Tuesday, July 06, 2010


Friday marked the seventieth anniversary of the Arandora Star tragedy and I am proud to say that, in my home town of Cardiff, South Wales, a memorial was unveiled to the 53 Welsh Italians who died.  This is my article, published in Italy Magazine yesterday, on this event and its background:

Last Friday July 2nd marked the seventieth anniversary of the Arandora Star tragedy and in Cardiff, Wales, UK a memorial to the 53 Welsh Italians who died in the disaster was unveiled.

When Italy declared war on Britain and France on June 10th 1940, Churchill ordered the internment of Italian males in Britain. These man were respectable businessmen, café owners and workers who had made their lives in Britain. Some had become British citizens and, ironically, many had sons who were in the British forces fighting fascism.

The men were rounded up violently by the British police and no consideration was given to their families. George Hill from Swansea, South Wales, writes, of his grandfather’s arrest:

“Can you imagine... being woken up in the middle of the night by banging on the door - children sound asleep - woken by the noise of banging and raised hostile voices. Still sleepy, opening the door to aggressive policemen who force their way into your home, telling you they were here to arrest your husband: purely for being Italian....?”

The men were taken away and many were interned on the Isle of Man, where they were treated inhumanely by their guards. On July 1st 1940 some of the men were put aboard the Arandora Star, a converted cruise liner bound for prison camps in Canada. She sailed, packed with 1,864 people, 734 of whom were Italian internees, from Liverpool. The ship displayed no Red Cross flag to mark her as a vessel carrying civilians and her battleship grey colour made her look like a troop carrier.

On July 2nd 1940 she was torpedoed: 805 people died, 486 of them Italians.

George Hill continues:

“My grandmother was not told where they were taking my grandfather. The next thing she heard of her husband, after that fateful night, was that he had been drowned on the Arandora Star….. What strong women those left behind became, having to be mother and father to their children. They had no choice of course.”

The Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales has received donations from all over the world and on Friday morning a special Mass took place at the unveiling ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral of St David in Cardiff.

Bruna Chezzi, secretary of the Arandora Star Memorial Fund in Wales, told the BBC:

"For the first time in nearly 70 years, families affected by this tragedy of war, which is partly a tragedy linked to immigration, have felt confident enough to share their memories and sufferance with the public, without being ashamed or afraid of misjudgement. Thanks to members of the Fund Committee, it was possible, by showing genuine interest and understanding, and in some cases, sharing similar experiences, to collect precious memories and insights that would have been lost, otherwise, in a few years’ time.”

Italy Magazine is thinking of Arandora Star victims and their families at this time.


Ellee Seymour said...

Well done for reminding us about this tragedy.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, Ellee. It is such a terrible reminder of what propaganda and prejudice can do.


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