In search of Italian memories of World War Two

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Image caption, Many Italian families, such as my own, were affected by WWII internment

It is not a date which features largely in the collective British memory of World War Two.

And yet it affected countless families dotted across the country.

On 10 June 1940, Benito Mussolini declared war on Britain and, in the process, turned the lives of many immigrants upside down.

It resulted almost immediately in the decision to intern thousands of Italian men over the age of 16 who were resident in the UK.

From being part of the local community, often in ice cream or fish and chip businesses, they were now "enemy aliens".

"Collar the lot!" was reputed to have been the message from Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

It certainly worked, as many families saw their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers taken away.

Many ended up interned in a camp on the Isle of Man but others were put on ships heading further afield.

Image caption, Mussolini's declaration of war on led to the internment of thousands of Italians

One such vessel was the Arandora Star, a converted passenger liner which set sail from Liverpool destined for Canada.

On 2 July 1940 it was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat resulting in the death of more than 400 Italians on board.

Few families among the large immigrant community in the UK were unaffected by these events.

My own grandfather spent time in Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison, my great-uncle was taken away from his family as a teenager and my grandmother's first husband died shortly after being rescued from the Arandora Star.

This year is the 70th anniversary of those dates which had such a profound effect on Italians in Britain.

The BBC Scotland news website wants to hear your stories of that time.

Maybe your ancestors were taken to the Isle of Man, Canada or other camps used to intern Italians.

Perhaps you remember the attacks on a local ice cream and fish and chip shop following Mussolini's declaration of war.

It could be that your family lost a loved one on the Arandora Star.

Whatever your memories of that time, we would like you to share them with us in order to mark the upcoming anniversaries.

Please complete the form below with your details and any information you may have.

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