View Full Version : Discuss: Should Merchant Wrecks Be Designated As War Graves? inc. News Link

10-05-2006, 08:23 AM
SS Storaa was torpedoed off Hastings, East Sussex on the South Coast, about 25 miles from from where I live. Two daughters of a Gunner on board who lost his life have been successful in getting 'War Grave' status for the wreck, in memory of their late Father.

Besides the local interest for me (anyone know which boat sank her?) I thought it was a good point to discuss - Should Merchant Shipwrecks be designated as War Graves?

I'm a little torn, I used to go diving, but then you have to respect the fact the vessel was torpedoed in anger in the first place to then present itself as a good days diving. What do you say?....

And why would the MOD (Ministry of Defence) fight against making it a war grave? - I don't understand that part)


10-05-2006, 09:26 AM
Well, there's reasons I can think of why the MOD would want to appeal this.

1. It could lessen the honor of a warship being a war grave. Granted these convoys were a vital and important part of the war effort, but they weren't warships. Just a tricky sort of distinction I can see them having.

2. If this one is granted it, then how about the thousands of other merchant ships sunk as well? That's a nightmare just waiting to happen. Why not merchant ships that were part of a convoy at one time, but were sunk afterwards... it just goes on and on really.

While it's good intentioned to want something like this, I'd hardly call it "unlawful" to not declare it a war grave.

10-05-2006, 09:26 AM
Call me cynical, but I believe the answer to your question is in the body of the article. It mentions the MoD selling salvage rights to sunken ships. If people succeed in getting wrecks declared war graves, then the MoD has to spend money to preserve them, rather than make money by selling salvage rights. It always comes down to money in the end, it seems.

10-05-2006, 11:43 AM
I'm afraid I share Kaleun1961's cynical voiew, in practice it comes down to money. This is not to say that I'm actually happy with this RN policy. De facto the merchant vessels served as auxiliary warships, and many crewmembers, notably gunners, were Navy or Navy Reserve personnel. That goes for both British/Commonwealth navies as well as the USN.
The only criteria I would accept for NOT designating a merchant wreck as war grave would be:
1) the ship went down but all aboard survived (no human victims - no grave); and
2) the position of the wreck constitutes a severe safety threat (not just an inconvenience) to modern-day navigation. In that case, as many wreck parts as possible should be recovered and exhibited in a nearby memorial/museum on land which would also include graveyard-style headstones/plaques for the crew.

On the other hand, I would allow diving and photographing (but not entering) of designated war grave sites, for a considerable fee, which would help with the conservation costs. And any diver breaking the rules should never get another permit.
Realjambo, on SS Storaa, are you sure about the name? I could only find a "Storaas", clearly a different vessel, a 7,886 t Norewgian ship, member of convoy CD-20, sunk on 28 May 1943 just off Capetown, South Africa by U 177 (Kptlt. Robert Gysae; three days later he was promoted to Korvettenkapitaen, partially in recognition of his success against CD-20).

The article says the ship was sunk by "E-boats" I'm not sure what they are supposed to be, probably surface vessels, not subs. Of the Walther boats which are sometimes referred to as E-boats, only two were commissioned at the time in 1943 (U 792 and U 794), and used exclusively for trials. Neither boat went on combat patrols. Furthermore, none of the 7 German midget sub classes existed that early.

10-05-2006, 11:58 AM
Which brings us to another interesting question.

The freight or anything withing a ship or sub wreck. To who belongs it ?

To the one who finds it ?

What if i find a sunken u-boat and discover tons of gold in it ?

Can i make this public ? Or do i have to keep it secret because otherwise someone would say "Wait a minute, that is not yours!" http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif

10-05-2006, 12:24 PM
Look at it at different angle....would you want anyone to decimate the grave of a loved one or ancestor of yours? In my view, all ships that go down with people onboard that did not survive make the wreck now a grave...yes? Therefore, if you would not like anyone to start digging up an ancestors grave for finacial gain why would we want someone to dig up the sunken grave of an ancestor for financial gain? Any vessel that goes down should be considered a grave and no one should have the right to go raid it. It like digging up a casket looking for jewelry on the fingers of dead people. I'm glad they were able to make it a war memorial and diving/salvaging can not happen now. Come on, man, there is a dead person there buried in the silt....let him rest for crying out loud.

10-05-2006, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by Celeon999:
Which brings us to another interesting question.

The freight or anything withing a ship or sub wreck. To who belongs it ?

To the one who finds it ?

What if i find a sunken u-boat and discover tons of gold in it ?

Can i make this public ? Or do i have to keep it secret because otherwise someone would say "Wait a minute, that is not yours!" http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blink.gif

Under international prize and salvage rules, last amended by a UN convention in 1985, it all depends on the type of ship and the location of the wreck.

Merchant vessels in INTERNATIONAL waters: The wreck and all its contents remain the property (and responsibility) of the owners or their legal successors. If you salvage the vessel and/or its contents, you are entitled to 15% of the market value of the salvaged goods (whether ship parts or load). Owner and salvage provider may agree on different arrangements (e.g. a different percentage split, or a fixed-sum savage service).

The same rules apply to merchant vessels in the territorial waters of states which are signatory states to the UN convention on these matters (an annex to the much more important SOLAS - "Safety of Life at Sea" - convention, which mainly deals with rescue and ship safety). Most states, including all EU states with a coastline, are signatories, but the United States are not (they didn't want to be forced to make military GPS available for rescue operations under SOLAS rules, which force every signatory state to use "all means at their disposal" to assist in sea rescue operations; never mind salvage operations). If a state is not a signatory, national laws and regulations apply, and if the former owner wants anything he normally has to make an application to the responsible national maritime authorities (in the USA there is an official "Receiver of Wrecks", a judge who decides on the property rights and the disposal of valuable items salvaged from the sea), and/or sue the salvage provider privately.

For warships, the rule is totally different. They remain at all times the property and responsibility of the country under whose flag they sailed at the moment of loss, regardless of the location of the wreck.
So if anywhere in the world you find an old IXD2 full of Japanese gold and rare metals, the German government will be most delighted (or they may designate it as a war grave). And I'm sure the Japanese government would sue the German government for a share of the spoils, depending on to whom the stuff belonged at the time of loss. They did it in a case against Russia when in the late 80s/early 90s a Russian warship (I think it was called "Admiral Nachimov") was found which carried spoils from the Russo-Japanese war in 1905. If I remember correctly, Russia did the decent thing and declared the wreck a war grave - end of debate and a few long faces in Tokyo. Salvage providers are only entitled to compensation for their own costs, unless, before the salvage, they have entered into a salvage agreement with the government concerned which may stipulate different entitlements.

10-05-2006, 04:29 PM
Why can't they categorise both naval & merchant wargraves. Why do they need to be maintained, surely respect also lies in the gradual wasting away into the environment.
There are thousands of wrecks that cannot be reached or found, just declare everything during each war era as a war grave, naval or merchant. Most people have enough sense of respect to leave things alone, the greedy ones who like to pilfer items and get caught - let law dictate
Whilst one service defended a nation, the other kept it fed. Both just as important

10-05-2006, 04:37 PM
I couldn't agree more Hueywolf. Well said.

10-05-2006, 06:23 PM
Then there are ships that went down in peacetime accidents, the most famous perhaps being Titanic. When Ballard sent his RV's down on Titanic, he was scrupulous not to remove items from the wreck, as far as I know and even laid a memorial plaque on the wreck.

10-05-2006, 07:54 PM
Yes he did, one on the Bow, and one on the Stern, others have left plaqes there too.

But why not make merchant wrecks a Memorial??
It would be nice to have such things remembered if they put a plaqe on a ship sunk by nature, why not do the same for some sunk by hate?

10-06-2006, 01:21 AM
@K1961, I saw the Titanic Exhibition that toured the world and came to the Science Museaum in London and there was lots of artefacts that Ballard raised. Toothbrushes, wallets, cigarette cases, china plates, spectacles, even a mans' three piece suit intact!

At least, I think it was Ballard.

10-06-2006, 09:32 AM
Ballard did not remove anything from "Titanic", but a French expedition did. Must have been items from that expedition that were on display.
Ships centuries old have been salvaged, some sunk in battle. Personslly, I fail to see the difference between salvaging, say, an Athenian galley sunk in the Pelopponesian Wars (undoubtedly with her dead still on board) or a frigate sunk in the Napoleonic Wars and salvaging, say, H.M.S. "Prince of Wales". Either they are all war graves, or neither is. Touching H.M.S. "Prince of Wales" would be met with outrage, yet salvaging the Athenian galley or the Napoleonic frigate would be considered "normal archeology". Smacks of double standards to me.