A former Gulf War tank commander is recruiting experts to form a specialist unit that will protect cultural heritage in war zones, similar to the role carried out by the famed Monuments Men who saved artistic treasures from the Nazis during the Second World War.
Lt Colonel Tim Purbrick, who took part in Operation Desert Storm in 1991 as a 26-year-old subaltern, has just taken up command of the newly-created Cultural Property Protection Unit. So far he is commander of one soldier – himself – but has identified a number of specialists, including an Arabic-speaking archeologist and an underwater archeologist, and will start interviewing potential recruits next week.
“It’s a revival of the Monuments Men, which was disbanded at the end of the Second World War, We’re looking for experts in the fields of art, archeology and art crime investigation.” Lt Col Purbrick, 54, of the Royal Lancers, said.
The British team also draws inspiration from the Art Looting Intelligence Unit, set up in 1944 by the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, to try to recover paintings and artifacts plundered by the Germans.