BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

The Story of the Italians in Britain WW2

by Italiani

You are browsing in:

Archive List > Civilian Internment

Contributed by 
Italiani
People in story: 
The Italian Community
Location of story: 
Scotland
Background to story: 
Civilian
Article ID: 
A3174419
Contributed on: 
24 October 2004

Many aspects of World War 2 are ever present with us through the media eg films, documentation etc.
However one aspect and one people have never been included in any films or books for that matter, and these people lived here in Britain. These people were the greatest immigrant asset that the british people have ever known (at least in recent times). These people were not integrated into the community by some government office. These were the people who were at the receiving end of racist torture. For them there were no government handouts nor did they take jobs "ear marked" for the indigineous population. Infact they created job opportunities. How were these people repayed for this service?
During World War 2 they were "round up" in the middle of the night, sent away from theirfamilies who(in many cases spoke little English), their businesses destroyed,
and in the case of the Arandora Star ship sent to Canada with a skeleton crew and no red cross. On the way the ship was bombed and hundreds lost their lives.
At home the police turned a blind eye as the "mob" looted and detroyed their homes and shops.
These people were the Italians!
They had left their sun kissed landed, their spacious homes to make their fortunes.

Unlike the Irish these people, they did not ask for any special provisions eg. Catholic State schools. They would have made their own way in Education.
They were NO threat to anyone.

Nowadays the British people are trully impressed with Tuscany, where many of these people came from. Then it was a case of "Dirty Tally". The German soldiers prisoners of War were treated much better.
After the war not one of these maltreated individuals ever complained to the British Government nor asked anyone for compensation for waht happened.
Moreover, the vast majority did not support Mussolini and their relatives in Italy.......... Partisans hid escaped allied soldiers from the Nazis. My own grandparents did this. Many people were shot, (in my village of origin,) in Northern Tuscany by Nazi soldiers.

What are they doing now? Well, if we look at the Italian surnames in the Arts, Business and Commerce in Scotland we will found that they outweigh all others in proportion to the numbers in the community.
To name just a few.... Tom Conti, Daniella Nardini, Archbishop Conti, Sergio Casci etc etc
There is one Catholic Private School in the West of Scotland. The Catholic population here is approx. 50% of the total population. Italians are less than 5%. Yet in the school 30% of the pupils are from Italian descent.
In short, the successes of the Italian Community in Scotland far outweigh any other group per capita.

All of what I have said and more now exists on the net. Try searching ship Arandora Star eg.

Go on give us a "new" War film or documentary.

Later, if the BBC does not take up this challenge I will pass this information onto the RAI.

Thanks for reading.

M.A. Biagi

PS Should you weish me to recount an actual story then I could do on request.

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - The Story of the Italians in Britain WW2

Posted on: 24 October 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

See my comments here F1921719?thread=510913 on the duplicate entry of this story.

Message 1 - Italians in Britain.

Posted on: 02 November 2004 by Frank Mee Researcher 241911

Hello Italiani,
Firstly could you tell me how old you are. This story to me is not of some one having lived through those times.
Some of the statements are quite outlandish, "Racist torture" "Germans getting better treatment than Italians"?
I remember the total shock of my parents and family members when Italy declared war on us, it was so unexpected we simply could not believe it.
We had already had months of stories concerning "Fifth Column" and "Spies" and when the Germans began the invasion of Holland Belgium and France those stories multiplied. We had Storm troopers disguised as Nuns and Para-troops dressed as women if the propaganda and urban myths were to be believed.
We were also at that time in fear of a German invasion over the channel and the civilian population were mobilised to watch out for anything unusual. We had reports of the local washer woman using her clothes lines of washing to send messages to overflying German planes and if you showed a light after the blackout you could find yourself in a police station explaining why you were signalling to the German planes.
What I am saying is there was fear and distrust everywhere so when Italy came into the war there was a knee jerk reaction.
We had Italian businesses in Stockton and yes they were attacked by frightened enraged men in the town after a Saturday night boozing. The reaction of the rest was one of horror at those attacks and an attempt to put things right. The police intervened and the elder men of those families were interned but those businesses opened up almost at once and were used in the normal way. I actually went to school with some of the sons and daughters of those people and even to this day one of those old businesses is still open.
I remember the first Italian prisoners of war they were soon moving around working in the area without guards and the people treat them as they would their own workers. The Germans were treated much more harshly although in time the ordinary forces as against the hard core did become more free.
A Country in fear of invasion, told that every corner could hide a spy or saboteur, you are going to get reaction. Having seen some of that reaction and how things quickly got back to normal or as normal as they can get in an all out war, I must tell you you are wrong.
There may have been an odd case of over reaction and as in the case of a Friend of mine that over reaction may have caused people to be driven from the country.
It was all out war, we were losing family, friends and neighbours and getting dire warnings of the enemy in our midst, frightening times which led to some bad things happening but not on the scale you are saying.
We who lived through those times with the constant bombing and fear of invasion know what can turn ordinary people into a mob. The frustration and the need to hit back can cause people to lose thier common decency for a short period but it never lasts long.
We do not in these times need to spread old hates around as there is enough of it for us all to see on TV. I think people today are losing that feeling we had for many years after that war solves nothing and hatred destroys the soul so why try opening old wounds.
Sorry Italiani I think you are wrong.
Regards Frank.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

Civilian Internment Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy