Fitting memorial unveiled for Captain Erik Kökeritz who died in Derry after U-boat torpedo attack
A new gravestone for Swedish-born mariner Captain Erik Kökeritz, who died a few months after his ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1917, has been erected in Derry’s City Cemetery.
For over a hundred years Erik Kökeritz’s final resting place had been unmarked.
However, thanks to the perseverance of local historian and genealogist David Jenkins, and those who supported a recent online fundraiser for a new headstone, a fitting memorial has now been erected in the Creggan graveyard.
Born in Gävle, Sweden, Captain Kökeritz was the captain of the US merchant ship, the SS Rochester, when it was struck by a torpedo 400 miles off the Irish coast on November 2, 1917.
Twenty-two of the Rochester’s crew perished while Kökeritz and another 22 of his crew survived and spent days adrift in the North Atlantic before being rescued.
After being treated for exposure in the City Infirmary Captain Kökeritz took rooms in the City Hotel where he passed away at the age of 43 on February 3, 1918.
The headstone was recently unveiled by Marlene Donnell from Virginia whose husband's uncle, US Navy Gunner, Warren B. Thompson, was onboard the Rochester.
Warren was in Kökeritz’s lifeboat and was rescued off Tory Island, and brought into Derry, to be treated for severe frostbite after five days at sea.
Amy Hardy, from Texas, also attended the unveiling. Her great-grandfather was Captain Allen Tucker of the SS Orleans. He sailed from New York alongside Captain Kökeritz and was the 1st US Merchant Marine captain to break through the U-boat blockade of Britain and France in February 1917 and land much needed supplies at the port of Bordeaux.
Sean Wade and James McEvoy represented the Irish UN Veterans’ Association.
Deputy Mayor Angela Dobbins, piper Mark Doherty, and and Mr. Jenkins, were also at the unveiling.
Officiating was Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rev. Andrew Forster, the Archdeacon of Derry, Ven. Robert Miller and the Rev. Nigel Cairns of St. Augustine's Church Derry.
Mr. Jenkins has published a book entitled ‘Captain Kokeritz: An American Hero' recounting the Scandinavian seaman’s amazing story.