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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 October 2006, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Court victory over WWII war grave
James Varndell with his wife and daughters
James Varndell's daughters lead the war grave campaign
The daughters of a naval gunner killed when his ship was torpedoed off the Sussex coast during WWII have won their battle for the wreck to be protected.

Rosemary Fogg and Valerie Ledgard, from Worthing, argued that as the merchant ship SS Storaa had been on military duties it must be classed a war grave.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) appealed against a High Court ruling backing war grave status, but lost on Thursday.

Petty Officer James Varndell died with 21 others when the ship sank in 1943.

His daughters had accused the government of unlawfully failing to honour the memory of their father and the merchant seamen who died with him.

Rosemary Fogg and Valerie Ledgard
Last summer the sisters visited the spot where their father died

They had also feared divers would be at liberty to disturb their father's remains after the MoD sold the salvage rights in 1985.

The SS Storaa was torpedoed 10 miles off the coast of Hastings by German E-boats as it transported steel in convoy to a weapons factory in Cardiff.

In a ruling given at the Appeal Court on Thursday, Master of the Rolls Sir Anthony Clarke said sailing in convoy could easily "assume the character of a warlike operation" if the ships were attacked or an attack was pending.

Richard Buxton, representing the sisters, said although it had been a three-year court fight, it had taken 60 years since the end of World War II to "get recognition for merchant ships on a par with the Royal Navy".

The court's findings could open the way for most convoy vessels sunk by enemy action to now be protected.

In a statement, the MoD said it did not condone the unauthorised disturbance of any wreck containing human remains, whether formally designated or not.

It added that it would continue its efforts "to educate sea users" about the issue, and would consider the implications of the court's decision.

Appeal over WWII war grave ruling
18 Jul 06 |  Southern Counties
Boost to war grave ship campaign
13 Dec 05 |  Southern Counties
No verdict in war grave ship case
27 Oct 05 |  Southern Counties
Merchant navy demo over war grave
26 Oct 05 |  Southern Counties
Fight for war grave goes to court
26 Oct 05 |  Southern Counties
War grave fight 'evidence found'
15 Aug 05 |  Southern Counties
Sisters seek war grave for father
23 Jun 05 |  Southern Counties

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