maritime war graves

#1
I am the current secretary for the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse Survivors Association, having taken over the role when my father, Kenneth Byrne passed away.

As some of you may be aware divers regularly dive the wrecks. Many have entered the ships and taken videos and photos of the inside. Some of the photos are on the Internet and show human remains. We believe that any war grave should be protected whether on land or sea, in British or International waters.

Please find below a message I have posted on our Website in response to other postings. www.forcez-survivors.org.uk If anybody could assist us with this please contact me.


My father served on HMS Prince of Wales and was 17 years and one month when the Prince of Wales was sunk; his friend was the same age but did not survive the sinking and still lies with his ship. This is something my father never forgot.

Kevin, you seem to think that most survives do not own a computer or have access to the Internet, your wrong. My father had his first computer at the age of 75, Internet ready. Most survivors have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who own computers and are able to simply type in HMS Repulse, you try it, see what comes up!

I have had the pleasure of meeting the L/T Shirley Ward. Her father served on HMS Repulse, she was a baby when her father died. His final resting place is HMS Repulse. Shirley was one of the first persons to inform the association of the activity of divers on the wrecks. When I see a photo, clip of a film on the Internet, for all I know I could be looking at the remains of Shirley’s father, for that matter a father or grandfather of another member of the Association. When you have met these people personally you see a different picture.

What should the association do, keep quiet or to work to try and protect the final resting places of hero’s who died fighting for their country, some of whom were only boys.

I have a duty to report to members anything that is brought to my attention. The matter was again on the agenda for the AGM this year. Again the members voted for the Association to continue to campaign for changes in the law to stop divers entering the ships. This is what we shall do.

Please don’t get me wrong, we do not want to stop divers visiting the ships, BUT PLEASE DO NOT ENTER, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB THE FINAL RESTING PLACE OF THESE MEN.

We don’t just want this for HMS Repulse or HMS Prince of Wales, we would like this for all maritime war graves, what ever their nationality. If the law is not changed and international agreements set in place, one-day divers will be in HMS Hood and the Bismarck. The Association wants protection for every war grave whether on land or at sea.
 
#2
I for one will support you in your endeavours. It’s about time some of these vultures had their wings decapitated (not just clipped) or am I not politically correct and a rabid right wing fanatic. Anybody that defiles a war grave should face the ultimate punishment in my view.
 
#3
This is disturbing to read. My understanding was that this activity was prohibited under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 under which both HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse have been declared to be 'protected places' (see specifically: SI 2002 No.1761 HERE). Only those with special licences are permitted to do diving of wrecks but what may be carried out is, to my understanding, restricted. That said, this sort of thing would not be allowed in any other service graveyard, so why is it deemed acceptable in a naval one?

HC Hansard: 5 June 2006, Col.261W

Marine Salvage

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which (a) listed and (b) designated maritime war graves are scheduled under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.

Mr. Watson: To date a total of 17 wrecked vessels, in military service when lost, have been designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. Statutory Instruments 2002 No. 1761 and 2003 No. 405 refer. The places containing the remains of HMS A7, HMS Affray, HMS Bulwark, HMS Dasher, HMS Exmouth, HMS Formidable, HMS H5, HMS Hampshire, HMS Natal, HMS Royal Oak and HMS Vanguard are designated as controlled sites. The wrecks of HMS Gloucester, HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Repulse, RFA Sir Galahad and the U-boat U-12 are designated as protected places.

On 31 May I announced that the wrecks of the fourteen British ships sunk at the Battle of Jutland would be designated as protected places under the Act. The designations will come into effect later this year. Further designations will be considered as part of a rolling programme.
English Heritage have published guidlines about what those obtaining a licence may do at designated sites HERE (note: opens pdf document)

The following English Heritage document may also be of interest as it discusses the legislative provisions governing wrecks, etc. (see p7+).

Steve.
 
#4
I think the fundamental difference between a wreck and a graveyard is that there may well be worthwhile data to be gathered from the wreck site about how the ship was lost, but nothing of this nature will be found in a graveyard. Equally we know there are still many bodies in the WW1 trench systems and a fair number are found every year, should we stop excavating such site or continue to do so but in a sensitive and responsible way.

Peter
 
#5
I have just checked the legal situation and I understand that it is a criminal offence for divers to enter the interior of designated wrecks. I will email you a copy of the document if you can PM me your email address. An extract is below.

…In principle, wrecked military vessels are safeguarded by The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. The Act draws a distinction between "controlled sites" and "protected places":

Controlled sites
(i) Designation
The Secretary of State for Defence can make a statutory instrument designating as a
controlled site any area in UK or international waters which appears to him to contain
a place comprising the remains of a vessel which appears to him to have sunk or been
stranded while in military service.
Less than 200 years must have elapsed since the sinking or stranding.
If the vessel sank or was stranded whilst in the service of another country’s armed
forces, the remains of the vessel must be in UK waters.
(ii) Prohibited activities
Where the remains of a vessel are in a place which is part of a controlled site, a
person, e.g. a diver or other sea user, is prohibited from:
(a) tampering with, damaging, moving, removing or unearthing the remains;
(b) entering any hatch or other opening in the remains;
(c) causing or permitting another to do any of these things.
A person who does any of these prohibited acts is guilty of a criminal offence
regardless of his state of mind.
In addition, “diving operations†are prohibited if they are carried out at a controlled
site “for the purpose of investigating or recording details†of the remains of the
vessel. (“Excavation†and “salvage†operations are similarly prohibited.) Where a
person “knowingly†takes part in, or causes or permits another person to take part in,
the carrying out of any such operation, he commits a criminal offence. Similarly, if he
knowingly uses, or causes or permits another person to use, equipment in connection
with the carrying out of any such operation, he commits an offence.
A person who commits one of the offences mentioned above,
(a) if convicted by a magistrates’ court, can be fined up to £5,000, and
(b) if convicted by the Crown Court, can be fined such amount as the court thinks
appropriate. (There is no specific limit to the amount of the fine which could be
imposed, but the fine should be within the offender’s capacity to pay).
Where any prohibited act or operation referred to above occurs in
international waters, no offence is committed unless the act is committed either on
board a British controlled ship or (essentially) by a British citizen.

Protected places
(i) Designation
The Secretary of State for Defence can make a statutory instrument designating any
vessel, whether or not its last resting-place is known, which appears to him to have
sunk or been stranded while in military service.
The sinking or stranding must have occurred on or after 4th August 1914.
If the vessel was sunk or stranded whilst in the service of another country’s armed
forces, the remains of the vessel must be in UK waters, otherwise it cannot be
designated.
8.4. A place which comprises the remains of a designated vessel and which lies in UK
or international waters is known as a protected place.
(ii) Prohibited activities
Where the remains of a designated vessel are the reason for a site being a protected
place, a person (e.g., a diver or other sea user) is prohibited from doing any of the
things mentioned in para 7.4(a)-(c) above in relation to those remains. If he does any
of those prohibited acts he is guilty of an offence if, when he did the act in question,
he believed or had reasonable grounds for suspecting that the place comprised the
remains of a vessel which had been sunk or stranded whilst in military service.
Contrast the position here with the position in the case of a controlled site.
In addition, in relation to any vessel within a protected place, “activities†are
prohibited if they are carried out for the purpose of doing something that constitutes,
or is likely to involve, one of the things mentioned in above paragraphs.
(“Excavation†and “salvage†operations are similarly prohibited.) A criminal offence
is committed if a person “knowingly†takes part in, or causes or permits another
person to take part in, the carrying out of any such operation. Similarly, if he
knowingly uses, or causes or permits another person to use, equipment in connection
with the carrying out of any such operation, he commits an offence.
A person who commits one of the offences mentioned above is liable, on conviction
by a magistrates’ court or the Crown Court, to the penalties set out above.
Where any prohibited act or operation referred to above occurs in international
waters, no offence is committed unless the act is committed either on board a British
controlled ship or (essentially) by a British citizen.1


1 Summary of relevant sections of Act taken from MoD, The Military Maritime Graves and the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986: a consultation document by the Ministry of Defence, February 2001, pp 9-11


Source: House of Commons Library Standard Note: Diving and Wrecks [last updated: 26.3.2001]
Steve
 
#6
but as sadly, how do you stop these scum, we cant have a ship anchored over them to protect the graves.
Just look at Titanic, more damage has been done since she was found due to the sheer number of visitors to the site.
 
#7
chockhead819 said:
but as sadly, how do you stop these scum, we cant have a ship anchored over them to protect the graves.
Just look at Titanic, more damage has been done since she was found due to the sheer number of visitors to the site.
As with all crime, that's the problem. However for divers who publicise their illegal activity on the internet prosecution should be straightforward where there's a will. The question is, of course, is there a will?
 
#8
Thank you for your replies.

The legal situation is at the moment only British citizens can be prosecuted. The most evidence we have is against Australian, Canadian and American divers.

If the law is changed to include Commonwealth citizens the MOD have assured us they will prosecute on the evidence we have. My understanding is that this would be an easy step for the government to do.
We could then go for international law/agreements. One prosecution would warn others that their behaviour is not exceptable.

Regarding learning history from these sites, the Royal Navy checked and filmed the sites a few years ago. These films were used to produce the BBC Timewatch programme and some of the survivors were interviewed. The association do not believe that disturbing the interior can lead to anything else being learnt from these sites.


The association is in the process of writing to all party MPs in the hope that one of them will take up the matter.
 

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