The remains of second world war sailors who died on British and Dutch warships in the Java sea were secretly dumped in an anonymous mass grave by modern-day metal scavengers as they rifled through wrecks illegally lifted from the sea bed, it has been claimed.
The reports from Indonesian and Dutch media prompted the Ministry of Defence to condemn those who had disturbed the graves of the dead, and speak of their “distress” at the news.
In recent years a series of huge wrecks have been all but removed from the waters off Indonesia by operators seeking to cash in on the valuable metals on board.
The ships that have been dismantled or vanished included the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Electra, on which 119 men perished, HMS Exeter, a 175-metre heavy cruiser on which 54 died, and HMS Encounter, which was scuttled to avoid capture by the Japanese.
It has now been claimed that those employed by the illegal scavengers to cut up the ships on Indonesian soil had also found skulls, jawbones, feet and hand bones, hips and ribs during their work.
It was claimed that the remains were dumped in a mass grave near the port of Brondong, in east Java.