Thursday morning, May 10, community members and representatives from
multiple national and international organizations and military branches
came together to honor the fallen WWII-era heroes that are laid to rest
at the British Cemetery in Buxton.
The annual Buxton ceremony honors the service of the men who lost their lives in April 1942 when the British armed tanker San Delfino was sunk just off the local coastline.
During the height of World War II, the unescorted San Delfino
was hit by seven torpedoes from the German U-203 just east of Cape
Hatteras, resulting in the loss of 24 crew members and four gunners.
Two of the men washed ashore along the beaches of Cape Hatteras, and
were buried nearby at the British Cemetery in Buxton - Fourth Engineer
Officer Michael Cairns of the Royal Merchant Navy who served on the San Delfino, and an unknown sailor.
ceremony honors the two men buried in this quiet and secluded corner of
Buxton, but it also represents the other men onboard the San Delfino,
as well as the thousands of men who lost their lives along the Atlantic
coastline during the war. This was a theme that was echoed among the
speakers at the ceremony, and which resonated with all in attendance.
most of the men who lost their lives, there is no tombstone,” said Com.
Martin Connell of the British Naval Attaché at the ceremony. “…[This]
represents so many thousands of mariners who sacrificed their lives,
and served their country.”
of the speakers at the ceremony expressed gratitude for the attendees
who came to pay their respects, as well as the organizations and
community members who come together to preserve the cemetery sites in
Buxton and Ocracoke Island.
have preserved not just the graves themselves, but the memory of the
sailors who lost their lives,” said Com. Martin Connell. “You pay my
nation a great honor by doing so.”
from the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Navy, Canadian Navy,
British Royal Navy, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the
American Legion Riders, the Royal British Legion Riders, the Friends of
the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the Dare County Sheriff’s Office,
and the National Park Service all joined visitors and locals at the
British gravesites for the regal and well-attended ceremony.
roughly hour-long service included remarks from representatives of
multiple and international military branches, including CWO Joshua
Figueredo - Finance / Supply Division Chief USCG Sector North Carolina,
CDR Javier Delgado - Department Head, USCG Sector North Carolina
Logistics, Capt. Dermott Mulholland - Canadian Forces Naval Attaché,
and Danny Couch - President of the Friends of the Graveyard of the
Cape Hatteras Secondary School of Coastal Studies students, Susanna Rae
Couch and Maddie Chandler, recounted the history and read the honor
roll of the men who lost their lives aboard the San Delfino,
which included sailors as young as 15-years-old. “We have done this
every year for the past four years, and we are honored to do it,” said
visitors in attendance have made the ceremony an annual tradition, such
as Richard Eagles who has an uncle living in North Carolina who was in
the Royal Naval Patrol Service. “As long as he’s still with us, we will
continue coming,” said Eagles, who was attending the ceremony for the
sixth year with friend Andrew Wolf. “Our friends and family have
started coming with us as well, so our group is growing.”
the ceremony included visitors and representatives from multiple
nations, and particularly Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United
States. “It’s a big community event with a lot of different people
represented,” said Boone Vandzura, Chief Ranger for the Cape Hatteras
keeping with naval military tradition, the United States Coast Guard
and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have maintained the
cemetery, ensuring the plot is kept clean, a British ensign is always
flying, and the appropriate honors are rendered annually.
of May 2000, the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum assumed
responsibility for coordination of the annual honors event and for
securing funding to ensure maintenance materials is available.
The Coast Guard retains responsibility for the military portion of the
event for providing manual labor for the upkeep of the grave site.
graves and cemetery grounds in Buxton on Hatteras Island are maintained
by the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and the United the Coast Guard.
The National Park Service is responsible for the integrity of the site.
second military honors ceremony will be held on Friday, May 11, at the
Ocracoke British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island to pay tribute to the
sailors from the HMS Bedfordshire, which was destroyed in May 1942 by
German submarine U-558 near the island.
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, and the Commonwealth
War Graves Commission.