The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (1986 c.
35) is an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom which
provides protection for the wreckage of military aircraft
and designated military wrecks. The Act provides for two
types of protection: protected places and
controlled sites. The primary reason for designation as
a protected place is to protect as a war grave the last
resting place of UK servicemen (or other nationals).
2006, there were fourteen controlled sites, and six
designated protected places (five UK wrecks in international
waters and one German U-boat in UK waters) .
On 31 May 2006, the 90th anniversary of the Battle of
Jutland, it was announced that the remains of the fourteen
UK ships lost in that battle were being designated as
protected places .
The wreckages of military aircraft are automatically
protected places irrespective of whether there was loss
of life or whether the wrecking occurred during peacetime or
in a combat. Wrecks are designated by name and can be
designated as protected places even if the location of the
site is not known. Thus, the wreckage of a UK military
aircraft is automatically a protected place even if the
physical remains have not been previously discovered or
identified. Shipwrecks need to be specifically designated,
and designation as a protected place applies only to vessels
that sank after 14 August 1914. The Act makes it an offence
to interfere with a protected place. Divers may visit the
site but the rule is look, don't touch and don't
penetrate. It is an offence to disturb the site and an
offence to remove anything from the site. The law concerning
protected places applies anywhere in the world, but in
practice, outside the UK, the sanctions can only be enforced
against UK citizens, UK flagged ships, or vessels landing in
the UK, unless backed by local legislation.
Controlled sites must be specifically designated by
location, where the site contains the remains of a vessel
sank within the last two hundred years. The Act makes it
illegal to conduct any operations (including any diving)
within the controlled site that might disturb the remains
unless licensed to do so by the Ministry of Defence. As the
Ministry of Defence has its own diving teams that are
capable of carrying out any diving operations considered
strictly necessary, it is highly unlikely that a request for
such a license would be granted. Controlled sites are marked
on admiralty charts and their physical location is marked by
means of a buoy (sea mark).
The Storaa judgement
The SS Storaa was a merchant vessel sunk by a German
torpedo on 3 November 1943 while she was part of a military
convoy. Those who died included Royal Navy personnel, as
well as merchant seamen.
Rosemary Fogg and Valerie Ledgard, the daughters of one
of the men who died, Petty Officer James Varndell RN
launched a judicial appeal into the Ministry of Defence's
decision to refuse to designate the wreck.
The High Court judge, Mr Justice Newmann decided in their
favour of the claimants on 13 December 2005.
The Ministry of Defence appealed, but on 5 October 2006, the
Appeal Court upheld the High Court decision. The court ruled
that the act could apply to merchant vessels and that the
Secretary of State for Defence was therefore required to
reconsider whether or not the Storaa should be designated
under the act. Note that this does not guarantee that the
wreck will be designated, only that it is eligible for
Protected Wrecks in the UK. Maritime and
Coastguard Agency website. Retrieved on 2006 October
New Protection Announced For Jutland Wrecks.
Defence News website. Retrieved on 2006 October 6.
Jutland Commemorated 90 years on. BBC News
website. Retrieved on 2006 October 6.
- THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF (1) ROSEMARY FOGG (2)
VALERIE LEDGARD Claimants and THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR
DEFENCE, Case No: CO/132/2005 Neutral Citation Number:
2005 EWHC 2888 (Admin). Richard Buxton.co.uk.
Retrieved on 2006 October 12. In the transcript, the
Judge, Mr Justice Newman, identifies the uncontested
facts of the history of the SS Storaa.
Legal Fight to Protect Grave of Wartime Seamen.
Guardian Unlimited, 15 November 2003. Retrieved on
2006 October 12.