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A Sacrifice For Freedom: Gratitude For The Royal British Navy

By Edward “Eddie” Masterka

My wife was involved in recording the history and culture of the Outer Banks for decades, and because of this I think of the region as my second home. I want to share my gratitude for something other than the beautiful beaches and majestic lighthouses: I wish to give thanks to the British Royal Navy for the lives they sacrificed to defend this coastline.

World War II was not a foreign war. The shores of this region witnessed a fierce battle. Beginning in early 1942, German U-Boats patrolled the Atlantic Coast, sinking almost 400 ships, and taking more than 5,000 lives. The US Navy was reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was under-manned and under-shipped. Despite a war waging in their homeland, the Royal British Navy sent 24 of their trawlers to protect our shores. Most of the sailors on these ships were young men, and probably had never visited the United States. None-the-less they defended our nation, and many gave their lives in the process. Most of those who died are at rest in the ocean, but a few washed ashore, and are buried in the British cemeteries in Ocracoke and Buxton. We cannot begin to repay the debt we owe to our own military, nor to our British Allies, but we can all remember them with gratitude.

This story came full-circle to me in the 1980s, when I took a few moments to clean the debris from the graves in the British Cemetery in Ocracoke. An older gentleman walked up and spoke with appreciation for my efforts. He turned out to be the son of one the heroic sailors who was buried there. I was composed enough to thank him, on behalf of all of us, for the sacrifice of his father and his shipmates.

Photo Credit: Edward “Eddie” Masterka