maritime war graves

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by powrep, Sep 21, 2006.

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  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. 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?

    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+).

  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.

  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.

  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. 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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