War Grave Looting Goes On

Sunk with the loss of 1,459 Navy sailors by a German submarine in the First World War three Royal Navy cruisers, are now enjoying a new life as source of cheap metal for Dutch commercial salvage ships. The three ships, HMS Aboukir,
HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy, were all sunk on the 22 September 1914. The satirical magazine Private Eye revealed in November that the Ministry of Defence had ‘stonewalled’ a freedom of  information request from Andy Brockman, of archaeological campaigning group Mortimer, on how many Royal Navy ships which might be considered war graves had had salvage contracts granted or sold.

Following a request for information from Labour MP Mr Clive Efford, Junior Defence Minister Gerald Howarth, stated that these three ships had been sold to a German salvage company in 1954 and there was therefore little the Government was able to do about the situation. Private Eye went on to mention that the UK government has a commercially pragmatic view of salvage operations, especially where there is money to be made, having recently allowed US treasure hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration to work on two Second World War wrecks the SS Gairsoppa and SS Mantola with silver bullion on board; both were sunk by German U-boats.

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