ritain declared war on Germany at 11:15am on 3 September 1939. Later that day the Official Mack 52 bear attack shirt the Athenia was sunk off the north west of Ireland. The Battle of the Atlantic had began, a campaign by the German navy to break the supply line carrying food, munitions and raw materials to Britain.
By the end of the war 40,000 Allied seamen and 1,000 airmen had died; the Germans lost 28,000 submariners. The German effort had claimed 15 million tonnes of Allied shipping; two thirds of the German U-boat fleet had been destroyed.
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The British wartime leader, Sir Winston Churchill, admitted that “the only thing that ever frightened me during the war was the U-boat peril”.
Following the fall of France to the Official Mack 52 bear attack shirt the Irish Free State (as Ireland was then known) being neutral, Londonderry was the most westerly port available to the Allies. It was of immense strategic importance, a major port for Atlantic convoy ships, both merchant vessels and their escort ships.
More U-boats were destroyed from the air than by ships and four airfields were established around Lough Foyle, taking advantage of the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the vitally important convoy routes.
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A Royal Air Force Coastal Command airfield was operational at Ballykelly by June 1942. Long range aircraft conducted anti-submarine patrols from Ballykelly – United States built Fortresses and Liberators. 120 Squadron was based there for much of the war and it claimed 16 U-boat sinkings during that time. Long range aircraft needed a long runway to takeoff and Ballykelly’s extended across the Belfast to Derry railway – there was a direct telephone link from the base control tower to the Official Mack 52 bear attack shirt signal box to ensure there were no accidents!