Inishowen Aviation History – Ture sea plane base
A familiar landmark on the Moville – Derry road at Ture, picture shows the bath-house, the last remaining structure of the US seaplane base. On the opposite side of the road, there is a vast concrete apron of about 2 acres and a small cement jetty, where sea planes were taken ashore. There was no runaway as planes landed on the water supported by floats. The reinforced concrete has survived many storms in the Foyle over the last 100 years. The apron is now in private ownership and at the time of writing is up for sale.
In January 1915 German U-boats became active along the Irish coast and the Royal Navy and the US Navy joined forces to respond immediately by building seaplane bases, including Ture. There were also 5 airship bases including one at Ballyliffin, of which little trace now remains.A number of successful attacks on U-boats were reported from the Ture base but when the war ended in 1918, the base was no longer used. For the last 2 years of the war, the Ture base housed hundreds of American servicemen. Many were boarded in local houses around Ture while others travelled daily from the city. Press reports stated that as many as 15 sea base workers had accommodation in some local houses so it was a boom period for the local economy, however short-lived. Among the men who built the base were several Carrowmena men, including Jim Beatty, who later became a Garda in 1922. They cycled the 15 miles to work at Ture and I often heard him talk about his time at the airbase.
The base had a picture house, a canteen, prayer room, a dance hall, games rooms, a deep well, a bath house and cook house. Letters have become available from US service men who worked there and these will throw new light on this unique episode in Inishowen’s aviation history as we approach the centenary of the base.
Nearer Moville, there is the American hospital and doctor’s lodge, now converted into a private residence. I recall visiting it in the 1970s before the conversion. As the war ended in 1918 it never housed any patients. It is not visible from the road and access is not open to the public.
In the 1930s there was great excitement as sea planes appeared again flying in formation up Lough Foyle when Gen. Balbo visited Derry. At that time, Derry Corporation was planning to build a new base on the opposite side of the Foyle but the plans fell through. As Ryanair announces its winter schedule from City of Derry Airport, it is good to recall the early days of aviation along Lough Foyle. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary is not the first to recognise the potential of the region and its role in Irish aviation history over a century ago. Today, it is time to recognise that the Ture seaplane base is an important war site as we commemorate the centenary of WW1. Ireland played a key role in terms of training, combat operations and aircraft production in the war and Ture and Ballyliffin played their part.
Compiled by Sean Beattie with thanks to the owners of the sites for their permission to inspect the locations on their property; their courtesy is greatly appreciated and many thanks also for useful information when I called recently.
9 Replies to “Inishowen Aviation History – Ture sea plane base”
Excellent article Sean. Very interesting.
Thanks Marie – new book out perhaps next year on the base.
Fascinating, I have driven past that building hundreds of times and never knew what it was! Also, I assume that the Garda Jim Beatty might be related to the author, but the surname spelling is different… I bought a copy of Jim Beatty and Jim McLaughlin’s Atlas of Donegal as a present for my Dad Seamus last Christmas, best present I ever got for him!
Mike yes I am related to Jim Beatty (although my spelling is Beattie). I edited the Atlas you mention. I have seen photos today of several hundred US navy men outside the base in 1918. They even had their own band called the Troubadours. More to come…..Sean
My great uncle(by marriage)Clarence Verne mc Daniel,from Colorado was stationed there.He married Rosena Kavanagh from Derry.
Thanks for this information. Pictures exist of the entire camp and a US academic is writing up the history. Please keep in touch with developments
Clarence Verne McDaniel was my grandfather and I am actively researching his life while he was at Ture and his marriage to my grandmother Rosena Kavanagh. I would be very interested in any information available from the write up as mentioned including photos. My father is turning 90 in 2 weeks so time is short for me to include details of his father at his birthday celebration if possible (I already have a binder of other things related to Clarence and Rosena.
How would I go about looking at the write up? Email would work best for me.
Best regards from Canada and thank you!
Sean I spoke about the scutch mills and ture seaplane base on my guided tour a few weeks ago. I found your book The Atlas of Donegal a very useful resource and I am still enjoying it. We also visited st ultans well and called with Denis turas on the tour. Denis tells me that there is a connection with Elkins old house and Peter Robinson but I couldn’t verify it. Do you know of that connection? Hutchinsons own that farm now.
Elkins are related to Peter Robinson
See DONEGAL ANNUAL 2017 in library for more on the base. Also IRELAND OWN CENTENARY EDITION out last March for more on the base