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Londonderry

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From the [http://www.www.derryvisitor.com Londerry / Derry website:

The second city of Northern Ireland (see also Norn Iron), situated in the north-west of the Province.

"Londonderry, also known as Derry, is the sparkle in the friendly eye of one of our most beautiful regions. It's a centre of culture and creativity, and is now as famous for its confident modern outlook as it is for the timeless quality of its craic.

Meander through the bustling streets of the only completely Walled City in the British Isles and listen to the echoes of 1450 years of history. Stroll along its 17th century Walls, and marvel at the the ever-changing skyline of a city which is constant only in in the warmth of its welcome. Here you can expect many a smile of greeting from people who are noted worldwide for their friendly hospitality".

It is true that the city is pretty, rising either side of the Foyle river and with an old, completely walled centre. It's rare to meet any backpackers or tourists who haven't enjoyed their time in Londonderry - the timeless craic mentioned above. The claim to a "beautiful region" is a little dubious, as this part of the world has some very ugly villages, a not-very-exciting landscape, the rather disappointing Giant's Causeway (actually co Antrim) and, OK, some interesting coastline.

(Londonderry used from now on even though Derry sounds better, and this is a Brit website).

Londonderry city consists of a mostly prod lump east of the River Foyle, and an entirely Catholic lump West of the river foyle, the latter surrounded by a semicircle of about 6km radius of farmland before the border with ROI. Much of both sides consists of ugly housing estates complete with the odd mural and biggoted inhabitants. While not exactly Singapore, modern life has made it this far and the city now has a new shopping centre, an airport, a Seagate (harddisks etc) factory and of course a MacDonalds.

Until a few years ago the Army maintained Ebrington Barracks, home of the resident Batallion and 8 Brigade, Fort George, a (normally) company sized patrol base, a series of smaller multiple (=half a Platoon) patrol bases (typical NI tower / sangers) and a ahit-load of cameras. The most controversial of all was a very obvious and very aggressive looking base right in the middle in the old walled city, Masonic. Looking in, you can see why many of the inhabitants weren't overjoyed to have it in their city centre. Big Brother is watching you. Ebrington barracks and the two rural towers have now gone, although the overt 'Brit occupation' has not vanished completely.

Londonderry is home to a good selection of old and bold. and new terrorists (the McGuinesses probably the most famous / infamous), and a very unpleasant Black Taxi MAFIA. Londonderry had its fair share of riots over the years (Bloody Sunday probably the most infamous), although in general there isn't so much perverse marching around by the Prods, so not quite as many overt inter-cultural clashes as elsewhere in NI. The violence rather tends towards beatings, shootings and attacks on the police and military. While modern life is obviously somewhat quieter than twenty years ago (if you believe the LEs at least), you still won't find many PSNI policemen who would enjoy delivering a summons in the hard estates without a military escort.

Military life in the late 90s consisted of a cycle of a month on ops in Fort Georgia and the towers, a month of support ops which meant a month in other people's towers, sitting in RUC stations somewhere or getting petrol bombed, a month guarding Ebrington Barracks and a month on training / leave, for 2 years. For some this meant an extraordinary amount of time away from home; a soldier was regularly away completely for the two ops months, then away for 3 weeks of the guard month and half the training month. Great for marriages as you might imagine.

It is genuinely hard to find a single good thing about a posting to Londonderry. While troops on 2 year tours in the south of the province enjoyed a social life outside the wire, and completely operational tours were only 6 months, a posting to Londonderry was a very unpleasant half-way between the two. For any nationalists who may come to read this, rest assured that the troops are even less enthusiastic than you about their presence in Derry.

(The most controversial of all was a very obvious and very aggressive looking base right in the middle in the old walled city, Masonic) this was actually the most hated site was Rosemount Tower not Masonic,