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Old 18th May 2010, 17:58
nickle nickle is offline
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When is a war grave not a war grave...?

I have every respect for war graves of every branch of every service and every nation that I've ever stood by. People have differences of opinion on when they can plunder something for shards of what's left and others find revulsion in it because it's a "War Grave". It's starting to seem as if it's a phrase to either open a door or keep it firmly shut.

I learnt the story of HMS Hampshire which went down having struck a mine off Orkney in 1916 which took Lord Kitchener with it. Now there are conspiracy theories which suggest that Hampshire was deliberately sunk by the BRITISH because Kitchener was on board. Yet nobody's allowed to dive it and try to find out because it's a "war grave" and a protected site. I'm also positive I've heard the same of ships from pre WW1. Yet we can't leave ships, aircraft or the western front alone for good TV and I can't see where the boundaries are. We're intent on protecting the integrity of graves, yet on the other hand, we're digging others up and plundering/researching them for whatever financial/scientific/historical/TV goal has funded them.

Ex of the Royal Navy, I'm fascinated by our navy's history, and also with Time Team. When it's a military subject, that's all the more interesting to me. During WW1 and WW2, Camp Witley, near my home was a sprawling Canadian camp, for thousands and thousands of soldiers. But Time Team can't dig any of it up, because it's National Trust land. Yet for "Nelson's Hospital" they CAN go down to Haslar in Pompey and dig up thirty graves of sailors buried after they died either of wounds or disease in the 17 and 1800s. And I'm thinking "What the ****!?" They might be unmarked sailors graves, whose last posessions were sold off to pay for their burial, but just because they don't have a headstone, doesn't mean they didn't fight and eventually die in the commission of their King and Country? Don't they come under the same protection as other graves? Every single First World War grave over here, other than a very few pilots who died in action against the Zeppelins, are of soldiers, sailors and airmen who came back as wounded men and either died of their wounds or of disease. Even those who died as a result of accidents. Only the Unknown Soldier was brough back and reburied. We can't go digging them up, so how come the sailors at Haslar can?

Will Time Team in 200 years time go digging up WW1 and WW2 graves because it's far enough back in history, or will it be deemed that they still can't be dug up, yet it'll still be ok to dig up the Royal Navy graves at Haslar as well as any other Gucci little grave that'll make a profit or good TV?

Can anyone explain it, because although the programme was really interesting, I'd have been vehemently against digging up the graves of our sailors for TV, no matter how long ago they were lost.

I realise these boards are about Air Forces, but wait till they find an interesting aircraft, who was on it, what was it carrying, can we make good TV...? War grave or not, they'll dig it up! My question's about war graves and that covers all the services.
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Old 7th July 2010, 16:49
Vincent ducrey Vincent ducrey is offline
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Red face Re: When is a war grave not a war grave...?

Hello nickle,
This is really interesting take on the concept. Your style of presentation is very impressive. I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your site and this post. You make some very informative points. Keep up the great work!

WWII Aviator
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Old 5th August 2010, 21:57
Julian Julian is offline
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Re: When is a war grave not a war grave...?

Very interesting point now Ive always felt that the disturbance of a grave should only be done for furthering knowledge about that person,or type of object they may be contained in ie crashed aircraft, submarine or ship, event or period of history. Human curiosity is the other issue as well as respect for the dead. However one must put this into perspective...for it is surely the passing of time that softens raw emotions and allows certain graves to be disturbed. No-one bats an eye-lid when Anglo Saxon cemeteries full of sword and axe scarred skeletons are excavated from periods of up to 1500 years ago...softened no doubt also by the museum cabinets crammed full of fascinating resultant artefacts. Commercial TV is often the only way for researchers to be able to fund excavations and on the whole I find all such TV ventures so far to be acceptable. Just look at some of the incredible TV programmes in last 25 years......bringing home unbelievable history to masses of the general public who are fascinated by such events...therefore bringing home increased awareness often of far off historically neglected battle zones and to some degree re-inforcing the "We shall not forget" values. Now Im not religious, but if we have souls I believe we can be fairly well assured that they have long departed these ancient to fairly modern battle scenes. Whilst I advocate the highest respect should be paid to Human remains at all times without exception...however the dry or soaked bones of fallen heroes is all that they are now,...the screams, suffering gasping of last breaths, the hot sticky feel of blood drenched wounds on coarse uniforms, the sheer terror of impending death..... have gone. But very often the disturbance and study of these bones reveal huge amounts of valuable information...Often the disturbance of such remains professionally and for research purposes brings to light awareness that in itself creates a meaning to their tragic and terrible loss. In Britain there is a recent awareness of what is called the "Exhaustible Resource" ranging from buried ancient coins and objects to a buried Spitfire...trouble is this philosophy has created the appearance in several official and non-official organisations of self-elected custodians of our heritage....this is fine where architecural preservation is involved, but buried heritage (particularly that involving metallic structures) has a rather nasty knack of suffering from the effects of failure to excavate and learn occurs... whilst also condemning our heritage to an absolute irretrievable state of loss. I just hope in 200 years time archaeologists will not be saying "why did they not rescue and conserve more when they had the chance? just look at the state of things now.... all World War Two shipwrecks, sunken tanks and aircraft are now areas of iron enriched corrosion deposits and all the Human bones have long dissolved". Condemning our now recoverable and irreplaceable heritage should not be subjected to moral qualms...I feel certain every missing person, mass buried soldier and forgotten airmen would much rather we "find them" to remember than pansy around whilst our heritage dissolves...Just look at Fromelles and the marvellous work the researchers and excavators have done...tracing relatives via DNA of otherwise forgotten clay stained skeletons with shreds of uniform , shrunken leather boots and the odd corroded unit badge. Its not sensationalism..its really fascinating stuff and whether for TV or not all those involved in recovering and excavating Human remains must never be ignorant of the fact that in some cases they provide "closure" for families who may have sought answers for decades....Ive been personally involved in this on several occasions and the thankfullness, support and tears of the Next of Kin of these brave persons have humbled me to such a degree...that this line of research simply cannot be wrong!!...Jules

Last edited by Julian; 6th August 2010 at 01:11.
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Old 7th November 2010, 23:45
aestorm aestorm is offline
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Re: When is a war grave not a war grave...?

I come late to this subject of war graves & my reply is purely personal & subjective.
My RAAF father is still missing in action .His 31 SAAF Liberator Bomber, with 8 crew, disappeared in Oct. 1944 while on a supply drop in Italy. [part of the 205 group RAF]
The plane more likely to be in a lake or in the sea off the Italian coast , than in land as I think it would have been found by now, even if on a mountain side as people often walk in the mountains.

When a search was conducted for the plane in an Italian lake in 2006 I was told by British official bodies that, IF found it would have to be a war grave & any remains would stay under water.I was very anxious about this as I did not want to know "they " were lying there & no attempt made to "rescue " them or identify them .I do understand the difficulties of bringing remains out of a plane which has been underwater for 60 + years or indeed if anything would remain .In the event the search was cut short by problems with the underwater camera. But my very elderly mother deeply wants to know where my father lies, as do thousands of other relatives of M.I.A. wartime servicemen .

The last sentence in your post is what many feel.

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Old 9th November 2010, 15:26
Graham Boak Graham Boak is offline
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Re: When is a war grave not a war grave...?

But do all next of kin feel that way? Are there others who are happier to leave the dead to lie (once their whereabouts are known), and not be dug up just so some enthusiast can satisfy their hobby?

I'm not religious: in my opinion the dead are gone and their sensitivities with them, but surviving relatives who knew them when alive should be allowed a say - on both sides of the matter, if such exist. Once all such relatives are gone (and perhaps the ruling could be extended one generation?) then they are open to investigation as all preceding generations are, and without special pleading for occupations. But the investigation should be done with respect and for some real purpose in the extension of knowledge, not just to satisfy hobbyists or conspiracy loons.
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