The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are aware that the Java Sea wrecks HMS EXETER and HMS ENCOUNTER have been almost completely salvaged, while HMS ELECTRA has been partially salvaged. We are working with the Indonesian government to agree protected status for British World War II (WWII) wrecks in Indonesian waters. We are also aware that the wrecks HMS REPULSE and HMS PRINCE OF WALES near the coast of Malaysia have been partially salvaged. They are designated as 'Protected Places' under the United Kingdom's Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.
In response to media reports that human remains, which may include British sailors and soldiers, have been removed from WWII wreck sites in the Java Sea, the British Ambassador to Indonesia has written to the Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs raising these concerns and asking the Indonesian authorities to investigate.
If further evidence confirms that military remains have been removed and placed in a mass grave, we will consider the options to ensure that our Servicemen are appropriately commemorated. In the event that the remains prove to be conclusively those of British Service personnel, the Ministry of Defence, with support from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, would arrange for a dignified funeral and the marking of their final resting place.
Where we have evidence of desecration of the wrecks of Royal Navy vessels, we will take appropriate action, including working with regional Governments and partners to prevent inappropriate activity at such sites. It should be appreciated however that, given the vast locations of Royal Navy wrecks around the world, that there are limitations on what protection we can provide.