PHUKET, Thailand -- The British government has scotched, at least for the time being, a planned attempt by local salvage company East Marine SBS Co to raise two British World War II Chariots from the waters off Phuket.
The Military Attaché from the British Embassy in Thailand, Col Mark Rayner, today delivered to Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura a letter from the British Royal Navy requesting that the Chariots – converted torpedoes steered by scuba divers and used in underwater attacks on enemy ships – be left on the sea floor.
The letter read, in part, “Both in UK and International law, wrecked military aircraft and vessels remain the property of the state (in this case of the British Crown), regardless of location or condition. Ownership is not lost with the passage of time.
"Moreover, the provisions of the International Convention on Salvage 1989 do not apply to warships; consequently, in international waters and the territorial waters of other states, the wrecks of British military aircraft and warships cannot lawfully be the subject of salvage.
"[The British government’s] permission is needed to recover them and this we are not prepared to grant. We consider the Chariots to be heritage assets and as such they should remain and be studied in situ."
The Governor said after the meeting, "I told East Marine SBS that if they received approval from the British Admiralty, I would allow the salvage project. But today I received a letter [from the British government] stating that it regards them as assets of Britain and pointing out that it is British military tradition to leave in place any vessels lost during war.
"They will not be salvaged. Instead, we can mark them as a place for divers to visit."
However, the salvage company’s Managing Director, New Zealander Capt Chris Parton, told the Gazette this afternoon that he is not planning to give up his quest to raise the Chariots.
"It’s just a minor hiccup as far as I’m concerned," he said. "I’m a Kiwi and an ex-Special Forces member. I never give up. Never. So long as you don’t cap me with a 9mm in the head.
"It’s going to happen. I’m a hunter. It may take a year. It may take 10 years, but I’ll get them up."
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