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29 October 2014

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You are in: Beds Herts and Bucks > History > History Features > The sinking of HMS Bedfordshire

Crew of Atlantis II discovering the wreck

Finding the wreck of HMS Bedfordshire

The sinking of HMS Bedfordshire

HMS Bedfordshire, a converted fishing trawler, became one of the many casualties in the battle for the Atlantic during World War II.

In 1941, Allied ships were under constant attack from German U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean.

Along the East Coast of the United States, the submarines were a serious threat , but as the US Navy had no specific anti submarine fleet. Twenty four ships from the Royal Navy were sent to assist with patrol and escort duties.

They all belonged to the Royal Naval Patrol Service, a fleet of ships that had all been converted from fishing trawlers.

British Cemetery

The British Cemetery

Together they were affectionately known as Harry Tate's Navy. Harry Tate was a famous musical hall performer who's act always went wrong. His catchphrase was 'Goodbyeeee' which inspired the famous WWI song.

One of the trawlers was HMS / HMT Bedfordshire. Built in 1935, the 443 ton ship was taken over by the Admiralty in 1939 and fitted with a four inch gun.

On the 11th May 1942, HMT Bedfordshire and HMT St Loman were sent out from their base at Morehead City in North Carolina to look for a German U-boat that was suspected to be operating near Ocracoke Island.

Unfortunately for the Bedfordshire, the two ships had already been spotted by the U-558, commanded by twenty-seven year old Gunther Krech.

That evening, Krech though they'd been detected by one of the trawlers and launched an attack on the St Loman, but it's torpedoes were spotted and the St Loman managed to avoid them.

At 0540 on the 12th of May, the U-558 fired on the HMT Bedfordshire. A direct hit sent it to the bottom, with the loss of everyone on board.

British Cemetery Sign

The British Cemetery in Ocracoke

Casualty List

Lt. R.B. Davis, RNR (In Command). 
Temp. Sub. Lt. H. Clutterbuck, RNVR. 
Temp. Sub. Lt. B. Hall, RNVR. 
Temp. Sub. Lt. T. Cunningham, RNVR. 
F.W. Barnes, Engineman. 
S. Bennett, Ordinary Seaman. 
L.P. Bickford, Seaman. 
E.S. Carruthers, Ordinary Seaman. 
G.W. Cerrino, Leading Seaman, RNR. 
W.F. Clemence, Ordinary Seaman. 
F. Cragg, Ordinary Seaman. 
S .R. Craig, Ordinary Telegraphist. 
J.R. Dick, Seaman. 
T.M. Dicks, Ordinary Seaman.
A. Dryden, Seaman. 
A.W. Duncan, Chief Engineman, RNR. 
G. Featherstone, Ordinary Telegraphist. 
G.H. Fisher, Stoker 2nd. Class. 
H. Ford, Seaman. 
J. Kelly, Seaman. 
W. Lee, Leading Seaman, RNR. 
E.W. Lukins, Act. Stoker Petty Officer (Ty). 
A.A. McCrindle, Seaman. 
A. McKenzie, Stoker. 
F.F. Maltby, Leading Seaman, RNR. 
E.N. Morton, Ordinary Seaman. 
W.J. Myers, Stoker. 
S.W. Smitten, Ordinary Seaman. 
P.E. Stone, Seaman. 
C.T. Travell, Ordinary Signalman. 
C.W. White, Ordinary Telegraphist. 
L.J. Williams, Stoker, 2nd. Class. 
R. Davis, Ordinary Seaman, RCN. 
J.L. McCauley, Ordinary Seaman RCN.

The Story Of Sam Nutt

Although everyone on board the Bedfordshire perished, ship stoker Sam Nutt survived.

Sam had sailed across the Atlantic on the Bedfordshire to Norfolk, Virginia, before continuing down to Morehead City.

Sam Nutt

Sam Nutt

On May 10th, Sam had been on shore leave, but that night while leaving a bar, he was arrested and put in jail for the night.

After being released without charge, Sam discovered the Bedfordshire had already set sail.

They boarded another boat to rejoin his shipmates, but when they reached the vicinity of Ocracoke Island there was no trace of the Bedfordshire.

Although Sam realises he had a miraculous escape, even to this day he never forgets the thirty four crew who died.

End Of The U-558

Fourteen months after sinking the Bedfordshire, U-558 also met her end.

Two allied anti submarine aircraft caught her on the surface off Cape Finisterre.

They dropped depth charges on her and she sunk.

Up to forty survivors had been spotted, but when HMCS Athabaskan found them five days later, only five were still alive .

Amongst the survivors was Commander Gunther Krech.

Bedfordshire Wreck Discovered

In the summer of 1980, a team of divers came across a wreck which was identified as HMS Bedfordshire.

The wreck of HMS Bedfordshire

The wreck of HMS Bedfordshire

It's just one of many sunk ships that litter the sea bed along the North Carolina coast.

A number of artefacts were raised, and the wreck is regularly visited by divers.


Ocracoke island is also famous for the notorious pirate Blackbeard, alias Edward Teach.

Legend has it that Blackbeard made Ocracoke Village his hideout.

In 1718, the Royal Navy sent two sloops to the Island, where they found his ship, the Adventure at anchor.

After a fierce sea battle, Blackbeard boarded one of the Royal Navy ships, where he was cut down in hand to hand combat.

Ocracoke British War Cemetery

A few days after the sinking of HMS Bedfordshire, four bodies were washed up on the beach of Okracoke Island.

Two were identified as telegraphist Stanley Craig, and Sub Lieutenant Tom Cunningham. The other two seamen were not identified but were both presumed to have come from the Bedfordshire.

Thomas Cunningham's Gravestone

Thomas Cunningham's Gravestone

They were buried in a small fenced off area in the island's main cemetery, which is now maintained by the British War Graves Commission.

A Union Jack is raised every morning over the cemetery by members of the US Coast Guard, and a special ceremony, remembering those who died is held each May.

last updated: 12/03/2008 at 10:58
created: 15/02/2005

Have Your Say

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Rita Read
Love this story, I was stillat school when the war was onjust heard about HMS Bedfordshire Loved it.

My wife and I visited the graveyard 20 years ago nd paid our respects to those brave lads. Thank you USA for keeping the faith.

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