NEWS » The Arandora Star London Memorial Trust 75th Anniversary Events

The Arandora Star London Memorial Trust 75th Anniversary Events

After 75 years the Arandora Star tragedy still represents the deepest wound in the heart of the Italian community in the UK. The Arandora Star London Memorial Trust and the London Italian community have organised a series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the sinking of the Arandora star. The converted cruise ship carrying 1500 Italian, Austrian and German internees, crew members and “enemy allies” to Canada, was torpedoed by a German U-boat, off the North West coast of Ireland.

 

The disaster occurred on the 2nd of July 1940 when over 800 people lost their lives. 446 of them were Italians and 241 were from the London community.

 

Most of the facts surrounding the tragedy are still undisclosed despite an enquiry conducted at the time. The ship which had been painted grey did not have the International Red Cross markings to signify it was carrying civilians. Exit routes from the cabins had been sealed with barbed wire and the life boats were designed to take 500 persons. Half of the extra rafts provided were thrown overboard too early by inexperienced guards and floated away before anyone could reach them. 

 

According to the Defence Regulation 18B introduced by the British Government in 1939 the right to habeas corpus was suspended for individuals suspected of posing a threat to national security. Italians were never classified and were assembled chaotically, confusing names, fascist or anti-fascists political inclinations. Also elderly civilians who had never taken up British citizenship were arrested, despite the fact that they had sons fighting in the British army.

 

A Commemorative Book called “The Arandora Star Tragedy - 75 Years On, London’s Italian Community Remembers” which recollects details of the London Italians on board the Arandora Star, was presented on Friday 26th June 2015 at London’s Italian Cultural Institute. The book includes biographies and pictures of those who lost their lives, those who were saved but subsequently sent to Australia or re-interned on the Isle of Man. The book will have a print run of 1000 and will be distributed free upon request in return for donations to the Arandora Star London Memorial Trust. 

 

On Thursday 2nd July 2015 a mass at St Peter’s Italian Church, Clerkenwell Road, London, EC1 will be held at 7pm in the presence of the First Minister at the Italian Embassy, Vincenzo Celeste; the Italian Consul General, Massimiliano Mazzanti; the Assistant Naval Attaché of the Canadian High Commission, Commander Larry Trim; the Mayor of Islington, Cllr Richard Greening; the Mayor of Camden (tbc); Sir Keir Starmer, KCB, QC, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, and representatives of the Italian community in the UK. All the relatives of the deceased and survivors will be invited.

 

6th of July 2015 marks the opening of a 4 week exhibition at Holborn Library, Theobalds Road, London, WC1 (entrance free), including archive photographs and precious artefacts from survivors and those who perished.

 

Other commemorative events concerning the Arandora star will take place in Italian communities across the UK and in Italy, linking up with the Arandora Star London Memorial Trust. 

Giulia Lombardo

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