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Thread: Scuba divers warned to respect war grave

  1. #1
    Registered Users greenturtle's Avatar
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    Default Scuba divers warned to respect war grave

    November 8, 2009

    DUNGENESS, UK — Divers are being warned to treat a wrecked ship where 75 crewmen died with utmost respect, especially as it is an official war grave.

    What's left of HMS Ghurka lays on the sea bed off Dungeness. It sank on February 8, 1917, after hitting a mine laid by a German U-boat.

    But it has been subjected to repeated dives, with items being taken and sold to secondhand stores and souvenir shops as nick-nacks.

    One magazine has even gone so far as listing it at number 76 in its Top 100 Best Wreck Dives.

    Divernet.com refused to talk to Kent on Sunday, but it did say on its website: "Divers should remember that the heavy loss of life makes this a war grave."

    And holiday-diver.com also warns divers to stay out of the wreck, saying: "Divers will no longer be allowed to penetrate" the Ghurka.

    In fact last year the Ministry of Defence finally agreed with campaigners like Christopher Conn, of Folkestone.

    The wartime wreck researcher said: "It leaves me with a sick feeling knowing these divers were down there robbing the remains of these brave seamen for things to sell in secondhand shops.

    "It shows no respect, and divers need to be told exactly what happened here.

    "They seem to not care a jot about what happened to these men trying to protect our country."

    HMS Ghurka was a 880-ton Tribal Class torpedo boat destroyer built in 1907. She was 255ft by 25ft and was powered using steam turbine engines.

    She sank after hitting German mine off Dungeness, and going down almost immediately with only five crew saved.

    One of the victims lived in Kent. William Wood, 25, was a Stoker 1st Class who was born in Newick, Sussex, and later married wife Margaret from Meopham.

    The divernet.com magazine even points out the wreck has been professionally salvaged, with much use of explosives. But parts of the stern are still intact and stand eight metres proud above the general wreckage.

    But Mr Conn, who works for several maritime archaeological organisations, said: "Many of the crew died in the explosion, others drowned before the armed trawler Highlander arrived after hearing the explosion.

    "On its arrival they found five men alive, and covered in oil. Among them was Commander FHL Lewin RN, the destroyer flotilla gunnery officer who was a passenger aboard the Ghurka, who had released one man from the tangled debris of the sinking destroyer's bow, and then refused to leave the water until he had helped in the rescue of four of the destroyer's ratings.

    "For his actions he was awarded the Stanhope Gold Medal for bravery.

    "The Ghurka dead did not have the likes of Joanne Lumley, fighting for their remains to be left to rest in peace.

    "While the majority of divers will 'look and not touch', while diving known war graves, there are just a few divers who will search through the remains of the dead for war souvenirs and mementoes, which is unpleasant to the families of the dead.

    "Furthermore the wreck has been subjected to extensive commercial salvage operations, and there are signs of the use of explosives in many parts of the shipwreck.

    "Nevertheless, the Ghurka shipwreck is advertised as being one of the top 100 best wreck dives in the UK."

    He said in May last year, the MOD granted the destroyer war grave status which means it now comes under the Protection of Military Remains Act of 1986.

    Mr Conn said: "The Ghurka war dead are just a few of the many Royal and Merchant naval personnel, lost at sea, along the 350 miles of the Kent coastline whose remains should be shown the respect that is shown for the British Army and Battle of Britain dead."

    The War Grave designation means that as a protected place, the site can be visited by divers on a 'look but don't touch or enter' basis.

    The Ministry of Defence said: "Any physical disturbance of the wreck would require prior licensing by the MoD."

    Kent's Royal British Legion spokesman Geoff Simpson said: "As a war grave this site should be protected from divers taking items from it. These brave men died for their country and their place of rest deserves peace and respect."
    "And God created great sea-animals, and every living soul that creeps with which the waters swarmed after their kind..." (MKJV) Gen 1:21

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    SMN Publisher The Publisher's Avatar
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    If the few divers are willing to "desecrate" the grave, I am not sure making it illegal to dive it will have any effect on anyone but law abiding divers who already have a well founded moral base.

    And reading about ow they dynamited the wreck to salvage stuff, that is like blowing up a section of a cemetary.

    Thanks for the post!
    SMN Publisher

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    Post wars, an enormous number of the shipwrecks around the UK were dynamited or professionally salvaged, partly to recover valuable metals but mostly to remove hazards to shipping. None of this raised as much as a murmer of protest at the time. It is only in recent years, due to the rise in recreational diving that the issue of 'wreck plundering' has become such a hot topic.
    There is still, within the British diving community, a hardcore element for whom a crowbar and lumphammer are essential parts of their diving equipment and shiney 'spidge', lovingly polished and displayed, their raison d'etre.
    How many of them, however, would support such activity, simply for resale to second hand shops is less than certain.
    SSMD Diver.

    Today is a good day to Dive.

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    Photo & Videographer Papa Bear's Avatar
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    I agree with Dave, Locks keep honest people honest! Remember what gd said "Store your treasurers in Heaven and not upon the earth!" You can't take it with you and it is all recycled in time
    May all your dreams be wet ones! Visit us at Twotankedproductions.com
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