Centenary of World War I - UNESCO will protect the Underwater Cultural Heritage from WWI from 2014 onwards.

The Centenary of the First World War will be commemorated in 2014. For UNESCO, this is a unique occasion to draw attention to the importance of the preservation of World War I underwater cultural heritage.

The Centenary of World War I is the ideal moment to remind present generations of the importance of peace and to raise knowledge about the past through the research and preservation of the heritage it left behind.

From 2014 onwards, World War I’s submerged heritage will begin to fall under the protection of the 2001 UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Underwater cultural heritage from World War I has not yet been comprehensively researched despite the fact that it bears witness to one of the most important conflicts in recent history. This heritage is also highly threatened by metal recovery and treasure-hunting.  UNESCO hence calls on its Member States, and on society to make more efforts to achieve comprehensive preservation and to allow the understanding of a unique submerged legacy that is a one-of-a-kind testimony of war and a convincing voice for peace.

List of UNESCO Initiatives on Underwater Cultural Heritage from the First World War


A scientific conference and a commemorative event on underwater cultural heritage from World War I is organized by UNESCO and the Government of Flanders from 26 to 28 June 2014 in Bruges, Belgium, in occasion of the Centenary of World War I.


This special day for divers and the general public will focus on submerged heritage from the period 1914-1918 and include especially responsible access to submerged heritage sites from WWI. It is supported by dive organizations worldwide, such as the Nautical Archaeology Society NAS and the World Underwater Federation CMAS.


UNESCO calls on all vessels at sea to use commemorative signaling by half-masting of the ship’s flags/ensigns to indicate mourning. Ships in harbour are encouraged to use a remembrance sound signal on the same day at 7 pm (hour of the first shot fired in the conflict) to commemorate the centenary. This should serve to call for peace and reconciliation, remember the victims that perished in the war and also remind us of the need to protect its remains, i.e. the underwater cultural heritage resulting from it. The International Maritime Organization IMO assists and cooperates with UNESCO and issued a “Safety of Navigation Circular” to IMO Member States in that regard.


UNESCO and Flanders (Belgium) propose an educational project based on the submerged heritage from the period 1914-1918, illustrating the need for reconciliation and heritage preservation. The initiative will be launched on 28 June 2014 through the dissemination of a short film, a brochure and a teacher’s guide and will be introduced for use in classrooms from September 2014 onwards. The project will run from 2014 until 2018 and will be highlighted each year by a “Safeguard Peace Day”, which will take place on 21 September as part of the United Nation’s International Day of Peace. With this initiative, UNESCO hopes to contribute to the preservation of submerged cultural heritage from the First World War through the education of youth.


The objective of the network is to create a strong international research community to link national research projects on underwater heritage from WWI (but also WWII). It allows for a common approach and will foster technological advances that will ensure heritage preservation and documentation.


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