Scrap metal hunt wrecking UK warship graves - veterans

Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:52pm EDT
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By Stefano Ambrogi

LONDON (Reuters) - The heads of seven European naval veterans' associations have accused Dutch salvage vessels hunting for valuable scrap metal of desecrating the war graves of sailors entombed in three British World War One warships off the Dutch coast.

The Royal Navy ships, HMS Aboukir, HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy, were sunk 22 miles off the Netherlands in 1914 by a German submarine and are the resting place of 1,500 sailors.

In a letter to the Times newspaper this week, the veterans' heads from Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium and Austria said the "sailors should be allowed to rest in peace."

The seven presidents of the associations of European naval veterans said in the letter that that no such desecration would take place in graves on land.

Vice Admiral John McAnally, president of the UK Royal Naval Association, and one of the signatories, said in a separate statement the ship graves "should be treated with due care and respect, and not regarded as a source of profitable scrap metal."

McAnally added: "the fact is sunken ships in international waters are under no jurisdiction. As I am aware, the (British) government shares the same frustration as we do."

The soaring price of metals like copper, aluminum and brass on international markets has made the salvage of scrap a lucrative business.

In Britain, there has been a rising trend of copper cabling being stolen from railway tracks, causing misery for commuters who are being increasingly hit with long delays.   Continued...