Buxton British Cemetery ceremony canceled, cemetery clean-up set for May 6

Cape Hatteras Flotilla 16-4 British cemetery clean-up in 2019. [submitted photo]

On Thursday, May 6 the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Cape Hatteras Flotilla 16-4 will be conducting a 2021 different-than-usual clean-up of the Buxton British Cemetery.

For years, this has preceded the annual formal ceremony honoring two British sailors from WW II who washed ashore near here.

Unfortunately, due to so many things being cancelled since March of 2020, this formal ceremony will not be held this year, but the clean-up will occur.

Normally, that ceremony is solemnly conducted by members of the National Park Service, U.S. Coast Guard, Canadian and British Royal Navy to honor the memory and the service of the men buried in the cemeteries.

Officers placed wreaths at the graves and local citizens read the names of the dead. The sounding of “Last Post” and a 21-gun salute concluded the memorial services every year.

Previously, visitors and local citizens were always invited to observe. But that moving ceremony will not take place this year.

In lieu of that, the Site will be respectfully maintained ceremoniously by the local Coast Guard Auxiliary Cape Hatteras Flotilla 16-4 on Thursday, May 6 at 10:00 a.m. The public may still attend by observing and silently paying respect.

The two grave sites in Buxton are two different, but similar, stories.

First, was the sinking of the British tanker San Delfino which was carrying 11,000 tons of aviation fuel and ammunition. It was destroyed by German torpedoes. She sank on April 10, 1941 near Cape Hatteras; 28 of the crew of 50 died. After the attack, the body of one unknown sailor washed ashore on the beaches of Buxton. He was quietly buried by local villagers.

Then nearly a year later, on May 12, 1942, HMS Bedfordshire was sunk by a German torpedo and the entire 34-man crew was lost in the aftermath. As happened far too often, bodies later washed ashore. Four washed up on Ocracoke Island and were buried by locals. One last body from the Bedfordshire washed up a few days later on Hatteras Island near Buxton, and the sailor was buried respectively by local Buxton residents next to the sailor from the San Delfino.

To get to this cemetery, which is actually consecrated British soil, turn onto Lighthouse Road in Buxton at the large National Park Service sign marking the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Follow that winding road and go past the marked turn to the lighthouse, continuing until the second left. You have arrived at your destination: The British Cemetery is on that corner.

For questions contact USCG Auxiliary Member Bill Henning at 203-240-5581.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is composed of uniformed, non-military volunteer civilians who assist the Coast Guard in all of its varied missions, except for military and direct law enforcement.  These men and women can be found on the nation’s waterways, in classrooms and on the dock, performing safety patrols, vessel safety examinations and public education. 

The 26,000 members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary donate millions of hours annually in support of Coast Guard missions. For much more about the Auxiliary in general, see www.cgaux.org. For more about Flotilla 16-4, see http://wow.uscgaux.info/content.php?unit=054-16-04.