OCRACOKE ISLAND FERRY TERMINAL
So having been unceremoniously turfed out of the ferry office, this gave me a good chance to have a look around the island to see whether there were any secret arms dumps or nuclear reactors or whatever that the army might be guarding. The Freedom of Information Act might give me a clue, as it has done in the United Kingdom
First, however, it gave me an opportunity to have a good look around the ferry terminal, as there was some kind of exhibition of photographs. This one here on the left immediately caught my eye, depicting as it does the early days of life on the North Carolina Ferry system in the pre ro-ro days.
I'm not sure how long the floor of your car would hold out if you had to drive through the waves to board the boat a couple of times every day - unless of course it was "the wrong kind of salt". I'm not sure how you would cope if the sea was running a swell either. It certainly looks exciting and would really sort out the men from the boys when it came to loading-up time.
Now I talked a little earlier, as you may recall, about global warming, and how much the Outer Banks are at risk from their own government's environmental policies. Many people hoo-hah the idea that this could ever happen.
As you can see from the plaque in the photo on the left, there was a Civil War fort on Beaufort Island, just out in the bay here. This particular was in fact the fourth of a series of forts on the island, indicating that there had in the past been a considerable military presence here. There are even reports of a substantial stone-built fort being built as part of the naval preparations of the start of the 19th Century, that I have discussed previously.
Despite all of this, the island was completely submerged by a storm in the early years of the 20th Century, and the sea level that established itself after the storm was such that the island remained submerged. The rising sea levels have therefore accounted for at least one of the Outer Banks islands within living memory.
This is a photo of one group of people who are not going to be affected by the rising sea levels of the 21st Century - in fact they are probably going to enjoy it. It's quite amusing to see the military precision in which they are all lined up, with one adult in front to lead the way, and the other adult at the rear to supervise the chicks in case any step out of line. I would imagine it's daddy duck in front, and mummy duck bringing up the rear.
It reminds me of the announcements you hear on the Cross-Channel ferries that run between the UK and France. "The muster stations can be found, indicated by symbols representing a small family group". Now this is a small family group, alright. And a cute one at that, although I suspect that the rather large cat that I saw earlier has entirely future lined up for them.
Now it was at this moment that the ferry from Cedar Island pulled in to the harbour. As you can see, they are rather more substantial affairs than the ferries over from Hatteras, and just as well, when you consider that they have a crossing of well over three hours to make, much of it in the open sea. And you can imagine out here that given the speed that a storm can spring up and the violence that it can give out, you would have a long and uncomfortable run for shelter.
It's one of the "Sound" class of ferries with a displacement in the region of 650-750 tons. Actually, now I come to think about it, it is not all that much bigger, is it? Some of the Cross-Channel ferries in Europe weigh in at the tens of thousands of tons, and all this for a crossing that can be as short as 75 minutes.
... Wear a Silly Hat
One thing that the ferry did was to disgorge a pile of bikers out onto the quayside. This gave me quite a kick - there's nothing like the sound of 20 Harleys all revving up at the same time, as my previous experiences can testify. It just makes me even more determined to fritter away my invalidity pension on a nice Sportster 1200.
What happened next, though,was something that might have made me change my mind. For they just pulled into the car park, to check their maps presumably, and put their side stands down where they came to rest, without making any kind of effort to leave any room for anyone else to enter, as you can see. Ordinarily I would have gone over to them to give them a piece of my mind, but I don't do that kind of thing any more. I've done it so often in the past that I don't have much of it left.
But here I am. I'm dreaming of owning a big American bike and spending part of my early retirement as an American trucker. I cannot think of two groups with any worse public relations than those. It seems that I have made the correct choice.
As my old friend Blaster Bates says, "if you're going to act like a tw@t, wear a silly hat".
So, what do you do when you have a few hours to spare on a strange island? Well, you go for a grand exploration. Particularly when, upon entering a strange town you see a street name like this one.
I for one would be the first candidate to buy a house here, just as I tried to be when I first came to Belgium and someone told me there was a village called "Silly". In fact, I was all set to buy something there until I discovered that near Antwerp there is a village called Weerde. I then set about brushing up my Dutch as you can imagine, until I encountered this town in France.
I think that the people who named this street as they did have made quite a boob. They should have made much more of an effort to keep abreast of contemporary slang, instead of causing 60 million English-speaking Brits to have a quite titter to themselves.
With a name like this, you have to walk down it. It is fate that guides you (there was another reason, too, but I'll tell you about that in a minute) and of course, I wasn't disappointed. Fate has always done me proud.
I'm not very hot on identifying American cars, so I'm not really sure exactly what these are, but they are certainly interesting. It's a shame that someone has tried to bury them under a pile of soil because they are worth more than that, but there you go. This is the America of the 1960s underneath all of this. This was the boom time for much of the USA, and it's a real shame to see it disappear like this back into the soil.
If I had my way and an unlimited baggage allowance, these would be in Europe by now. If you know what these cars are, or you want to let me have some other comments, please . I love feedback from my audience.
There was, as I said, another reason for taking this road. And that was because I had noticed, as I drove into the town, a sign pointing down here to "the British Cemetery". Now that intrigued me, because the only time that the British might have been involved around here was during the War of Independence, and I reckoned it was unlikely that there would be any graves still extant, certainly of the type that the Americans would want to publicise. This had to be worth an exploration.
I was quite right too, because it certainly was. As soon as I saw the headstones that are presented over to the right of the small cemetery, as shown in the photo on the left, I knew straight away what these graves were.
The headstones are in fact Commonwealth War Graves headstones, designed to mark the graves of military personnel killed during the First World War, and of the type that you see all over Europe. Under certain conditions, civilians who had formerly had served in the armed forces during the war and died as a result of injuries sustained while on active service may be buried under a Commonwealth War Grave headstone, as is my great grandfather, in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.
The headstones were continued in use for military personnel in World War II, and this gave me my clue, for when the USA joined in the war against Germany (for the simple reason that Germany declared war on the USA - not for any altruistic motives that the USA had. In fact I often wonder what would have happened if the Germans had declared war on the Japanese) German U-boats started to appear on this side of the Atlantic.
With the American civilians' flat refusal to black out their coastal cities (who cares about the lives of our sailors anyway? They aren't worth a damn. It's much more vital that we can light up our garden so our neighbours can see how clever we are) entire fleets of American ships sailing up the coast carrying vital supplies to their troops would be brilliantly silhouetted every night against the onshore lights. There's a graphic account of this from a U boat commander's viewpoint that is well worth reading.
Even the most inexperienced U-boat commander couldn't miss sitting targets like these, and the Americans, who were so unprepared for this kind of war, had no defences to offer. Their navy, just like Maggie Thatcher's and Winston Churchill's football team, "took one hell of a beating".
Because of the Americans' naivete, and bearing in mind that the British had a vested interest in keeping open the sea lanes in the Atlantic, the British offered the Americans 24 of the anti-submarine trawlers that they had been developing for defence of their own island, until the Americans could develop some kind of defence of their own.
And sure enough, this cemetery marks the grave of 4 of the crew of the HMS Bedfordshire, a British anti-submarine trawler that was lost with all hands on the morning of 12th May 1942, having been torpedoed by U-558. A few days after the sinking, four bodies were washed ashore on Ocracoke Island - Sub-Lieutenant Tom Cunningham, telegraphist Stanley Craig, and two others who are unidentified but were nevertheless assumed to have come from the "Bedfordshire". They are all buried in this cemetery.
Now one thing that was puzzling me was that there were four other headstones in the cemetery, as you can see. These likewise carry names of the dead, and they are the same names as those on the CWG headstones. This is puzzling me. All I can think of is that the interment was so good that the deceased wanted it done a second time. My Irish friend here in Brussels, Mary McCall, suggested in all seriousness that they were buried twice "to be sure, to be sure", but if you have an answer to this riddle, then .
All of this is in complete contrast to the events that occurred in a cemetery in Aberdeen some while ago. An American tourist was there searching for his roots by looking at the gravestones of his dead ancestors, when his attention was draw to a gravestone that read
"Here lies Angus MacAskill, a devoted father and loving husband".
The American turned to his wife and said
"Now isn't that just like the Scots to bury three men in one grave?"
I am also reminded of an old man of my acquaintance who died, and due to the fact that he was insolvent, had to be buried in a pauper's grave. However the pauper objected so he had to have a grave of his own.
For those of you interested in the more technical side of HMS Bedfordshire, I can tell you that she was built in 1935, 162 feet long and displaced 443 tons. She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy in 1939. Her base over here in the USA was in Morehead City and was on patrol with another anti-submarine trawler, the "St.Loman" when she was sunk. U-558 hit her amidships and the force of the explosion was such that, according to witnesses, she was lifted bodily out of the water.
Her wreck was discovered in 1980 lying in three pieces in 105 feet of water, approximately 25 miles south-east of Beaufort Inlet. She was thoroughly explored and everything worth ste .. er .. salvaging was recovered except for the depth charges, for which presumably no harbourmaster worth his salt would issue a landing certificate. She is now a favourite pleasure dive
So, the next time any American of your acquaintance starts to lecture you about all his brave buddies buried in Europe to "free us all from the Nazis (which, incidentally, many Americans such as Henry Ford were bankrolling)", just point out that you know where in the United States there are the graves of four British sailors who gave their lives so that American citizens could keep the home fires burning on their lawns and promenades during the period that, for others, was "the dark days of the war".
More Old Cars
On the way back into the town, I had to stop to take another photo. Yes, once more, it's another old car. In fact, it's pretty much similar to the two in the photo above, so this made me wonder whether or not those two might not be being used as donor cars for this one.
I know that for many years when the supply of Cortinas was drying up, I would buy almost any Cortina I could get my hands on in order to break it for pieces to keep mine on the road until the supply of scrap Cortinas dried up, and I'm now down to my last donor car. I wondered if the owner of this car was buying up other models to do the same.
However, you can probably see that this car had seen better days itself and was probably not much better than those around the corner. Not that this would surprise me. On several occasions I've bought donor cars to keep mine on the road, only to find that the donor car is better than the one I have, and so I'd restore that one instead. The story of VBH 742N and LND 9P springs immediately to mind.
Now, from here on in, as far as Manassas, all I can say is that you are going to be extremely lucky if you have any notes to read. The reason for this is that when leaving the car at the Bull Run battlefield, I dropped my dictaphone. I'm quite used to dropping my dictaphone, and it has been dropped on occasions too numerous to count, so my dictaphone is quite used to being dropped. Just now, however, I dropped it for the umpteenth time and for some reason that I find almost impossible to explain, a piece of plastic sliced through the tape, cutting the recording surface in two. The tape of Rhys's wedding and my travels from here to Manassas was effectively destroyed.
After days with a scalpel, tweezers, scotch tape, scissors and a glue gun to fix it, in the manner that I used to repair thousands of normal-sized cassettes, I have reluctantly had to admit that modern technology has defeated me. Micro-cassettes are too small and fiddly for this kind of work, and Maplin's let me down over a tape splicer. I've had to send out to have it repaired professionally so that I can continue. "Shame", I hear you say. Meanwhile, I'm going to be working from memory, and I know what that's like.
So, for the benefit of the cerebrally-challenged such as yours truly, the difficult bit starts from here