Activities for your visit

British Cemetery ceremony May 11 will be the same day as the actual event 76 years ago

The British Cemetery Ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, May 11, will honor four British sailors killed in WWII and interred on Ocracoke, N.C. Photo: C. Leinbach

The British Cemetery Ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday, May 11, will honor four British sailors killed in WWII and interred on Ocracoke. Photo: C. Leinbach

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The British Cemetery ceremony and reception this year will be on the same day of the actual event 76 years ago during World War II.

The remembrance of those lost in the conflict that reached Ocracoke’s shores is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, May 11, to honor the sinking of the HMT Bedfordshire off the coast here May 11, 1942, during the Battle of the Atlantic (1939 to 1945). 

That day, the bodies of four British sailors washed ashore after a German U-boat torpedoed the Bedforshire, a British trawler pressed into military service.

For six months, before the United States entered the war, British military ships staged their voyages in Canada and traveled down the Atlantic Ocean to ferry supplies to British war ships.  A German U-boat brigade parked off the coast from New York to Florida let loose their fire and sank nearly 400 largely unarmed merchant vessels, hampering the delivery of badly needed food and war supplies to England.

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

Ocracoke islanders rallied and donated land on which the four are interred and which is one of only two such pieces of Great Britain on American soil. 

Since then, the Ocracoke community has remembered these four sailors every year in a ceremony organized by the War Graves Committee on Hatteras, which holds a similar ceremony in Buxton, the other British cemetery where four other British sailors are interred, the day before the Ocracoke one.

Crystal Canterbury, who volunteers to organize the Ocracoke event, said that among the various military, government and diplomatic officials attending will be Commander Martin Connell of the British Royal Navy and Captain Dermot Mulholland, Royal Canadian Navy.

Audience members at the annual British Cemetery Ceremony bow their heads during the closing prayer. Photo: C. Leinbach

British Ceremony 2016. Photo: P. Vankevich