Online fundraiser for WWI hero’s headstone in Derry

An online fundraiser has been created to help raise money to erect a headstone to a First World War hero buried in Derry’s City Cemetery.

Swedish-born mariner Erik Kokeritz’s final resting place in the cemetery is currently marked by a single 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.

Captain Erik Kokeritz is buried in Derry City Cemetery.

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 day.

He was buried in the City Cemetery and his grave lay unmarked for more than a century. However, local historian and genealogist David Jenkins, thanks to more than a decade researching the Kokertiz story, revealed the full story in a book published last year and, since then, interest in the Swedish sailor has snowballed.

David has now set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for a permanent memorial to the captain at his burial plot in the cemetery.

He told the ‘Journal’: “More than a century since the captain’s death, I think it is time this WWI American hero has a headstone erected in his memory. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I am in a position to be able to organise an unveiling ceremony for the captain’s headstone.”

The white cross which marks Capt Kokeritz's grave.

For more info, check out: https://gofund.me/f180cb37