The British Government is investigating reports that a number of World War Two shipwrecks have disappeared from the bottom of the Java Sea in Indonesia.

Investigations are underway after the disappearance of a number of World War Two shipwrecks, which are considered war graves, from the Java Sea in Indonesia.

It is thought the British wrecks could have been illegally salvaged.

The wrecks, which are believed to be HMS Exeter, HMS Encounter and the destroyer HMS Electra, were all sunk by the Japanese Navy on 27 February 1942.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said the British Government was “distressed” by the matter.

“Many lives were lost during this battle and we would expect that these sites are respected and left undisturbed without the express consent of the United Kingdom,” said the statement.

“Her Majesty’s Government have contacted the Indonesian authorities to express our serious concern at this news and to request that they investigate the reports and take appropriate action to protect the sites from any further disturbance,” it continued.

HMS Encounter in 1938 before sinking in the Java Sea

HMS Encounter in 1938. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The British Government condemns the unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains,” it stated.

The Ministry of Defence said that under International Law, naval warships and associated artefacts enjoy protection through Sovereign Immunity.

International law also provides for protection for war graves.

“It is British Government policy that our military wrecks are offered appropriate protection and management. A military wreck should remain undisturbed and those who lost their lives on board should be allowed to rest in peace,” said the Ministry.

“It should be appreciated that, given the vast locations of Royal Navy wrecks around the world, that there are limitations on what protection we can provide, but we will continue to work with regional governments and partners to prevent inappropriate activity on the wrecks of Royal Navy vessels,” it said.

HMS Electra before she sank in the Java Sea

HMS Electra. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Where we have evidence of desecration of these sites, we will take appropriate action,” stated the Ministry.

This comes following an announcement by the Dutch Defence Ministry that it was investigating the disappearance of three of its World War Two shipwrecks from the Java Sea.

The vessels have been identified as HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and HNLMS Kortenaer.