Presentation in the garden of Villa Gherardi of the book by the Florentine scholar, Maria Serena Balestracci – “Arandora Star: dall’oblivion to memory ”
A book that in recent years has undoubtedly contributed to bringing this sad and tragic story out of oblivion that is linked to the history of Italian emigration to Great Britain and which, as far as Barga is concerned, saw several victims among the Bargo-Scots.
In early June 1940, immediately Italy entered the Second World War, all Italian male civilians between the ages of 18 and 70 years living in the UK were arrested by the police and military to be interned under instructions of the War Cabinet.
Following a decision to transport a number of internees to Canada and Australia the liner “Arandora Star” left Liverpool for Canada carrying some 1,570 Italian, German and Jewish internees, mostly shop owners, barbers, market salesmen and such like who had been arrested by the British as they were considered a threat once Italy had allied with Germany.
The ship was also carrying 200 troops to guard the prisoners and some heavy machine guns for protection.
It was the 2nd of July 1940, the Arandora Star’s third day at sea and the captain was unhappy with the weather as it was flat calm and they were clearly visible to enemy ships.
Meanwhile a German U-boat captain called Prien was on his way back to Germany and not very happy either.
Prien was aged just 32 and was already a war hero, but one of his students, a captain Endrass, was set to receive an award for the highest tonnage of ships sunk within that month. This obviously did not sit well with his master’s ego.
Prien was on his way home with seemingly no hope of beating Endrass, as he was 5,000 tonnes short of doing so and had no deck ammunition and only one torpedo.
Then on July the 2nd he spotted the Arandora Star and sank her with his remaining torpedo.
At 07.58 hours on 2 July 1940 the unescorted Arandora Star (Master Edgar Wallace Moulton) was hit by one torpedo from U-47 about 125 miles west by north of Malin Head, Co. Donegal and foundered later in 56°30N/10°38W. The ship had 479 German internees, 734 Italian internees, 86 German prisoners-of-war and 200 military guards on board. The master, 12 officers, 42 crewmen, 37 guards, 470 Italians and 243 Germans were lost. 119 crew members, 163 guards and 586 Italians and Germans were picked up by HMCS St. Laurent (H 83) (Cdr H.G. De Wolf, RCN) and landed at Greenock. – source
The Italians began clambering into the lifeboats to save themselves from drowning but the British shot holes in the lifeboats to stop them from escaping.
682 people perished including 200 soldiers (full list here) The surviving Italians were shipped back to Liverpool where they were transported to prison camps in Australia the following week. – source – BBC
Among those lost on the Arandora Star were the following Barghigiani:
Agostini Oliviero 29.04.1904
Bertolini Vincenzo Silvio 14.06.1876
Biagioni Ferdinando 06.07.1895
Da Prato Silvio 27.02.1878
Poli Amedeo 10.03.1896
Rocchiccioli Caesar 06.12.1909
Togneri Giuseppe 19.03.1889
ALL articles about the Arandora Star already published on barganews can be seen here