NEWS » London's Italian Community Remembers Arandora Star Tragedy Book

London's Italian Community Remembers Arandora Star Tragedy Book

We asked Peter Capella, who compiled, edited and designed  “The Arandora Star Tragedy - 75 Years On, London’s Italian Community Remembers” a few questions about  the book.

 

How many stories are collected in the book?

There are mini biographies on most of the London Italians who embarked on the ship, from 3 lines for some to up to 2 columns for a few.

241 victims - name, date and place of birth was the minimum info, trade and last residence and where they were interned.

26 survivors sent to Isle of Man – no confirmed date and place of birth.

 92 survivors sent to Australia on the Dunera - name, date and place of birth, where possible date of release and means of return to UK. (except for 5 where there was no info at all).

1 London Italian crew member – info offered from descendants.

 

How were they reconstructed?

Where families had made contact with us we expanded the biographies depending on what information they had, a few had no further information. One told of the £5 reward for foiling a bank robbery.

A lot of work was done when erecting the memorial in 2012. The ‘official’ list (there is no official list) names had been misspelt, all names were cross checked with ’La Guida Generale’, a book that contained the names and addresses of all the Italians in UK (most probably the initial source for MI5 to create their list of ‘dangerous characters’).

La Guida Generale had some extended profiles on some important members of the Italian Community, these were summarised and added. There was ample information on Mario Zampi, as he was a famous film director.

 

Did relatives voluntarily share their memories or were they contacted by the Arandora Trust?

Initially, all the names we had for the unveiling of the memorial in 2012 were contacted asking for a photo and whatever information they had. A large banner was erected in the ground floor window to St Peter’s Italian Church Social Club, next to the main entrance to the Church and also in the rear entrance to the church. Requests for photos made on social media etc. A few contacted us through the Mazzini Garibaldi website which has an Arandora Star Section.

 

How long did it take to write / compile the book?

Kay Lorenzato had started compiling data on the men aboard the Arandora Star for many years prior. It was this massive amount of data which formed the basis and also the inception of the book. The compiling of the info and adding further stories took about a year.

 

Who are the main contributors?

Kay provided the backbone of the book and wrote an article on her research – how it started. I compiled the data and reformatted the text adding photos for those available. I designed and edited the book which was a full time job. Victor Menozzi wrote the articles on the timeline and reaction of Parliament at the time.

 

Did the authors discover something new or unsuspected while collecting the stories?

Great finds came unexpectedly. Anna Corsini, daughter of Peter Beschizza offered us something truly unique; he had written down on toilet paper his experiences of his initial arrest, surviving the torpedoing, 55 days of hell being transported on the Dunera and the internment in Tatura Camp in Australia. One sheet is clearly stamped ‘Government Property’.

 

IQ &

The book is designed as a keepsake to the families who lost a loved one. It asks a few questions of why were these men arrested (one was a well known anti-fascist, and wrote about the perils of fascism was among those arrested). The errors of putting civilians on a troop carrier ship – it was painted grey and had gun emplacements, it should have been painted white with the International Red Cross Symbol. The Captain had, before sailing said the ship was a death trap due to the barbed wire barricades and lack of life boats.

Giulia Lombardo

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