Art  Below - Plaque
Internment of Italian Aliens -

A group of Italian internees, Palace Internment camp Isle of Man. Agostino De Marco is third from the left, front row, next to the priest. In the top row, either side of the tall man are Alfonso and Allesandro De Marco from Eastbourne.

1940 - Internment of Italian

The Italian community that had settled in Britain prior to WW2 was well integrated into society and although they had, by and large, retained much of their cultural identity and connections with their homeland, they had set up permanent homes and businesses here and their sons and daughters were born and educated in this country. The historically friendly relations between the two countries and the pre-war freedom of travel and settlement meant that the older generation had not thought it necessary to acquire British citizenship.

On June 10 1940, Mussoliini entered the war on the side of the Germans. An immediate round up began of Italians not possessing British nationality and Agostino De Marco, like many other Italians, was sent to the Palace internment Camp on the Isle of Man. In some cities, where there were large Italian communities, the arrests were carried out with some brutality and angry mobs attacked Italian homes and businesses. Some internees were sent abroad by sea. On 2nd July, 1940, an unescorted converted passenger ship, the Andorra Star, carrying 1,571 German and Italian internees to Canada, was torpedoed and sunk off the west coast of Ireland, with the loss of 682 lives, mostly Italians. They had been prevented from reaching the lifeboats by barbed wire placed around the boat deck.

The government was unrepentant. At the inquiry that followed, a government spokesman, the Duke of Devonshire, justified the decision to deport the refugees to the Dominions with the words: "It seemed desirable both to husband our resources and get rid of useless mouths and so forth."

On arrival, Agostino contacted his family by post, A letter sent on 7 July 1940 to his son Giacinto is to tell him where he was - House 21 Palace Internment Camp Isle of Man, and his number - 578. He asked his sons to send cigarettes, tobacco, soap and a razor.

Agostino's wife, MariaCivita was not interned but on 11 June 1940, she was instructed by Hove police to leave her home which was now in a restricted coastal area. MariaCivita could not read or write and spoke English with difficulty. Her sons protested about the decision to separate from them their elderly mother who was in poor health and who posed no threat to her adopted country but the authorities were insistent. Although her departure was delayed until 29 June, she then moved to 10 Chapel Road, Redhill.

With their businesses crippled by wartime restrictions, Geraldo now serving in the Hove fire service and Giacinto, with a wife and young family to support and about to be called up into the Army, this was a difficult time for the family.

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