"The losses by submarines off our Atlantic seaboard and in the Caribbean now threaten our entire war effort." Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, 19 June, 1942
During the first six months of 1942, these beaches revealed crude oil, twisted metal, and corpses from the Atlantic Ocean. The grisly flotsam was evidence of War's toll imposed by Unterseeboote ("U-boats") of the German Navy. Paukenschlag was the first of these campaigns undertaken by Germany to strike a devastating blow on the United States "as sudden and startling as a beat on a kettledrum."
These attacks choked the delivery of badly needed food and war materiel to England. U-boats hunted along the world's busiest sea lanes at New York, Cape Hatteras and Florida, and efficiently sunk nearly 400 lightly-armed and unescorted merchant vessels during this time. Unprepared for war on this coast, America accepted the services of the British Royal Navy to patrol against the German submarines.
The H.M.S. Bedfordshire was one of these vessels assigned to patrol the North Carolina coast. It was destroyed by U-552 in May, 1942. The remains of four of her crew rest in a small cemetery on Ocracoke Island.
Interred in a nearby plot are two other British subjects who died in the war. Fourth Engineer Officer Michael Cairns of the Royal Merchant Navy served on the British merchant vessel San Delfino, also destroyed by a torpedo from U-203. His remains were discovered along this beach nearly a month after the attack. The other sailor at rest is an Unknown of the Royal Navy, whose remains were found two weeks after Cairns.
This cemetery is maintained by the Hatteras Island Historical Society, The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and the United States Coast Guard. The National Park Service is responsible for the integrity of this site.