By Bill McStay
On a late summer’s morning in August 1940, a Requiem Mass was said in the Donegal church of Saint Macartan in Carndonagh, followed by a burial in the nearby cemetery.
The circumstances were unusual, for 48-year old Cesare Camozzi had been born in Lombardy in Northern Italy, and had spent most of his adult life in Manchester. He had died by drowning on 2 July, 1940, and his body had been cast up by the Atlantic tides. He was one of the 805 victims who perished in the sinking of the Arandora Star west of Bloody Foreland.
Like many of his 730 countrymen aboard the ship on her last fateful voyage, Cesare had, some years before, made a new life for himself in Britain, driven by poverty from his homeland. But his adopted country, for long a tolerant place of refuge for immigrants, was fearful of German invasion in the months following the outbreak of war in September 1939.
A growing hostility and suspicion towards those especially of German or Italian birth culminated in Prime Minister Churchill’s terse order: ‘Collar the lot!’
By mid-1940, over 8,000 males had been interned in camps in Orkney and the Isle of Man, or were earmarked for deportation to Canada. They were given no time to take leave of their families, but were unceremoniously rounded up.
When the Arandora Star sailed from Liverpool in the early hours of 1 July, 1940, bound for Saint John’s in Newfoundland, she carried just over 1,200 interned males—734 Italians and 479 Germans.