81st Ocracoke British Cemetery ceremony scheduled for May 12

81st Ocracoke British Cemetery ceremony scheduled for May 12

March 22nd, 2023

The annual Ocracoke British Cemetery ceremony is scheduled for Friday, May 12, 2023, at 11 a.m., immediately followed by a light luncheon at the Ocracoke Community Center.

This year marks the 81st 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 students 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 81st anniversary, OPS will host an evening with historian, author, and filmmaker Kevin Duffus at the Ocracoke Community Center on Friday, May 12, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.

In a special keynote multimedia program, “War Zone: When World War II was fought off Ocracoke’s Beaches”, Duffus will share stories of the time when Ocracoke Island was on the front line of the war, when the island lost its innocence, and lives of our greatest generation were irrevocably changed.

“War Zone” is told from the perspective of everyday people who faced daunting challenges with perseverance, patriotism and uncommon valor. Many interview conducted by Duffus feature names familiar to, and beloved by, many Oracokers: Blanche Howard Joliff, Calvin O’Neal, Ulusses Mac Womac, Blanche Styron and Theodore Mutro.

Doations 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.

Businesses, residents and visitors are encouraged to make a donation to help support the event. Donate online at OcracokePreservationSociety.org/donations or 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@gmail.com

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