Court victory over WWII war grave

Date:

05/10/2006

Source:

BBC News

Matter:

Fogg - SS Storaa

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.

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.