The Sperrin Mountains, Co. Londonderry during the Second World War

During the Second World War, the Sperrin Mountains, Co. Londonderry were a hive of activity. They served as a training ground as well as a hazard for aircraft.

The Sperrin Mountains mark the border between Co. Tyrone and Co. Londonderry with much of the wild and rugged landscape falling on the Derry side. The range spans over 40 miles, making it the largest in Northern Ireland. During the Second World War, the hills, glens, bogs, and rocky bluffs made for great training grounds for the British and American military.

In November 1942, Sappers of III Kent Corps Troops Royal Engineers began an ambitious training project in the Sperrins. As part of 61st Infantry Division, these Sappers were in Northern Ireland. The Corps, consisting of 297 Field Park Company and 582, 583, and 584 Army Field Companies began work on a new road cut through the Co. Londonderry mountains.

Gunners in the Sperrins

Gunners of 77th (Duke of Lancaster's Own Yeomanry) Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery at Crockawilla/Cnoc an Bhaile in the Sperrin Mountains on 1st April 1941.

Training in the Mountains

Members of 148th Independent Infantry Brigade including artillery take part in Exercise Dragoon in the Sperrin Mountains, Co. Londonderry on 1st April 1942.

Sappers at Work

On 21st November 1942, sappers of 61st Divisional Engineers carried out work on a new road, which meandered through the hilly countryside in Co. Londonderry.

In an area known as Templemoyle, south of Dungiven, Co. Londonderry, they began the huge construction project, starting with cutting into the rock face. As the road-building project progressed into the hills, the soldiers also cut out black peat. They stacked this to the side to drain as they also dug drainage channels and sumps in the marshier areas.

Crevices formed during the last Ice Age as well as streams and brooks flowing nearby provided gravel, stones, and large boulders for foundations. The successful construction project made the newspapers in early December 1942, having been completed in just over a week.

This winding mountain road has just been completed in eight days by Royal Engineers in N. Ireland. With the need for petrol economy, no mechanical aid was used. All units were called in to help – cooks, drivers, batmen, etc., and the entire job was done with pick and shovel.

All kinds of soil were encountered varying from black peat to heavy boulders. Eight thousand tons of soil and rock were shifted, and it is computed that each man dealt with over two tons per shift. The road is about a thousand yards long and twelve feet wide. Officers, N.C.O.s, and men worked together in what is believed to be a unique training exercise.

On the road in 2023

On 27th March 2023, a local resident photographed what remains of the road dug by 61st Divisional Engineers in 1942. The course remains visible winding into the mountains.

A rifle range in the Mountains

On 15th October 1943, Lieutenant J.R. Bainbridge photographed a rifle range in the Sperrin Mountains for the War Office as requested by the Royal Engineers.

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