The Arandora Star - Remembered At Last
In early June 1940, immediately Italy entered the Second World War, all male Italian passport holders between the ages of 18 and 70 years were arrested by the police and military - forcibly and hurriedly taken from their homes or their places of business - to be interned under instructions of the British War Cabinet.
As is shown from the Red Cross and other reports, these internees were maltreated by the authorities and were held in inhumane conditions, without proper food, sanitary facilities and medical care. Over 700 Italian internees were taken to Liverpool, where they were boarded the former luxury liner Arandora Star, along with over 450 German and Austrian internees and POWs, all destined for Newfoundland, Canada.
The ship had been painted grey and armed like a war vessel, and did not fly a Red Cross flag. On the morning of 2nd July 1940, off the coast of Ireland, the Arandora Star was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-47 submarine with the loss of over 800 souls on board.
The Forgotten Tragedy
For 68 years there had never been an official British commemoration of those who died. However with growing publicity of the tragedy both here and in Italy, and strengthening ties between the UK and Europe, officials from Liverpool Council and the Italian city of Palma met to discuss an official memorial to the victims on Liverpool waterfront.
The Parish Church of Our Lady and St Nicholas, Liverpool, was chosen to unveil the plaque in a remembrance service on 2nd July 2008, attended by war veterans, the Italian Ambassador and Archbishop Conti of Glasgow. This was followed by the scattering of Italian, German and British wreaths on the River Mersey in commemoration of those who died. Afterwards the plaque was relocated to its permanent position at the Pier Head, on Liverpool waterfront.
Although there has yet to be a full apology, perhaps due to issues regarding compensation, campaigns and committees both here and abroad have successfully raised awareness for the tragic events surrounding the Arandora Star. Recent memorials in England, Scotland and Wales have ensured that the Arandora Star, at one time the 'forgotten tragedy', will at last be remembered.
Further UK memorials
Church memorial, unveiled in 1960, over the entrance to St Peter's Italian Church, 136 Clerkenwell Rd, City of London.
Memorial unveiled by the Mayor of Middlesbrough in the Town Hall to 13
of the town's Italian victims, 2009.
On July 2nd 2010 Wales unveiled its memorial to the Arandora Star at St David's Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral, 38 Charles St, Cardiff.
Also on 2 July 2010, a cloister garden was opened next to St Andrew's
Roman Catholic Cathedral in Glasgow which holds a memorial to the Arandora
The Scottish island of Colonsay unveiled a memorial on 2 July 2005, at
the cliff where the body of Giuseppe Delgrosso was found.
All text and images (unless marked *) © Anthony Rea 2010 not to be used without permission. All rights reserved