Hope you don't mind me contacting you but I have noticed messages posted with regards the SS Oransay.
I have recently discovered, after a conversation with my father, that my Gt Uncle was a member of the crew (age 20) on the Arandora Star when it was torpedoed and sunk in 1940 and I have copies of the crew list and discharge records to testify. He was one of the lucky survivors.
As I have VERY limited maritime knowledge, would you be able to point me in the right direction?
World War II and the role of the Arandora Star Italians in Scotland
"Collar the lot !!"
When Italy entered the war in June 1940, many Italians in Scotland were rounded up. Indeed it was Churchill himself who suspected a 'Fifth Column' of enemy nationals living in the UK and famously declared that they should'Collar the lot!'
Wives and mothers of most Italian families living in the UK had to fend for themselves - not only were their movements severely restricted but many of their adult males were shipped to Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man or Orkney with the intention to deport them to such places as Canada and Australia. Many of the women were also later interned and were sent to towns such as Beauly, Huntly and Tomintoul.
The tragedy of the Arandora Star
The Arandora Star was built by Cammel Laird & Company of Birkenhead in 1927, operated by the Blue Star Line for cruises mostly to South America and South Africa. At the time the ship was regarded as the height of luxury and was popular with the rich and famous. She was referred to a The Wedding Cake because of her white hull and violet stripe.
With the arrival of World War Two the Arandora Star was called up to Liverpool for its orders. It's main purpose was to deport prisoners of war, many bound for Canada.
The Arandora Star set sail with the following passengers:
Officers & Crew 174
Military Guard 200
German Interned Males 479
German POW 86
Italian Interned Males 734
However, the Arandora Star met its fate on July 2nd 1940 when a torpedo from a German submarine, the U-47, struck the ship, off the Irish coast. There were 734 Italians on board the ship, 486 died. Of the 479 Germans on board, 175 died.
Canadian destroyer H.M.C.S. St. Laurent and later British destroyer, H.M.S. Walkerarrived on the scene but sadly many were lost as they drowned not as a result of the sea itself but were caught in the scum of oil that was lost from the cruise ship.
This incident caused an immediate investigation and though the British Government considered reversing their decision to transfer prisoners in this manner, it appears that many of the survivors were temporarily housed in Greenock (in a disused factory) before resuming their journey to Australia. En-route they once again suffered torpedo incidents and maltreatment from some of the guards.
One of the survivors, Sgr. Baldelli recounts his experience in the form of a ballad (the translation of which I shall post on the website soon).
Ironically, one of the Italian internees who perished in the Arandora Star was a Silvestro d'Ambrosio, a confectioner and restaurateur from Hamilton. Unbelievably, Silvestro lived in Scotland for 42 years, had one son in the British, and another in the Canadian Army.
It is also understood that there was a significant number of people of Italian parentage who were actually born in Scotland, yet they too were on board the Arandora Star.
Indeed celebrated author Joe Pieri himself had a lucky escape as he himself nearly boarded the ill fated Arandora Star, only to be told that it was full and was redirected to another ship.
Today there have been countless calls to commemorate the tragic sinking of the Arandora Star with a day of remembrance.
Perhaps a poignant thought on this tragedy as recalled byBruno Sereni in They took the low road.
'Our countrymen left no memoirs, no diaries, no scribbled notes. The little that we know has been related to us verbally.'
To some degree I believe that this also extends to the history of the Scots-Italian.
Never again did Blue Star use the name Arandora in her fleet such was the large loss of life.
Word has reached me from the Isle of Colonsay from Kevin Byrne of a recent memorial erected to the memory of the sad loss of those on the Arandora Star. See attached email below.
MEMORIAL TO ALL WHO PERISHED IN THE LOSS OF “ARANDORA STAR”
The Arandora Star was sunk on July 2nd 1940, with the loss of more than 800 souls. Over 850 survivors were rescued by the Canadian destroyer HMCS “St Laurent” under Commander H.G. de Wolf but the remains of some hundreds of those who perished were never recovered. A small number were eventually carried by wind and tide to a landfall in Colonsay, including the remains of Giuseppe Delgrosso, a native of Borgo Val di Taro. He was brought ashore in a particularly beautiful corner of the island and it is hoped that a small memorial there will serve to preserve his memory and that of all who perished, including those whose only resting place is the sea.
Sacred to the memory ofGiuseppe Delgrosso and of more than 800 others who perished with "Arandora Star" July 2nd 1940
fo sgàil do sgiathan falaich mi
Psalm 17, v. 8
This memorial has now been installed and it is to be dedicated on:
Saturday 2nd July 2005
A warm invitation is extended to anyone who may wish to attend, including all who contributed towards the work and of course to all those who have a personal connection with the tragedy.
On a practical note, please note that the site is fairly remote and entails a walk of more than 1 kilometre each way, across rough heather moorland. For further details of this or any other aspect please contact:
This poignant memorial was recently unveiled on the Isle of Colonsay to those who to the perished on the Arandora Star, in memory of Giuseppe Delgrosso one who died that fateful night on July 2nd 1940.
The Arandora Star Campaign
This is a campaign to make known the tragic events of June/July 1940 and the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Arandora Star.
To obtain an official apology from the British Prime Minister and to seek compensation for the many Italian families who suffered grave personal and financial loss due to the Government's policy of internment.
To recognise the brave contribution made to the British war effort by sons, brothers and cousins of those interned.
* List of the Fallen from the Arandora Star
* Obituary of Canadian War Hero DeWolf, one of the major rescuers of the Arandora Star