By Patty Huston-Holm
The North Carolina MG Car Club descended on Ocracoke Island this week to honor four sailors in the British Cemetery and “to drink some beer and have some camaraderie.”
That, according to the club’s founding member Mary Howard (no relationship to the island’s Howard family), is what drew 43 of 135 members to drive their mostly British-made MG cars onto the ferries on April 18, to tour around the island, lay an honorary wreath at graves and return home.
Howard made the wreath, carefully adhering to the British colors with red and deep blue roses and white lilies and placing it among the two unnamed graves and those identified as Sub-Lt. Thomas Cunningham and Ordinary Telegraphist Second Class Stanley Craig from 81 years ago during World War II.
All four washed up on Ocracoke’s beach after the May 11, 1942, sinking of British trawler H.M.T. Bedfordshire by a German U-boat just off the coast.
As club members watched and about a dozen of their cars lined British Cemetery Road, Howard also placed coins on the grave markers.
“We think a smaller coin means respect from a visitor while a larger coin is the same from a family member,” said Roger Meredith, the club’s only British member present.
Originally from Stratford-upon-Avon in the United Kingdom, Roger and his wife, Joan La Rosa, drove their 1965 MG from Durham. He parked behind club members, Bill and Deborah Hawkins, who bought their MG in 1977.
“You don’t have to have an MG or even a car at all to be a member,” said Hawkins, the club’s current president. “We just enjoy getting together. Membership is a mark of friendship.”
The club, founded in 1988 and based in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, has monthly gatherings and one mountain and one coastal trip like this one each year.
MGs (named for the Morris Garage) were first produced in the 1920s in the United Kingdom and gained a reputation as sports cars in the 1930s.
With some concern that the manufacture of MGs has shifted from England to China, members prefer to focus on the British origin.
“In college, you could get one of these for $200,” Howard said. “It’s a pretty easy car to work on if something goes wrong…and we’ve got club members to help us solve problems.”
The club visit is timely as the Ocracoke Preservation Society holds an annual remembrance event for the fallen sailors each May.
This year’s remembrance will be held at the cemetery at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 12.
The Bedfordshire was part of the Royal Navy Patrol Service (RNPS) and was one of 24 trawlers the British government pressed into service as advance-guard mine sweepers and escorts for British supply ships.
Patty Huston-Holm, a semi-retired journalist, university lecturer and communications specialist, is working for the Observer during the month of April.