Ocracoke British Cemetery ceremony returns May 13

Published 5:36 pm Thursday, March 17, 2022

OCRACOKE — The annual Ocracoke British Cemetery ceremony and reception are scheduled for Friday, May 13 at 11 a.m.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the sinking of H.M.T. Bedfordshire off the North Carolina coast on May 11, 1942. All are welcome to attend the graveside memorial ceremony and reception that follows on the grounds of the OPS Museum. Representatives from the British Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy will be in attendance, as well as members of the United States Coast Guard, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and seniors from Ocracoke School.

The annual graveside ceremony traces its ties to the Ocracoke community back to May 1942, when an island family donated the land for the cemetery and honored the men with a burial service. The British Cemetery site continues to resonate with island residents for its historical significance, and it has also become an important stop for visitors to pay their respects. The Ocracoke community, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and the Friends of the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum have worked  together to care for the gravesites and honor these British sailors each year since 1942.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary, OPS is hosting an evening with historian and author Kevin Duffus at the Ocracoke Community Center on Wednesday, May 11 at 7 p.m. for a multimedia keynote program titled “War Zone:  When World War II was Fought off Ocracoke’s Beaches.”

“War Zone” is told from the perspective of everyday people who faced daunting challenges. Many of the interviews conducted by Duffus feature names familiar to, and beloved by many Ocracoke residents—Blanche Howard Joliff, Calvin O’Neal, Ulysses  Mac Womac, Pat Stevens, Blanche Styron, and Theodore Mutro.

Donations from the public contribute to landscaping the garden area and hosting the luncheon. The U.S.  Coast Guard, aided by local and visiting volunteers, provides the physical labor at the site, overseen by a local representative of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. An Ocracoke restaurant caters the luncheon, which is served by community volunteers.

Donations to support the event are being accepted. Donors should make checks payable to Ocracoke Preservation Society with “British Cemetery” in the memo line and mail to: OPS, Box 1240, Ocracoke, NC 27960.

OPS is also seeking volunteers for the reception. For more information, contact Sundae Horn at 252 – 921- 0283 or sundaehorn@embarqmail.com

The British Cemetery commemoration on Ocracoke is sponsored by the Commonwealth War Graves  Commission, the Ocracoke Occupancy Tax Board, and Ocracoke Preservation Society, a 501c-3 non profit, community-based organization dedicated to the preservation of Ocracoke Island’s rich historical  and cultural heritage.