Protecting the coast of the United States during World War II came at the ultimate cost for 63 foreign sailors. Two upcoming ceremonies will honor that sacrifice.
This year will mark the 77th that representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Navy, British Royal Navy and National Park Service will come together with visitors and residents at British gravesites on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands. The ceremonies, which are open to the public, are held annually near the anniversary of the sinking of the HMS Bedfordshire, with the first held in Buxton on May 9 starting at 11 a.m., and the second on Ocracoke the following day, May 10, also 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 the U-203 just off Pea Island. Two of the men are buried at the British Cemetery in Buxton: Fourth Engineer Officer Michael Cairns of the Royal Merchant Navy from the San Delfino and an unknown soldier.
The second ceremony is held 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. 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 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, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
For more information on the ceremonies, call 252-986-0721 or visit www.graveyardoftheatlantic.com.