May 13, 2013
Annual ceremonies honor British seamen
buried in Ocracoke and Buxton
…WITH SLIDE SHOW
By CONNIE LEINBACH
Canadian Naval Attaché Commander David Trudeau was humbled by the annual British Cemetery Memorial Service Friday on Ocracoke.
service honors the four seamen whose bodies were washed ashore here in
1942 and interred on land that is now property of Great Britain’s War
Graves Commission and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. A ceremony to
honor two British sailors interred in Buxton was held the day before.
explained that the Battle of the Atlantic is remembered every first
Sunday in May in Canada and that HMT Bedfordshire, which was torpedoed
off Cape Lookout on May 11, 1942, was part of a convoy that was crucial
to the war effort.
“I’ve been in Washington, D.C., for a year
now and I’m in awe of how the American population honors and pays
tribute to your military,” he said. “It’s not like that all over the
world. I’m humbled at your paying tribute to these foreign
Trudeau’s remarks were echoed by Commander Ian Atkins, Royal Naval assistant attaché, also from Washington, D.C.
were our allies then as you are now continuing our fight against
tyranny,” Atkins told the assembly of about 100 people. “We will never
forget you. Our friends died out there (in the sea) and now rest
here among friends.”
Early in 1942, the ocean off the Eastern
Seaboard was a vital shipping lane for ferrying supplies. German
U-boats parked themselves offshore and took aim at and sank nearly 400
largely unarmed and unescorted merchant vessels.
war, the United States accepted the services of the British Royal Navy
to patrol against German submarines. The HMT Bedfordshire
was one of the vessels in the Royal Navy Patrol Service assigned to
patrol the North Carolina coast. Staging for the British Royal
Navy took place in Canada. The six years of action off the coast
here is called the Battle of the Atlantic.
Without those World
War II convoys—bringing food and materiel to the troops all over the
globe—the Allies would not have prevailed, both Atkins and Trudeau said.
patrol groups took more casualties than the regular Navy, added Richard
Eagles of South Florida, after the ceremony. He traveled to
Ocracoke and Buxton especially to witness the ceremony in honor of his
90-year-old uncle Jeffery Palmer, who had been part of the Royal Navy
Patrol Service, which included the Bedfordshire. Eagles had heard
about the ceremonies during a reunion he attended with his uncle in
“I actually sat with three other veterans in their 90s
and heard their stories,” Eagles said about the reunion in England of
these convoy men, whose combat section was dubbed “Harry Tate’s Navy,”
in honor of a British comedian at the time.
“They also were
called ‘Churchill’s Pirates,’” Eagles said, as he displayed a lapel
badge only awarded to men in the Royal Navy Patrol Service.
Eagles decided to make the trek on behalf of these veterans to the Outer Banks for the annual remembrances.
“It’s important to them that someone be here,” he said.
British conscripted a number of their country’s commercial fishing
trawlers and pressed them into patrol service during the war.
the four bodies that washed ashore following the submarine attack, two
were identified -- Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Stanley Craig and
Sub-Lieutenant Thomas Cunningham –and are buried in the plot donated by
the Williams and Teeter families, along with two unknown sailors.
always in awe of what took place here and up along the coast,” said
Commander James “Billy” Mitchell, head of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector
North Carolina Response Department. “Today we remember the acts of
those put in harm’s way.”
Atkins noted that this and the one in Buxton are the only World War II British cemeteries in the United States.
staggering that you keep this up,” said Jackie Menzis, of Brighton,
England, who with her husband, Keith, visited the cemetery on their
brief trip through Ocracoke Friday morning.
The ceremony takes
place yearly under the auspices of the Graveyard of the Atlantic
Museum, which organizes a special committee composed of members of the
U.S. Coast Guard and community volunteers.
“The first service
was held when the men were buried and it has been held every year
since,” noted Janey Jacoby, who is the Ocracoke volunteer for the event.
ceremony began with a U.S. Coast Guard Pipe Band marching to the site
along with a Coast Guard contingent and Ocracoke’s Boy Scout Troup 290.
School seniors Casey Tolson and Diana Perez read the history of the
event and the roll of the men lost, and Miguel Monter and Jordy Jenkins
handed out programs.
Before Kalman Gancsos of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary played taps, the U.S. Coast Guard Honor Guard gave a 21-gun salute.
Daniel Couch, president of the Friends of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, thanked all the volunteers for the event.
Baum, of Hatteras, who works for the North Carolina Department of
Transportation Ferry Division, recited a poem he wrote about the
Commander Karrie Trebbe of the U.S Coast Guard
Sector North Carolina Logistics Department was the master of
ceremonies. Lt. Jason Rochester, chaplain with the U.S. Navy, gave
the invocation and benediction.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW SLIDE SHOW(Editor's
note: For 73 years, near the anniversary of the sinking of an allied
ship, two ceremonies have been held to honor the sacrifices of 63
foreign sailors who gave their lives during World War II, while
protecting the coast of the United States. In remembrance,
representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, US
Navy, Canadian Navy, British Royal Navy and National Park Service, join
visitors and residents at the British gravesites on Hatteras and
Ocracoke islands. This year the ceremonies will be on Thursday, May 7,
in Buxton and on Friday, May 8, in Ocracoke. Both are at 11 a.m. The
Buxton ceremony honors the service of the men who lost their lives in
April 1942, when the British armed tanker San Delfino was sunk by a
German U-boat just off Pea Island. Two of the men are buried at
this cemetery, located on the Park Service Road just past the Cape
Hatteras Lighthouse. The men are Fourth Engineer Officer Michael Cairns
of the Royal Merchant Navy and an unknown soldier.The
Ocracoke ceremony, at the Ocracoke British Cemetery, pays tribute to
the sailors from the HMS Bedfordshire, which was destroyed in May 1942
by a German submarine near the island. The bodies of Sub-Lieutenant
Cunningham and Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Craig are buried at
the Ocracoke site. Two bodies also were found in the ocean north of
Ocracoke, and although never identified, they were assumed to have come
from the Bedfordshire, and were interred alongside their
ceremonies are organized by the Friends of the Graveyard of the
Atlantic Museum, the Ocracoke community, the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast
Guard Auxiliary 16-04, the National Park Service, the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission, students from the Cape Hatteras Secondary School of
Coastal Studies and the Ocracoke School as well as the Ocracoke Boy
Scout troop. The ceremonies are free and open to the public.)