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Having stumbled upon this article on the BBC news site. I started wondering about the row kicked up about the Royal Navy ships which were sunk by the Japanese off Malaya, (HMS Prince of Wales being one of them). The row was about unauthorised divers stealing the ship's propellers etc, thereby desecrating a War Grave, for scrap value. When does a ship stop being a "War Grave" if it ever stops at all?
When does a ship stop being a "War Grave" if it ever stops at all?
I wasn't aware that the Victory was an official war grave - she went down in a storm as she was on her way home from escorting a convoy in the Mediterranean.
As far as war graves are concerned, I have no idea about how long the designation lasts. In truth I imagine that war graves are war graves for as long as they last, or for as long as anyone can be bothered to remember them. It might be argued that the Mary Rose should have been a war grave - she was certainly being prepared for active service when she went down - but that didn't stop us lifting her and all she contained from the bottom.
What beckons as far as the Victory is concerned is the £500 million pounds worth of gold (at today's prices) she was estimated to have been carrying.
An even simpler point of view is this: war grave or not, under international law a sunken warship remains the property of it's nation.
"under international law a sunken warship remains the property of it's nation."
Indeed it does, but that nation's government can sanction the salvage of such a ship by a company from another nation, and that's what has happened in this case. The Victory will be salvaged by an American company, but the work will be managed by the Maritime Heritage Foundation.
The Ministry of Defence has welcomed the project.
Under international salvage laws the American company will get the lion's share of any recovered treasure.
Around UK wrecks are protected by 2 acts - Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 and the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. This page Receiver of wrecks gives details and the bottom of the page are links to the list of protected wrecks. I found the list very interesting and includes the Falklands War.
I read this about the original Victory in the Sunday Times todar. The cannons etc seem ok but it seems little of the hull remains. The ST link does not work but hopefully this does.
I imagine the gold is in the vicinity of the wreck of course.
John Bunyan. a different subject entirely but, did you read the account of the salvaging of the gold off HMS Edinbugh? I've got a funny feeling that you did.
I suppose now that divers are going deeper than ever and machines can do the necessary work anyway, that lots of other ships are going to be found and "plundered"? Wrong word I suppose but it sounds right to me.
What is there left to salvage except the gold and some cannon and probably the lump of iron which would have been used as ballast. The rest will have rotted away years ago. This is not like the Mary Rose as what was saved of it was because of the deep estuary mud.
When I commented about a warship being the property of its nation, I had in mind bingalau's comment about unauthorised divers etc.
I'm not sure it's right to describe the recovery of gold from a 300 year old wreck as plundering, any more than it would be right to use the same word to describe routine salvage work.
The gold is there, and is being recovered with the sanction of the government which has jurisdiction over the wreck. It's being done legally in other words.
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