November is often one of the most beautiful months on Hatteras Island. The hurricane season officially ends and the worst of the year’s storms are usually behind us. It is also a month associated with remembrance, never more so than this year, 2018, that marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, also known as the War to End All Wars. (If only that were true.) To commemorate the end of the brutal European War in which 116,708 American military personnel died, President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1919 that November 11 would be known as Armistice Day and celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans in what was known as the Great War. In 1954 Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day to honor U.S. veterans and victims of all wars.
On Hatteras Island we have a special reason to observe Veterans Day and the end of WWI. Our own Chicamacomico Life Saving Station, now a National Register of Historic Places site in Rodanthe, was intimately involved in one of the most heroic sea rescues of that war. On August 16, 1918, the British oil tanker Mirlo was torpedoed by the German submarine U-117 that had been successfully attacking ships off Hatteras Island. First white, then black smoke was observed by Chicamacomico SurfmanNo 8, Leroy Midgett, who alerted Captain John Allen Midgett, and the rescue of 42 of the 51 men on the Mirlo commenced. After four attempts, the men managed to launch their self-bailing surfboat in the rough surf and head into the burning ocean to rescue the Mirlo’s crew. It was considered one of the most heroic acts of the war. The rescuers were awarded Gold Lifesaving Medals for Gallantry and Humanity in Saving Life at Sea by the British Government in 1921. In 1930 Rear Admiral F. C. Billard, Coast Guard Commandant, awarded Captain Midgett and his crew Grand Crosses of the American Cross of Honor. After being on month-long display at Chicacomomico during the August, 2018, Anniversary Celebration, an exhibit depicting the Mirlo rescue story is now at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village. The exhibit is visually compelling, with a scary silhouette of the German U-117 submarine and a glittering arrangement of the Gold Lifesaving Medals and silver commemorative cup awarded to the Life Saving Station’s crew by the British government.
Of special note is the Veteran’s Day Celebration on November 9 at the Cape Hatteras Secondary School. The program will begin at 9:30 am in the school gym, and breakfast and lunch will be served.
History always plays an integral part in the experience of Hatteras Island, and its people continue to make history by enriching our island way of life. As we approach the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season, two Hatteras Island churches are hosting events to support our community. On November 1, St. John United Methodist Church in Avon offers its annual Shrimp Chowder and Clam Chowder Dinner fundraiser at 5:00 pm at the church. This fundraiser that helps support the Island’s community dinners are usually part of the Day at the Docks celebration. Last year, the church’s Community Dinners served 1,650 free meals. So please make a donation to assist this effort.
On November 3, between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm the Hatteras Island United Methodist Church women hosts their annual bazaar. The event features art, crafts, jewelry and much more, including homemade baked goods and pantry items. Breakfast and lunch are available at the lunch counter. Last, but not least, is the two-day Hatteras Island Arts and Crafts Guild Holiday Show, held Thanksgiving weekend, November 25-26, at the Cape Hatteras Secondary School from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. This holiday extravaganza features the work of over 50 artisans and fine artists. There will be an exciting raffle, with all proceeds going to the Hatteras Island Scholarship Fund.
All in all, November is a time to learn, to remember and to enjoy life on our Island.