British Cemetery: a final salute.  Photo by  P. Vankevich
British Cemetery: a final salute. Photo by P. Vankevich

 Note: address to send contributions is below.

 This ceremony, organized by the War Graves Committee on Hatteras, remembers the sinking by German U-boats, of the HMT Bedfordshire, a British trawler, off the coast here in 1942.  For six months, the U-boat brigade picked off allied convoys like a shooting gallery off the Outer Banks. The annual commemoration of four British World War II soldiers buried on Ocracoke will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 8, at the small plot of British land along British Cemetery Road.

For 72 years, Ocracoke has remembered the four British sailors whose bodies washed ashore after a U-boat on May 11, 1942, torpedoed the HMT Bedforshire, a British trawler pressed into military service to ferry supplies.

Two of the sailors were identified: Sub Lieutenant Thomas Cunningham and Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Stanley Craig. The people of Ocracoke rallied and donated land on which the four are interred and which is now owned by Great Britain.  Four other British sailors are interred in a second cemetery in Buxton. They will be remembered the day before the Ocracoke event.  These are the only WWII British cemeteries in the United States.

Under the auspices of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Park Service, the Ocracoke Civic and Business Association conduct the remembrances of these men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 This event attracts a lot of visitors to Ocracoke, many of whom arrive early and remain for a day or two afterwards. 

Thanks to the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, $2,000 is provided to cover the cost of the cemetery plantings and the reception afterwards.  This rarely covers the total cost. So donations are encouraged from the community and property owners. 

Two Ocracoke high school seniors will be selected to read the history of the sinking of the HMT Bedfordshire and the names of the men who lost their lives that day. 

Two seniors will be selected to welcome the guests to the event.  Howard Bennink plays taps to close the program.  Ocracoke Boy Scout troop No. 290 marches in the procession and recessional.  The school encourages the students to attend the program.

 How can you help?

  1. Make a donation to the event and send it to OCBA, P.O. Box 456, Ocracoke, NC 27960. Please note “British Cemetery Ceremony” in the memo line.
  2. Volunteer to help set up the community center the night of May 7.
  3. Serve at the reception on May 8.
  4. Help clean up after the reception on May 8.
  5. Provide soft drinks or water for the reception.

Those interested in helping are asked to contact Janey Jacoby at, or 252-928-1881.



British Cemetery Committee
Ocracoke Civic & Business Assoc.
P. O. Box 456
Ocracoke, NC 27960
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