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An insult to the heroes of Jutland.....

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BerichtGeplaatst: 26 Aug 2018 9:52    Onderwerp: An insult to the heroes of Jutland..... Reageer met quote

An insult to the heroes of Jutland: War graves of British sailors who died in First World War naval battle are looted in the North Sea

Shocking revelation comes just a week after The Mail disclosed how Chinese pirates have looted at least ten British warships sunk in Far East during WWII
Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West condemned practice as 'reprehensible'
Latest reports of looting involve wrecks of Royal Navy warships sunk in 1916

The war graves of British sailors who died in the Battle of Jutland Ė the biggest naval action of the First World War Ė have been plundered in breach of international law.

The shocking revelation comes just a week after The Mail on Sunday disclosed how Chinese pirates have looted at least ten British warships sunk in the Far East during the Second World War.

The latest reports of looting involve wrecks of Royal Navy warships sunk in 1916 in the North Sea battle in which more than 6,000 British sailors died.

Former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West last night condemned the practice as 'reprehensible'.

And leading nautical archaeologist and Bournemouth University lecturer Dr Innes McCartney said: 'Nearly all Battle of Jutland wrecks have suffered metal salvage Ė it's an ongoing problem.'

Last week Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson demanded an immediate investigation into the looting of war wrecks and condemned those who did it, saying: 'Those who lost their lives on board should be allowed to rest in peace.'

Implicated in the plundering is a Dutch-registered salvage vessel MV Friendship, which has raised metal and artefacts from HMS Queen Mary. The ship went down during the Battle of Jutland with the loss of 1,266 crew.

Photographs show artefacts from the British battlecruiser being displayed on Friendship's foredeck, including a gun part bearing the monogram of the Queen Mary.

Other items taken by Friendship from the British fleet are on open display at the Wreck Museum in Terschelling, Holland Ė the home town of Friendship Offshore BV, the company that owns the salvage vessel.

The firm has never been prosecuted over allegations concerning the Jutland war graves, but last month a court found it guilty of plundering a wreck off the Isles of Scilly Ė the 4,300-ton merchant vessel SS Harrovian, sunk in April 1916 by a German U-boat.

The freighter had left New York for Le Havre carrying 980 tons of copper bars, worth £4.7 million at current prices.

Some of the copper was salvaged under a UK licence in the 1950s. However, the Friendship, fitted out with high-tech equipment, revisited the wreck in 2016 to plunder untouched cargo.

Although the Harrovian Ė which had no dead aboard as the U-boat captain allowed the crew to abandon ship Ė lies in international waters, it is still part of the UK's Offshore Marine area. This means a licence is required to remove items from it. The Friendship was intercepted by a Royal Navy patrol vessel as it lifted £90,000 worth of copper and steel from the wreck.

After pleading guilty to unlicensed salvaging, the company was last month fined £6,000 at Newcastle Crown Court. It was also hit with £44,930 costs and a proceeds of crime confiscation order of £190,643. The skipper was fined £2,000.

Simon Smit, a director of Friendship Offshore BV, did not deny that it had also salvaged ships from the Battle of Jutland, but said: 'It was a long time ago.'

Desecration is reprehensible - and must stop now

By Admiral Lord West

HMS Ardent, the ship I commanded, lies on the bottom of Falkland Sound where she succumbed to attacks by Argentinian aircraft in May 1982.

Twenty-two of my brave boys are at rest in that wreck, which is as much a war grave as any cemetery ashore. Indeed, it and other ships sunk in war since 1914 are protected by statute.

Sadly, as The Mail on Sunday has reported, these war graves are being constantly pillaged. New diving techniques and the ability to scan the ocean floor have made the numerous wrecks littering the seabed from both world wars increasingly accessible and vulnerable.

I first became aware of this when, as Commander-in-Chief Fleet in 2001, we heard from some ex-Royal Navy divers that they had come across a Japanese salvage company diving on the wrecks of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in the South China Sea. There was a scuffle and the pillagers were forced to drop their ill-gotten gains, including the ship's bell.

The position of these wrecks have been known for decades due to regular services of remembrance and the replacement of the White Ensigns that still fly underwater on the sunken ships.

In 2014, I became aware of Dutch companies and Danish artefact-hunters robbing the wrecks in the North Sea.

The Government seemed unwilling to take the issue seriously Ė but it really must do so now.

In the Far East, many of the Allied ships sunk in the battles of 1941 and 1942 have been completely removed with only a depression in the seabed marking the tomb of so many brave men. The same is happening in the North Sea, where ships sunk at the Battle of Jutland are being desecrated.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of enforcing rules in the Far East, more could be done. In the case of the North Sea, it should be possible to protect war grave wrecks immediately and pursue the wrongdoers in the courts.

We owe it to our fallen heroes and I salute The Mail on Sunday's efforts to energise the Government's response to these reprehensible acts.
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