British Cemetery flag and crosses . Photo by P. Vankevich
British Cemetery flag and crosses. Photo by P. Vankevich

The British Cemetery ceremony and reception, scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, May 13, is seeking donations to help with landscaping the grave sites and providing food for the reception.

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 May 11, 1942.  For six months, the U-boat brigade picked off allied convoys like a shooting gallery off the Outer Banks. 

This will be the 74th commemoration of four British World War II soldiers buried in the small plot of British land along British Cemetery Road.

Representatives from Great Britain and Canada will be in attendance, as well as members of the United States Coast Guard and seniors from Ocracoke School.

The Ocracoke ceremony can trace its ties to island families back to May 1942.

Since then, Ocracoke has remembered the four British sailors whose bodies washed ashore after a U-boat torpedoed the Bedforshire, a British trawler pressed into military service to ferry supplies to the British war ships.

Two of the sailors were identified: Sub Lieutenant Thomas Cunningham and Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Stanley Craig.

Ocracoke islanders 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.

While the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board grants money to cover the cost of the cemetery plantings and the reception afterwards, this does not the total cost. So donations are sought from the community and property owners. 

To make a donation, send checks by March 31 to OCBA, P.O. Box 456, Ocracoke, NC 27960. Please note “British Cemetery Ceremony” in the memo line.

Volunteers to help at the reception at the Ocracoke Community Center following the ceremony also are needed. For information, call Crystal Canterbury at 252-588-2245, or send an email to

Feb. 18, 2016

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