Fundraising continues for headstone for WWI hero buried in Derry

More than half of the money needed to buy and erect a headstone to a First World War hero buried in Derry has already been raised.

The white cross erected at Capt. Kokeritz's grave in December 2021.
The white cross erected at Capt. Kokeritz's grave in December 2021.

An online fundraiser for a permanent memorial to Captain Erik Kokeritz in Derry City Cemetery is aiming to muster £1,500.

Already, the GoFundMe campaign - set up by local historian and genealogist David Jenkins - has secured upwards of £900.

David is hopeful the £1,500 target will be achieved soon.

Captain Erik Kokeritz.

Swedish-born mariner Kokeritz’s final resting place in the Lone Moor Road cemetery is currently marked by a simple white cross - but for more than a century his grave lay unmarked.

At the height of World War One, when US commercial ships were needed for the war effort, Kokeritz was one of two captains to volunteer to take supplies across the Atlantic.

In the autumn of 1917, his ship, the SS Rochester, left England to return to the US but 400 miles off the Irish coast it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Twenty-three of the crew were dead as the ship sank.

But Kokeritz - and 22 of his crew - survived. For four days and nights, they drifted at sea. The survivors were taken to Derry where half the men were treated at the city’s infirmary. All were suffering from exposure. Captain Kokeritz took rooms at the City Hotel. Unwell, he was ordered to take bed rest but, in the months that followed, his condition worsened and, on February 3, 1918, he lost consciousness and died the following morning.

He was buried in the City Cemetery and his grave lay unmarked for more than a century.

However, David Jenkins revealed the full story in a book published last year and, since then, interest in the Swedish sailor has snowballed.

David says he’s hopeful it won’t be too long before he is in a position to be able to organise an unveiling ceremony for the captain’s headstone.

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