles of electric cable; 27 miles of fencing; electric generators; and 11 radio masts. In addition, a tank farm for storage of fuel and diesel oil had been erected.

Hindered by mud, rain, and the swampy banks of the River Foyle, the contract force, and later the Seabees, often waited in vain for materials and equipment. An innovation was the prefabricated type of building shipped from the United States, including the newly devised quonset huts. Long-span frames were used not only for warehouses and shops, but also for the theaters and recreation buildings; the huts served as living quarters, hospitals, and offices.


General Headquarters, Londonderry

Bill Marschner, Y, 12/42-2/44 contacted me and indicated the shed building was the Captain's and Communications Office during WWII. Bill worked there during his tour decoding messages.
(Referencing the Modulator 25th Anniversary Issue, pgs. 7 and 10) After the war, the building was dismantled and relocated to Rossdowney where it served as the Public Works Building and then later used for storage. This building may still be standing at the former Rossdowney Base.

By January 1943, with the successful completion of the North African landings and the imminent transfer of the Rosneath base to the British, most of the members of the 29th Battalion were available from Rosneath to relieve the 900 contract employees at Londonderry. The 29th carried on maintenance and improvement until relieved by the 97th Battalion in September 1943. A portion of the 97th also relieved a 29th detachment at Rosneath.

Fresh from training, the 97th took over the task of completing such construction as was left unfinished. They completed the tank farm, assembled a boiler plant which had been shipped in pieces from the United States, and built pumphouses, quonset huts, and roads. Often, their work was impeded by shortage of materials and by worn-out equipment. On one occasion, using an old pile-driver that was literally falling apart, they built a wharf from such materials as they could salvage. When completed, it supported a 10-ton crane and a 20-ton derrick.

In nine months the 29th completed several projects which had previously been in progress under the CPFF contract,including a 300,000-barrel tank farm, three pumping stations and fuel lines, three boiler houses, a 150-foot pier with roads and services, 50quonset huts, a recreation building, and anti-aircraft gun emplacements.

By mid-April, it was possible to assign the bulk of the 29th Battalion forces who had been engaged on the tank farm to the Scottish pipe-line project, where the Seabees again relieved civilian personnel. With the tank farm in partial operation by May, all projects originally planned for construction at Londonderry under the contracted complete.

On June 4, 1943, to integrate construction battalion forces with the operative control of the base, the officer-in-charge of the 29th Battalion was assigned additional duty as public works officer of the naval operating base, with general responsibility for maintenance of the shore establishment and operation of the transportation department and the tank farm. This precedent of assigning operative control to Seabees was widely followed in subsequent bases in the United Kingdom.


General View of Living Quarters at Springtown Base, Londonderry

With the arrival of the 97th Construction Battalion in September 1943, it was decided to increase the capacity of the tank farm, in anticipation of the Normandy landings. An unusual Seabee assignment was the mounting of 40-mm. and 20-mm. guns on a large number of landing ships and craft in the spring of 1944.
Later, when the base was relinquished to the British, the Seabees removed all critical material for shipment home. Inasmuch as the radio station was to be the sole remaining activity in the area, Seabees erected 40 nissen hits for personnel, before the 97th was transferred to England between June and November 1944.
The naval operating base at Londonderry was decommissioned in July 1944. All the men were transferred with the exception of a few storekeepers, a small administrative staff, and two companies of Seabees, who remained to operate the radio station. After they moved to their new locations, the base was turned over to the British, September 3, 1944.

During the course of the war, Londonderry was of great importance. Convoy escorts were refueled for their return trip across the Atlantic, and ships which had run the gauntlet of submarine-infested sea lanes, had their damaged hulls and machinery repaired, and such other repairs and improvements as were necessary. Until the creation of Exeter, Londonderry was the main supply depot for our naval activities in the British Isles, and throughout the war, it was the major United States naval radio station in the European theater.

Lough Erne.

The original plan for the Lough Erne base was to provide facilities for four seaplane squadrons, with maintenance, repair, and ammunition-storage facilities, which would require quarters for 3,000 men and a 20-bed hospital.

Lough Erne was identical in plan with the project at Loch Ryan, Scotland. However, as the importance of bases in Ireland became greater than those in Scotland, Lough Erne became the larger. Although planned as a United States naval seaplane


Creevagh Hospital Base, Londonderry

Here, quonset huts were sunk into the earth

base, it was not used by the Navy, but, to meet the changing situation, was turned over to the Army as a training camp, the seaplane repair and operating facilities being used by the Royal Air Force.

Lough Erne lies 35 miles southwest of Londonderry and 10 miles from the Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland. Shaped like a crescent, it is about 16 miles from tip to tip and 5 miles wide. Its ample, protected waters and its strategic location on the westernmost British land in the Isles, near the shipping lanes, made it an excellent site for a seaplane base.

The site selected was at Ely Island, 5 miles above Enniskillen, a small village at the end of the lake. On the opposite shore, at Killadeas, less than a mile across the Lough,it was planned to establish the repair base. A suitable site for the hospital was found at Necarne Castle, 8 miles north of Enniskillen and 3 miles from the Lough. The ammunition depot was located 3 miles farther north, at Kiltierney deer park.

Preliminary organization began in June 1941. By August 15, equipment, materials, and the contractor's employees had arrived and were ready to carry out the full construction program, which began with personnel quarters for two seaplane squadrons at Ely Island. Next undertaken were the projects at Killadeas, consisting of repair-base and operating facilities for two squadrons. Road construction was given first priority in all areas, as the soil had turned into thick mud by continuous rainfall. An adequate supply of rock was obtainable locally, so the principal roads were usable for heavy machines before the onset of winter weather.

In September, work at ely and Killadeas was temporarily spurred by the announcement that the project would provide for eight squadrons instead of four. Further surveys were conducted and more property was requisitioned before this order was countermanded.There had been no interference with the construction in progress, however,and by mid-October, facilities for the original four squadrons


Lisahally Base, Londonderry
Fueling wharf, with its pipe lines connected with the tank farm

were 60 percent complete. The construction of additional roads then allowed work to begin on the hospital and the ammunition depot.
In November, when the end of the original work was in sight,further expansion was ordered to accommodate 1,000 men of a Marine battalion, for base defense, and after our entry into the war, the tempo of the job was further increased, until, in February, there were 1,700 men on the payroll, including 130 Americans.

However, Lough Erne was never used as a base for American seaplanes, as our participation in an all-ocean war required their immediate use elsewhere. The United States Army, already in the northern British Isles and beginning to concentrate troops which were to invade North Africa, saw here an excellently equipped and well-situated camp and hospital, and requested possession of the base upon its completion. The Royal Air Force also desired to use the camp. The base had been commissioned by the United States Navy, February 5, 1942, and shortly thereafter Chief of Naval Operations approved its temporary transfer to the Army. Later arrangements were made to allow the Royal Air Force use of the seaplane repair and operating facilities.

As the Army required an increase in dispensary facilities, the 200-bed hospital, then more than 90 percent complete, was expanded during April 1942 to 500 beds. Late in the month, the first Army forces relieved the naval CEC officer, who remained to effect the formal transfer on July 11. As rapidly as possible, construction was terminated and equipment and material not required by the Army were sent to Londonderry. By June 20, the contractor's forces had been released or withdrawn to Londonderry, and the Army was in full possession.

Although not so large as the projects at Londonderry or Rosneath, the facilities acquired by the Army were considerable. About 825 buildings of all types had been constructed, including nine major buildings, 10 miles of new road with three


Warehouses in the Lisahally Storage Area, Londonderry

bridges, an ammunition dump, seven electric generators, and all the other facilities required for accommodating and feeding a community of more than 5,000 persons.The installations along the waterfront included 32,000 square feet of beaching areas for seaplanes, four boat slips, six piers, and limited aircraft-overhaul ships, hangars, and storage buildings.

The changing fortunes of war precluded use of the base by the Navy, but the base proved of great value to the Army in staging the successful African assault. After that invasion, Lough Erne was officially turned over to the British Army and the Royal Air Force. It continued to serve as a base for anti-submarine patrols in the battle of the Atlantic, and as a British assembly and training camp in preparation for the landings in France.

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