In a deeply disturbing revelation, a Chinese salvage vessel has been identified as pillaging British WWII shipwrecks off the coast of Malaysia. These sites, which hold the remnants of the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales and cruiser HMS Repulse, aren’t just historic artifacts – they’re hallowed ground.
The dredger, known as the Chuan Hong 68, was seen hovering ominously near these sunken vessels, vessels that are recognized as official war graves by the Royal Navy National Museum. These sites mark the final resting place of 842 British sailors who fell in December 1941, succumbing to an onslaught by Imperial Japanese forces – a considerable loss for the Royal Navy in the Far East.
Recent reports from Malaysian media and open-source intelligence analysts brought the disquieting activities of the Chuan Hong 68 to light. Local accounts highlighted the blatant disrespect, detailing how the ship was using a massive dredging crane to extract metal scraps from these hallowed shipwrecks.
The HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, crafted from high-quality steel, are, for the unscrupulous, a tempting trove of salvageable metal ready to be melted down and repurposed. Unearthed at a local jetty in Malaysia were live ammunition, British anti-aircraft cannons, a ship’s anchor, and fragments of a ship’s hull.
This isn’t Chuan Hong 68’s first brush with infamy. The crew is known among certain circles as “illegal scavengers,” having allegedly spent about a decade plundering historic shipwrecks. According to insiders, the ship, once a rickety barge, is now fitted with high-tech equipment enabling it to engage in these deeply troubling activities.
“They operate mechanically and entirely from the surface of the barge, which is equipped with cranes sporting huge metal claws,” an unnamed source told the New Straits Times. These mechanical claws can reportedly delve over 200 meters deep, cutting up shipwrecks and hauling up to 100 tonnes of metal in a single maneuver.
Comprised of well-compensated Chinese, Nepalese, Malaysian, and Bangladeshi nationals, the crew of the Chuan Hong 68 has also reportedly been involved in illegal salvage operations off the coasts of Singapore, Cambodia, and Vietnam, and is sought by authorities in Indonesia.
Admiral Lord Alan West, former head of the Royal Navy, didn’t mince words when condemning the desecration of these historic sites, labeling the operation an “absolute disgrace.”
“These are burial sites with all the bodies still there. These Chinese wreckers or scrap metal men don’t give a damn about this,” he declared.
Indeed, the looting of these WWII maritime graves serves as a solemn reminder of the importance of respecting and preserving history, especially when it serves as the final resting place for those who gave their lives in the service of their country. In the face of such blatant disregard for these sacred sites, we can only hope for an international response that ensures the protection of our shared historical legacy.