ON 2 July 1940 the SS Arandora Star was torpedoed off north-west Ireland. The liner was carrying civilian “enemy aliens” from Britain to internment camps in Canada. Nearly 800 of them drowned. Some were German Jews, but most were Italians: grocers, ice-cream vendors, waiters and chefs, many of whom had lived all their lives in Britain.
Their families survived, but even now the memories of the deaths of their menfolk and the way neighbours turned on on them, looting shops and smashing windows, are raw. As one of the Arandora Star victims’ descendants asks – how would Britons behave today to the outsiders in their communities?
My story on the sinking of the Arandora Star and the cruelties inflicted on the Anglo-Italian community during World War Two is in this week’s Newsweek magazine – read it here.