ANNA SOMERS COCKS: The Art Newspaper

On 28 August 1944, a teenager was lounging outside the palace in Urbino, Italy, watching the British and Polish soldiers take over the town they had just liberated from the Nazis, when he saw an elegant British officer stride up to the palace and affix a large notice warning troops that it was out of bounds and a valuable monument to be protected at all costs. That officer was a part of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFAA) programme set up in 1943 to protect the cultural heritage in the theatre of war, and his name was Edward Croft-Murray. He went on to become the head of prints and drawings at the British Museum; the teenager was Andrea Emiliani, and he became the superintendent for fine arts of the region of Emilia Romagna.

Allied Commander General Eisenhower himself, with Winston Churchill’s full support, was behind the MFAA. By contrast, both the US and the UK went to war in Iraq in 1991 and 2003 with no programme to protect the cultural heritage of what used to be called Mesopotamia and the cradle of civilisation. This allowed unnecessary damage to be inflicted by allied tanks parked on the site of ancient Babylon, and the infamous failure of US troops to protect the Baghdad Museum from looters. …Read More

Pictured: Purbrick plans to build a team of 15 experts Anna Somers Cocks