War in Europe begins in September 1939 but Italy waits until June 1940 to enter
© 2011 Paul Forte
Winston Churchill becomes Prime Minister in May 1940
10 May 1940
On 10 June, Italy declares war on Britain and, by the end of the month, German forces have invaded the Channel Islands - consequently Prime Minister Winston Churchill, fearing that an invasion is imminent, does not want to risk the presence of a fifth column of Nazi sympathisers on British soil. Ignoring the tribunal arrangements set up by the Home Office since the beginning of the war, he issues the order, 'Collar the lot', and declares that all Italian male civilians between the ages of 18 and 70 years living in the UK are to be arrested by the police and the military. They are forcibly and quickly taken from their homes or their places of business to be interned under instructions of the War Cabinet. Special Branch Officers arrest several hundred Italians living in London , most of whom are restaurateurs, chefs and waiters who have been living in Britain for most of their adult lives. Throughout the rest of England, Scotland and Wales, many more are arrested and taken to transit camps before joining some 9,000 German and Austrian nationals in various internment camps on the Isle of Man. Facilities are basic, but it is boredom that is the greatest enemy. Internees organise educational and artistic projects, including lectures, concerts and camp newspapers. At first married women are not allowed into the camps to see their husbands, but by August 1940 visits are permitted, and a family camp is established in late 1941. Throughout the UK, there is growing animosity against Italians, often resulting in cruel torment and violent exchanges, and whilst the men are interned, it is the women who are left to manage the family businesses.
An outcry in Parliament leads to a change in policy and the first releases of internees in August 1940. By February 1941 more than 10,000 have been freed, and by the following summer, only 5,000 are left in internment camps. Many of those released from internment subsequently contribute to the war effort on the Home Front or serve in the armed forces.
The Internment Camps on the Isle of Man were spread out all over the Island but the main ones were at Peel, Douglas, Onchan, Port Erin, Port St. Mary and Ramsey. Italians designated as fascists were kept at Douglas in the Metropole Camp, shown in the photograph top left of the page. Other camps were called Granville, Sefton, Hutchinson, Central and Palace. Most hotel owners and restaurateurs were held at Onchan, other Italians were kept at Morragh, Ramsey.
Internees who originated from the Casalattico area included:
Domenico Borza (Scotland)
Workers digging for Manganese in the Mortale Mine
An Italian prayer book from the Palace Internment Camp on the Isle of Man
The seafront at Mooragh Internment Camp, Ramsey
Giuseppe Forte (Belfast)
Giuseppe Forte (Barry Island)
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