Friends of War Memorials - Maritime
In 1999 some members of then Friends of War Memorials undertook a campaign under the title of Maritime Division.
The campaign sought to protect Military Maritime War Graves through the implementation of the Protection of Military Remains Act. Passed in 1986 the Act prohibits entering and tampering with wrecked military vessels or air craft that are war graves. The legislation enabled the government to establish Controlled Sites around wrecks in UK Water or Protected Places for those in International Water which placed restrictions on diving that could take place around them. Disturbing or removing items from designated sites can be prosecuted.
The campaign was instigated because of concerns that maritime war graves, in effect the burial sites of those onboard ship and air craft lost at sea, were being desecrated. Sites were being damaged as items were removed.
The campaign involved writing to relevant organisations, lobbying MPs, educating people about the nature of the sites and liaising with other organisations (including diving and ex-service). Vitally contributions were made to a government consultation in 2001 which reviewed the Protection of Military Remains Act and resulted in the November announcement that 16 wrecks under UK jurisdiction to be Controlled Sites and 5 vessels in International Waters to be Protected Places. Further sites have subsequently been added.
Following that success the Maritime Division faded. Relying on the commitment of dedicated volunteers unavoidable obstacles prevented them continuing and the Division ceased to operate. Although no longer an element of War Memorials Trust work the charity is proud of its involvement in encouraging the implementation of the Protection of Military Remains Act and the protection of Maritime War Graves. We continue to offer our support to those seeking to protect sites and are delighted that the number of designated sites increases.
The Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, which relates to wreck sites but is not military specific, is overseen by Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites (ACHWS).