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Remembered Today:

When is a ship wreck protected?


Jim Strawbridge

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I have been researching Maude Poulton/Poulter of the Colonial Nursing Service who lost her life when the SS Appapa was sunk by torpedo off Anglesey. There were 77 lives lost including hers. A Google search found the following site :-

http://forum.divernet.com/showthread.php?t=7483

The remains of some of the casualties may still be on the sunken ship which brought me to enquire :- What makes a wreck protected? I would have thought that where so many lives were lost that this would have been one.

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Designation under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. Text of the act, and the Statutory Instruments designating specific wrecks can be found via http://www.legislation.gov.uk/all?title=Protection%20of%20military%20remains%20act. Background explained in fairly good Wikipedia article, http://en.Wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_of_Military_Remains_Act_1986

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Jim

I was involved in a very small way with the fight to get Protected Status for the WW2 Merchant Ship SS STORAA which was eventually successful and set a precedent. The battle was against believe it or not the government and the meaning of "on war service". You may like to read this about the process:-

SS Storaa

And this:

Protected Wrecks

Regards

Norman

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I'm curious as to why a shipwreck should be protected, yet a field where soldiers died and the bodied still there should be aloud to be walked over, or even ploughed by farmers.

What makes the shipwreck so diffrent ?

Grant

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A more readily identifiable and defined location I guess. It's also unlikely that a wreck on the seabed is going to impact on many people. Stoping a field being used may have a much wider impact. One oddity is that military aircraft crash sites automatically qualify under the terms of the act, while wreck sites have to be individually designated

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I think most probably because it is highly likey the bodies are still there in one concentrated area, the issue with the battlefields is more than like to do with the line from my favourite poem.

Part of him mud, part of him blood,

The rest of him -- not at all.

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With Military wrecks, they remain crown property. They is also the risk of sensitive material and unexploded ammunition. If you look at the example of the SS Richard Montgomery that's still packed with ammunition & explosive ordinance and to say it's bloody dangerous is an understatement. They was also the rumours of nuclear weapons in the Falklands in 1982 & you don't anyone finding out you've lost them at the bottom of the South Atlantic or anywhere else.

However back to the original point of the sale of the wreck, it's an insurance thing. Best example is you write off your car & your insurer pays out but they then own the wrecked car. The insurer can then salvage what is salvageable & sell the bits for spares thus recouping some of their loss. It's the same with ships, if the cargo is none perishable it's still there just under water so the insurer sell the wreck & whoever buys the right can salvage the cargo.

As seadog points out there could be some issues, I remember watching Treasure Quest the Discovery channel series following Odyssey Marine & they had a misunderstanding with the Irish authorities surveying the Lusitania

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I think most probably because it is highly likey the bodies are still there in one concentrated area, the issue with the battlefields is more than like to do with the line from my favourite poem.

Part of him mud, part of him blood,

The rest of him -- not at all.

But there are no "bodies" left, there are a lot more critters in the sea to remove all evidence of remains than there are on land.

Iv'e dived on many WW1 and WW2 wrecks around Britian and have never come across human remains - I have seen WW2 ones oversea's - and the law says that EVERY item recovered from the sea bed, including wrecks must be reported to the reciever of wrecks (part of the customs outfit). So for the majority of divers it's a look but dont take policy, I know there are a minority who will break the law, but having a wreck "protected" wont stop them.

The Lusitania is slightly diffrent as she was sold to an ex us diver, a guy named Bemis who owns all of the rights to the wreck. Even though it's not a protected wreck you need Mr Bemis permission to dive the wreck (which is seldom given)

Grant

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It may be worth a a new topic by it's self but what do you know about the illegal salvage of the prop from HMS Hampshire?

Wern't me :unsure:

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The various laws that relate to Great War Shipwrecks are collectively odd. For example, one of the Lusitania's propellers was removed from the wreck and last I heard, was sitting in a scrapyard in Wales. The wreck I have been researching for my book had the salvage rights sold to Risdon Beazley and even though nearly four dozen men, women and children died when she was torpedoed and sunk, and their bodies not recovered, that did not stop the salvage company from using explosives to blow the wreck apart to get at the precious cargo in her holds.

-Daniel

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The Hampshire was blown apart by salvage bods to get to the gold onboard

One of the Lusitania's propellers is on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum - http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/collections/liners/lusitania/propeller.aspx

Grant

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Apapa O.N. 136797

Built by Harland & Wolff Ltd, Govan, Glasgow for African Steamship Co. Registered London.

Completed 1914.

Sunk 3 miles North by East from Point Lynas by U96 (Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Jess) 28 November 1917.

119 Passengers and 132 crew.

40 passengers and 39 crew lost their lives

Wreck was located in 1931 in 112 feet of water.

Billy

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Couple of interesting points raised in this thread. The difference between a battlefield and a ship is that the battlefield stretches from the Channel to the Swiss border and covers tens of thousands of acres of prime farmland and that is only the Great War. Add on all the other wars and a large chunk of France and Belgium would qualify. I think, but I am not sure that a distinction is drawn between a ship crewed by servicemen and a merchant ship where the crew and casualties were civilians. Same difference as between the grave of a soldier and a civilian killed in enemy action.

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Couple of interesting points raised in this thread. The difference between a battlefield and a ship is that the battlefield stretches from the Channel to the Swiss border and covers tens of thousands of acres of prime farmland and that is only the Great War. Add on all the other wars and a large chunk of France and Belgium would qualify.

This is the basis of my curiosity, people are quite happy for people to roam across fields where hundreds or thousands of human remains are maybe 6 inches under their feet, maybe let the dog do his bussiness in a hedgerow that may be the resting place of fallen men, raise farm animals or grow crops on land the still has human remains buried under it. and this is thousands of people every year.

Yet a handful of people (of the population) dive on a wreck where a handful of people were killed - there are no remains because the sea's critters have delt with them - and every one seems to have some sort of objection. Is it because they can't visit the wrecks and so wish to ban others ? I have no idea behind the logic

I think, but I am not sure that a distinction is drawn between a ship crewed by servicemen and a merchant ship where the crew and casualties were civilians. Same difference as between the grave of a soldier and a civilian killed in enemy action.

A ship has to be designated a protected wreck, and can be for various reasons. The M2 Submarine (navel) off of Weymouth is a war grave, yet isnt protected, whilst the SS Richard Montgomery (civillian) off of Southend is (on account of lots of stuff that will go bang)

Grant

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I cannot see the difference between merchant ships and warships where people were lost on them, but it is illegal to remove anything from a warship wreck and not so a merchant ship wreck. However most of the U-boats down the English east coast have been plundered and props etc removed. Also it is not so many years ago that the Admiralty put the wreck of HMS/M Umpire up for sale and although I am not sure about someone buying it, but there has been explosives used on the wreck in fairly recent years. This is a subject that just rumbles on and on.

Cheers Ron

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, but it is illegal to remove anything from a warship wreck and not so a merchant ship wreck.

Everything recovered from the seabed (around Britian) belongs to the crown - excepting those wrecks which have been sold by the insuranse companys - and so has to be declared to customs

However most of the U-boats down the English east coast have been plundered and props etc removed.

As have many land sites - would picking up a shoulder tab or an uniform button that had been ploughed up be counted as plundering ?

But most of the "plundering" at sea has been done by profesionals, not many groups of sport divers have the knowledge nor the equipment to remove even a small submarines propeller

Grant

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Grant, you can remove items fromm a merchant ship wreck providing it is reported to the Receiver, however items from a warship are not permitted.

As far as the U-boats are concerned, I KNOW that most of these were plundered by sport divers and not salvage companies. However even if salvage companies have stripped the boats, that would also be illegal and 90% of them are war graves. HMS/M Umpire is a war grave and yet the Admiralty was prepared to sell the remains at one time.

If you travelled to France or Belgium etc and started digging around areas where soldiers were killed and buried during the Great War, that would also be illegal and immoral.

I have dived numerous wrecks over 35 years and I would agree with you that I have never come across any human remains on a wreck. However I have had numerous letters and E-mails from concerned non-divers that the ship their relative was lost on, was being plundered - and it is just a matter of time before the government listens to all of those non-divers who look on the wrecks as graves. It would not effect me now because I'm 74yrs old and my diving days are long gone, but it will cause a great concern for most of todays present diving fraternity.

People should use their common sense when visiting shipwrecks and not stir up a hornet's nest.

Cheers Ron

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Ron,

If a Warship has been sold or decommissioned it ceases to be a Warship and comes under the same law as Merchent ship.

There was an attempt several years ago (as you will know) to get a blanket ban on wrecks classed as War graves that was fought by sport divers and won. I dont see how they can bring in a ban, when you have ships like the Lusitania - one of the wrecks with the biggest loss of life (in British waters) being - sold and stripped of it's "artifacts" by it's new owner

There will always be those either underwater or on a battle site who will act like they have the right to remove "souveniers", but thankfully they are in the minority

Grant

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So have we figured out whether this particular ship is protected or not?

I doubt it very much as it is for sale (cheap at £5000) - if you own the wreck you can do pretty much as you please with it, ie Lusitania

Grant

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Ron,

If a Warship has been sold or decommissioned it ceases to be a Warship and comes under the same law as Merchent ship.

There was an attempt several years ago (as you will know) to get a blanket ban on wrecks classed as War graves that was fought by sport divers and won. I dont see how they can bring in a ban, when you have ships like the Lusitania - one of the wrecks with the biggest loss of life (in British waters) being - sold and stripped of it's "artifacts" by it's new owner

There will always be those either underwater or on a battle site who will act like they have the right to remove "souveniers", but thankfully they are in the minority

Grant

Grant you are quite right about a decommissioned warship, but there are still lots of warships and submarines, both British and German, that lie around our coast and they are still being plundered, which is illegal and of course policing them is an impossible task. Owning a wreck also gives you the right to salvage whatever you want, unless the cargo is not included in the sale and that is a seperate issue. As far as I am aware, there is also a movement afoot again to look at the laws on wrecks and marine graves, so don't too sure. I hope not, but the more divers ignore warnings the more it goes against them.

At one time you could buy a wreck for as little as £50, but times have changed with the price of metal.

Daniel

Are you any further with your project - been a while since we spoke ?

Cheers Ron

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