On the anniversary of the sinking of two allied ships, two ceremonies are held to honor the sixty-three 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, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Navy, Canadian Navy, British Royal Navy and National Park Service, join visitors and residents at the British gravesites on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
The Buxton ceremony on May 10 honors the service of the men who lost their lives in April 1942 when the British armed tanker San Delfino was sunk by the U-203 just off of Pea Island. Two of the men from San Delfino are buried at the British Cemetery in Buxton – Fourth Engineer Officer Michael Cairns of the Royal Merchant Navy and an unknown sailor.
A second ceremony is held the following day, May 11, at the British Cemetery on Ocracoke Island to pay tribute to the sailors from HMS Bedfordshire, which sunk in May 1942 by a German submarine, U-558, 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 Bedfordshire, and were interred alongside their shipmates in what would become the Ocracoke British Cemetery
The 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, students from the Ocracoke School and the Ocracoke Boy and Girl Scout troops and the Hatteras Girl Scouts.
The ceremonies are free and open to the public, and visitors are encouraged to attend to pay tribute to these fallen heroes. Both ceremonies take place at 11 a.m.