Pirates plunder watery war graves for scrap metal
Britain launches probe after Chinese scavengers destroy ships sunk off Asia during World War 2
The UK defence secretary has launched an investigation into the plundering of British maritime war graves by Chinese pirates for scrap metal.
Ten ships, which were the final resting places for more than 1,000 sailors and civilians who died off the Malaysian and Indonesian coasts during World War 2, have now been damaged or destroyed.
Gavin Williamson said he was “very concerned” to hear fresh allegations that four shipwrecks had been looted. It comes after six wrecks, including the Prince of Wales and Repulse, were feared to have been damaged or destroyed by scavengers.The ships are often looted using dredgers, which pull the remains of the men up with the metal.
Williamson said the British government “absolutely condemns” the unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains. “I am very concerned,” he said.
“We will work closely with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to investigate these claims.”
It is thought that Chinese-owned barges carried out many of the dredging operations. The Mail on Sunday said the wrecks of Tien Kwang, Kuala, Banka and Loch Ranza had recently been targeted. Tien Kwang, a submarine chaser, and Kuala, an auxiliary patrol vessel, were carrying hundreds of evacuees when they were attacked by Japanese bombers near the Indonesian Riau Islands in February 1942.Earlier that month, Loch Ranza, a cargo ship, had been set on fire in a Japanese air raid off the same islands and exploded, killing seven men. It came after Banka, a minesweeper, sank after hitting a mine off the coast of Malaysia in December 1941, killing its crew of four British officers and 34 Malay sailors.
Looters are said to target the World War 2-era wrecks because of the properties of their steel. Built before the advent of atomic weapons, the metal has absorbed little background radiation, making the material suitable for sensitive instruments.
The defence ministry is attempting to create “special protection zones” around the some of the sites.
– © The Daily Telegraph