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Tuesday 27 September 2016

News: The SS Arandora Star and the Italian community in Scotland

From Friday 2 July 2010 some remarkable original documents are on show to shed light on events surrounding the sinking of the SS 'Arandora Star'70 years ago.

The loss of the ship carrying hundreds of interned Italians to Canada was a very heavy blow to the Italian community in Scotland. It was already reeling from the riots and looting which erupted across Scotland when Italy declared war on Britain on 10 June. At the same time most Italian males aged between 17 and 60 had been interned as 'enemy aliens' under Churchill's famous policy of 'Collar the lot!'.

An Open Secret' exhibition logo

Defence Regulations (NAS ref. HH57/320)

Instructions under Defence Regulation 18B (1939) 1940 (NAS ref. HH57/320)

SS Arandora Star undergoing trials (Glasgow City Archives, UCS2/132/637/1)

SS Arandora Star undergoing trials (Glasgow City Archives ref. UCS2/132/637/1)

When the 'Arandora Star' was torpedoed off Ireland by a German U-boat on 2 July 1940, among those who died were 446 Italian internees. Ninety-four came from Scotland.

The exhibition uses previously unseen Scottish Office and other official records to tell the story of some of the Scots Italians caught up in the tragic events of 1940.

A Saughton Prison register lists some of the Scots-born Italians who were interned and initially held in Edinburgh. Among them was Eduardo Paolozzi (1924-2005), who was later released because he was too young. He lost his father and grandfather on the 'Arandora Star', but he went on to become an artist, and achieved international fame as a sculptor and printmaker.

Italian internees: Saughton Prison Register, Edinburgh, 1940 (NAS ref. HH21/71/5)

Italian internees: Saughton Prison Register, Edinburgh, 1940 (NAS ref. HH21/71/5)

Official files reveal the personal and material losses of the Scots Italians. They include the tragic case of Antonio Mancini from Ayr, an immigrant who had become a British subject. He was wrongfully detained and lost his life on the 'Arandora Star', so the Government agreed to compensate his widow.

Letter from Home Office concerning the case of Antonio Mancini, 1940 (NAS ref. AD57/23)

Letter from Home Office concerning the case of Antonio Mancini, 1940 (NAS ref. AD57/23)

Alberto Pompa, whose café on Leith Walk was wrecked, raised a court case. It failed because of a legal technicality, but fortunately the Scottish judges upheld his appeal in an important judgement.

The original documents are part of the exhibition 'An Open Secret', which has been specially extended to commemorate the loss of the 'Arandora Star'. The show charts changes in government attitudes to giving access to official records.

The exhibition is open 2 July until 4 August 2010, Monday to Friday, 09.00– 16.30, at West Register House, Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Admission is free.

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Page last updated: Thursday 1 July 2010

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