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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 June, 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Sisters seek war grave for father
Rosemary Fogg and Valerie Ledgard
The sisters prepare to lay flowers at the spot where their father died
Two sisters have been to the spot off the south coast where their father died after his ship was torpedoed in WWII.

Valerie Ledgard and Rosemary Fogg, from Worthing, West Sussex, are supporting a legal battle to have the SS Storaa recognised as a war grave.

Their father, PO James Varndell, was one of 21 people killed when it sank off Hastings in November 1943.

"To actually come here and know that this is the place is quite important. It's closure," said Mrs Ledgard.

She was a baby when her father died, while her sister was 12.

"We just had to get on with life and go to school," said Mrs Fogg.

"I suppose today you would all be counselled, whereas in those days you weren't."

PO Varndell was a gunner aboard the Danish merchant freighter which was part of a convoy in the channel when it was sunk by a German E-boat in the middle of the night.

The Varndell family
James Varndell with his daughters and wife Amy

The wreck of the Storaa, in common with those of all merchant vessels, is not recognised as an official war grave.

The Ministry of Defence stance is being challenged in the High Court in October.

"It is so sad that we have to fight the MoD," said marine historian and archaeologist Dr Peter Marsden.

"This is like the last battle of World War Two, against our own government."

A spokesman for the MoD said that merchant ships did not qualify for protection under the law.

He added that it would be inappropriate to discuss details of the SS Storaa case before the hearing.

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