BRITISH ships that are designated World War Two war graves have been plundered for their metal by Chinese pirates.
The ten vessels that provide the final resting place for over 1,000 sailors have been destroyed and looted by scavengers.
Last night Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson called for an immediate investigation and condemned the those who disturb wrecks containing human remains.
He said: “A military wreck should remain undisturbed and those who lost their lives on board should be allowed to rest in peace.
“I am very concerned to hear any allegations of incidents of Royal Navy wrecks being plundered in the Far East.
“We will work closely with the Indonesian and Malaysian governments to investigate these claims.”
The ten ships lying off the Malaysian and Indonesian coasts were sunk in late 1941 and 1942 and include HMS Repulse and HMS Prince of Wales.
For decades their hulls have served as graves for the 835 men who went down on both ships but callous gangs are now said to have looted around half of their 750ft-long structures.
One of the few remaining survivors of HMS Repulse, former Royal Marine bandsman Maurice Pink, 96, described the violation as “diabolical”.
Mr Pink, of Ipswich, Suffolk, told the Mail On Sunday: “It is terrible, a diabolical thing to happen. I lost a lot of friends on the Repulse.
“They are desecrating a grave. They were designated as war graves for a reason because hundreds of men died.”
Chinese-owned barges fitted with cranes are alleged to have carried out the illegal operations, according to an investigation by the newspaper.
It claims the boats switch off their transponders to avoid detection on shipping radar then drop a 50-ton axe-shaped anchor on the sunken ship before deploying long cranes.
The plundered metal is apparently taken to scrapyards in Indonesia where it’s cut into smaller pieces and then shipped to China where it enters the global steel market.
This creates the prospect of metal appearing as tins of food on UK shop shelves, it’s claimed.
Experts say vessels from World War Two are especially valuable as they were built and sunk before the era of nuclear explosions.
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This means that they have absorbed little “background radiation” from the atmosphere and are suitable for medical equipment.
Australian diving expert Dr Andrew Fock, who has led investigations of wrecks on the Java Sea bed, said the metal haul from each ship can fetch more than £1million.
The Ministry of Defence added that they were working with the Indonesian government to create ‘special protection zones’ around the site.
Those accused have denied involvement.
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