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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 April, 2005, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
War grave legal fight can proceed
Hastings beach and pier
The SS Storaa sank 10 miles off the Hastings coast in 1943
Two sisters whose father died on a merchant navy ship in World War II have been given permission to proceed with a bid to have the wreck made a war grave.

The SS Storaa was torpedoed 10 miles off Hastings in November 1943, carrying steel to a weapons factory in Cardiff.

The two daughters of James Varndell, one of 21 men who died on the ship, had opposed moves to let divers explore the wreck and asked for it to be protected.

On Thursday the sisters were granted permission to proceed with their case.

Beat off attack

Rosemary Fogg, 73, and Valerie Ledgard, 65, were aged 12 and four when their father died.

They want to bring to a judicial review the decision by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), taken last October, that the wreck of the SS Storaa was incapable of designation under the 1986 Protection of Military Remains Act.

The sisters, from Worthing, West Sussex, claim it was wrong of the MoD to take the decision that the ship was not in "military service".

They point to the fact it was armed, sailing in convoy and had already beaten off one German attack before it was hit.

Thousands of wrecks

Mr Justice Sullivan, sitting at the High Court in London, gave permission for the case to proceed, saying it was an unusual and sensitive case of "wider general public importance".

John Short, part-owner of the wreck, following the MoD's decision to sell salvage rights to divers from Hastings Sub Aqua Association for 150 in 1985, said he felt the MoD had "no jurisdiction" to make the wreck a war grave having given him legal ownership.

The sisters said they were pleased the case could go ahead because they wanted recognition for their father and it could have repercussions for thousands of other merchant shipwrecks.

A date for the case has not been set but it is thought unlikely to be before the summer.

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