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A Declaration

HMS ‘Prince of Wales’ and HMS ‘Repulse’ Survivors Association

Chairman
John Garner
R.M (rtd)
Patron
Rear Admiral
Guy Griffiths
AO, DSO, DSC, RAN
Secretary
Hannah Rickard
Statement made in September 2006:

I am the current secretary for the Association, having taken over the role when my father, Kenneth Byrne passed away. My father served on HMS Prince of Wales and was 17 years and one month when the Prince of Wales was sunk; his friend was the same age but did not survive the sinking and still lies with his ship. This is something my father never forgot.

Some people have suggested that most survivors do not own a computer or have access to the Internet. They are wrong. My father had his first computer at the age of 75, Internet ready. Most survivors have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who own computers and are able to simply type in HMS Repulse to a search engine. It is surprising what turns up. Some of the items on websites are very distressing as they contain images of human remains.

I had the pleasure of meeting the late Shirley Ward. Her father Frank served on HMS Repulse, she was a baby when her father died. His final resting place is HMS Repulse. Shirley was one of the first persons to inform the association of the activity of divers on the wrecks. When I see a photo, clip of a film on the Internet, for all I know I could be looking at the remains of Shirley’s father, for that matter a father or grandfather of another member of the Association. When you have met these people personally you see a different picture.

What should the association do, keep quiet or to work to try and protect the final resting places of hero’s who died fighting for their country, some of whom were only boys?

I have a duty to report to members anything that is brought to my attention. The matter was again on the agenda for the AGM this year. Again the members voted for the Association to continue to campaign for changes in the law to stop divers entering the ships. This is what we shall do.

Please don’t get me wrong, we do not want to stop divers visiting the ships, But please do not enter. Please do not disturb the final resting place of these men.

We don’t just want this for HMS Repulse or HMS Prince of Wales, we would like this for all maritime war graves, what ever their nationality. If the law is not changed and international agreements set in place, one-day divers will be in HMS Hood and the Bismarck. The Association wants protection for every war grave whether on land or at sea.

Yours sincerely
Hannah Rickard, Association Secretary. (Daughter of Ken L Byrne, former crew member of HMS Prince of Wales).

Statement made in 2001:

TO ALL INTERESTED PARTIES

On May 26th 2000 the members (Survivors) of HMS PRINCE OF WALES and HMS REPULSE SURVIVORS ASSOCIATION; made application to the Ministry of Defence for both ships to be designated as 'Controlled Sites' under the 'PROTECTION OF MILITARY REMAINS ACT 1986'

Contrary to rumour and possibly innuendo; it is emphasised that the survivors association is not anti-diving. We have not requested for a complete diving ban or for any additional amendments to the 'Protection of Military Remains Act 1986'.

As far as the survivors are concerned, designation as 'Controlled Sites' merely means that in order to dive, license to do so would have to be obtained. To the diving persons who have assured us that their diving has been strictly on a 'look and don't touch basis' this designation would offer them no problem, in our opinion.

It has been remarked that survivors associations are making a somewhat belated application on this issue. It is strongly emphasised that it is only in the past twenty months or so that the survivors of the ships lost became aware that their vessels and the remains of their shipmates were not being protected as War Graves should be.

To some these events may seem long ago, to us, it is always yesterday. Some of my own school day friends still lie with the ships. Those friends are still 17 years old. We feel that they and the others who lie there should be left in peace. Considering the price they paid, we feel that requesting designation as 'Controlled Sites' under POMRA 1986 in order to give them that peace is a small repayment to ask for.

I have made it known to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Ministry of Defence that the association is not anti-Diver or anti-diving and that our application is a straight forward request under POMRA 1986, nothing more, nothing less.

There are a number of persons who are interested in and in support of our request to the MoD and also to the protection of Maritime graves as a whole. To avoid confusion and misunderstanding it is submitted that any items or information from HMS PRINCE OF WALES and HMS REPULSE SURVIVORS ASSOCIATIONS will only come from the Secretary of the association direct.

Yours sincerely
Ken L Byrne.