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Arandora Star story

Included in our 'Secret Glasgow' walk; beside St Andrews Catholic Church on Clyde St.


The Daily Record reported this ceremony in 2013


MORE than 70 years have now passed since the sinking of the Arandora Star took place but, for members of the Scots-Italian community in Renfrewshire, the painful memories live on.

More than 800 men were killed when the ship was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat off the north-west coast of Ireland on July 2, 1940.


Nearly 500 of those who perished in the disaster were Italians – including Pasqualino Meta and Quinto Santini, who were among those arrested in Paisley as “enemy aliens” after Mussolini had declared war against Britain in June that year.

This week, a monument to victims of the Arandora Star tragedy was unveiled at the Italian Cloister Garden, next to St Andrew’s Cathedral in Glasgow.


The unveiling of the memorial at the Cloister Garden was a poignant occasion for many other Scots who have Italian roots.

He told the Paisley Daily Express: “It was very, very emotional. The memorial itself is outstanding. My father was on the Arandora Star’s sister ship, which sailed afterwards. He was taken to Montreal in Canada as a prisoner of war and I decided it would be the right thing to do to contribute some money to the memorial.”


The Arandora Star was originally a cruise ship operated by the Blue Star Line from the late 1920s through the 1930s.

She was based mainly in Southampton and travelled to many different destinations, including Norway, the Mediterranean, the West Indies, Panama, Cuba and Florida.

The Arandora Star also had two unique nicknames – ‘The Wedding Cake’ and ‘The Chocolate Box’ – because of her colour scheme of a white hull with scarlet ribbon.

At the onset of World War II, she was assigned as a troop transport vessel.


She evacuated troops from Norway and France in June 1940, before undertaking what was to be her final voyage transporting Axis nationals and prisoners of war to Canada.

Having left Liverpool unescorted on July 1, 1940, under the command of Edgar Wallace Moulton, she was bound for St John’s in Newfoundland and Canadian internment camps, with nearly 1,200 German and Italian internees.

There were also 374 British men, comprising both military guards and the ship’s crew.

The Italians numbered 712 men of all ages, most of whom had been residing in Britain when Mussolini declared war.

The ship was bearing no Red Cross sign, which could have shown that she was carrying prisoners, and especially civilians.

At 6.58am on July 2, she was struck by a torpedo from the German submarine U-47. It is assumed that U-47 mistook her grey wartime livery for that of an armed merchant cruiser.

All power on the Arandora Star was lost at once and, 35 minutes after the torpedo impact, she sank.

The modified cruise ship had carried 14 lifeboats, of which one was immediately destroyed upon torpedo impact.

Another could not be lowered off its winches and two were damaged during their launch and proved to be useless.

At least four of the remaining lifeboats were launched, with a small number of survivors inside.


Only 586 of the 1,216 detainees cheated death.

In the weeks following the Arandora Star’s sinking, many bodies of those who had perished were carried by the sea to various points in Ireland and the Hebrides.

Sinking

The sinking of the Arandora Star touched virtually every Italian family living in Scotland.

The iconic silver-mirrored monument in the Italian Cloister Garden that was unveiled this week recalls all those who died, including Mr Meta, who was born south of Rome in Cassino in 1899, and Mr Santini, who was born in Pistoia, near Tuscany, in 1880.

Their names are among those of around 100 Scots-Italians that are inscribed on a marble plaque in the garden.

The monument was officially unveiled by First Minister Alex Salmond and Mario Conti, who is Archbishop of Glasgow.

Also at the launch was 91-year-old Rando Bertoia – the only living survivor of the Arandora Star disaster.


Archbishop Conti said: “The central monument is an interactive installation, built next to a 200-year-old olive tree, which encourages us to reflect on the great mysteries of life, death and resurrection.


“What people will see and experience on a visit to the garden is a result of the generosity of today’s Scots-Italian community.”

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