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Dutch plunder Medway heroes' war graves

hms aboukir
hms aboukir

A salvage firm’s plans to plunder war graves for scrap metal have been attacked.

The Chatham branch of the Royal Naval Association has condemned attempts to disturb the sunken ships on which more than 1,000 sailors died.

HMS Aboukir, Hogue and Cressy, which were sunk by a German U-boat in the First World War, are being searched by a Dutch salvage company looking for copper, bronze and other valuable metals.

A total of 85 sailors from Medway lost their lives in the attack. Because the cruisers are in international waters, there is no law to prevent salvaging work.

medway sailors
medway sailors

Bill Murray, Chatham branch secretary of the RNA, is demanding the sailors be allowed to rest in peace.

"They are war graves and should remain so," he said.

"They’ve been down there for damn near 100 years. Why do they want the scrap metal? Somebody’s trying to make money. It’s nothing to do with the families of the people who fought for their country."

The warships were torpedoed by U-9, 22 miles off the Dutch coast on September 22, 1914.

The dawn attack sunk the three vessels in less than an hour and was regarded as a disaster for the British Navy.

Almost 1,460 sailors lost their lives, more than at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars.

Junior defence minister Gerald Howarth revealed earlier this year the vessels had been sold to a German salvage company in 1954, when Winston Churchill was Prime Minister.

In October, seven European naval associations – from the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria and Britain – wrote to a national newspaper urging the company to leave the ships alone.

They said: "We, the presidents of associations of European naval veterans forming the International Maritime Confederation, suggest that no such desecration would take place in graves on land.

"We urge that our sailors should be allowed to rest in peace."

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