Arandora Star: Scottish Italians killed in World War Two sinking remembered

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The converted liner was taking internees to Canada when it was sunk by a torpedo

A service has been streamed online to remember the Scottish Italians killed in a World War Two tragedy.

They were among hundreds of internees who died when the Arandora Star was torpedoed on 2 July 1940.

A mass was held at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow and streamed live as it is not open to the public.

The 80th anniversary was also marked by a short prayer and blessing along with a wreath-laying at the nearby Italian garden.

A wreath-laying will take place as part of proceedings to remember the Scottish Italian victims

The Arandora Star was a converted liner being used to transport internees – and some German prisoners of war – to Canada when it was sunk by a torpedo from a U-boat off the Irish coast.

About 100 Scots-Italians were among the more than 800 victims of the attack – the majority of whom were Italians rounded up around Britain as “enemy aliens”.

According to historian Raffaello Gonnella from Glasgow, the story remains an important one for the community even after so many years.

“The impact was huge – every single Italian Scottish family lost a relation or knew a family who lost someone in the tragedy,” he said.

Mr Gonnella said Scottish Italian families like his mother’s – the Santinis – had been hugely affected by the tragedy

His own maternal grandfather – Quinto Santini from Paisley – was among those who died that day and is commemorated at the memorial in Glasgow.

“The tragedy of the Arandora Star will never be forgotten by these families and by the new generations of Scottish Italians as we continue to tell the story to many other non-Italian Scots,” said Mr Gonnella.

He also said he believed, like many, that the disaster could “almost definitely” have been avoided if it had been made clear the ship was carrying internees.

There are a number of other memorials to the victims outside of Scotland

“The Arandora Star sailed without any markings and was not part of any convoy,” he said.

“At least Red Cross markings should have been painted on the ship and why was such a prestigious ship allowed to make the journey alone?”

Many of those below deck were killed immediately by the torpedo – while others drowned trying to access lifeboats on a ship carrying many more people than it was designed to transport.

The mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral is being streamed online due to coronavirus

However, Mr Gonnella is not among those who feel there should be some kind of apology issued for what happened.

He simply wants the words on the memorial to the victims – we will never forget you – to be honoured.

“I want the story told and the events back then written into history and remembered,” he said.

They were certainly recalled in Glasgow – and many other locations across the country – by families with connections to those on board the ill-fated vessel eight decades ago.

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