HMS Exeter. Image credit: Western Morning News

HMS Exeter. Image credit: Western Morning News

  • Room 202, Rolle Building

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This witness seminar event drew upon the knowledge and experience of a panel of experts to reflect upon and discuss issues around the protection of military remains where they take the form of shipwrecked material and aircraft lost in conflict.

The subject matter is of contemporary research interest given the fact that modern salvage technologies are enabling the unregulated and in some cases illegal recovery of materials from these sites. HMS Exeter is literally a wreck that ‘disappeared’ as a result of salvage undertaken in the Java Sea and the vessels of a number of states’ navies have suffered similar fates. Such interventions are sensitive given that the sites are the resting places of fallen military and other personnel, and have a specific status in law. Alongside the more visible loss of cultural property and potential disturbance of remains there is often an environmental damage component – appreciating the potential costs and social impacts of polluting incidents also factor into the appreciation of the issues involved in wreck disturbance.

The topic draws together current research interests and expertise in law, conflict history and maritime archaeology as well as environmental and cultural sustainability. Our panel brought considerable expertise and insight and comprised:

  • Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Dymock – Trustee, Maritime Archaeology Sea Trust 
  • Mr Michael Williams – Visiting Research Fellow, School of Law, Criminology and Government, University of Plymouth
  • Mr Dave Parham – Associate Professor in Maritime Archaeology, University of Bournemouth
  • Dr Harry Bennett – Associate Professor in History, University of Plymouth 

Plymouth’s clear links to the military (HMS Exeter for example was Devonport constructed and based) and the future redevelopment of the city’s Royal Naval Heritage Centre provided a timely backdrop to frame the event. It was hoped that the seminar would promote networks, conversations and interest in issues such as site protection and innovative means of regulation at jurisdictional boundaries or on the high seas.

The seminar was of interest to those involved in heritage conservation policy, salvage law, maritime military history and wreck divers and was open to all. 

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Biography: Jason Lowther

Jason is an Associate Professor in Law at the University. His interests and expertise relate to UK and EU environmental law and the protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage (UCH). He has worked on research projects establishing the National Wildlife Crime Unit and in relation to difficulties in enforcing ‘wildlife crime’. He has delivered related research projects for the WWF and IFAW, and is a long standing trustee for the Wild Futures charity.

Jason contributed a chapter on offshore environmental assessment to English Heritage’s Marine Archaeology Legislation Project exploring the legislative options available to protect UCH cultural heritage. He has assisted in the drafting of advice to the MMO and the Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee. He is currently leading a research project for Historic England into the better enforcement of the laws relating to the protection of heritage assets in the English inshore marine plan area.

Jason Lowther, 

Associate Professor in Law

Biography: Mike Williams

Mike is a University Visiting Research Fellow, a member of the University’s Marine Conservation and Policy Research Group (MarCoPol) and a former Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. 

He has published extensively on the law relating to the foreshore and seabed and underwater cultural heritage. He has advised government departments and agencies and was retained as an adviser to the Crown Estate (Marine Division) on foreshore and seabed law. Mike sits on the UK’s Joint Nautical Archaeological Policy Committee, is a member of the MoD’s Expert Panel on HMS Victory 1744, Deputy Chair of the Devon and Severn Inshore Fishery and Conservation Authority, Hon Secretary of the Nautical Archaeology Society, a Director of Mast Heritage, a Harbour Commissioner and a member of the Expert Network for UNESCO’s UK National Commission. 

A qualified commercial and recreational diver, Mike has conducted archaeological operations on several protected wreck sites.

Mike Williams, Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, a member of the University’s Marine Conservation and Policy Research Group (MarCoPol) and a former Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL.

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