2nd July 1940. Internment 1940.
‘Collar the Lot’, was Churchill’s response to the rounding-up of enemy nationals in WWII, at a time when Britain faced invasion.(1)
However this policy was reversed after the Blue Star Liner, Arandora Star bound for St. John’s Newfoundland and Canada, carrying 1200 Germans and Italians, including 86 POW.s, was sunk by a U-boat Today in 1940. It resulted in the loss of 175 Germans and 500 Italians out of a total of 1216.(2)
Internment of foreign nationals followed the panic after the fall of France, though main preparatory work had been done in October 1939 when tribunals were given the task of classifying Germans and Austrians resident here.(3)
There were three categories of ‘enemy alien’; ignoring the fact that many had fled from the Nazis: ‘A.s’ were to be interned; ‘B.s’ were to have movement restricted; ‘C.s’ were to be exempt.Out of 74,000 examined, only 600 were recommended for internment, whilst 64,000 were classed as Category C. However by May 1940 widespread internment was introduced, following the attack on western Europe, and also after campaigns in the Daily Mail and The Times.
By 12th May, a wide coastal belt from Inverness, in Scotland, to East Dorset was declared protected and German males between the ages of 16-60, within the belt, were rounded up for ‘temporary’ internment.
By the 16th all German and Austrian males in Category B across country were rounded up to be joined by thousands of females. By June Chief Constables were ordered to extend internment to all Male Category C ‘aliens’ under the age of seventy, with exceptions for key workers and the disabled.
One such internee, a friendly enemy alien, was the Austrian Jew, Siegmund Nissel a refugee from Hitler, who became an air-raid warden, later to play violin in the famous Amadeus String Quartet.
Within a few weeks of Italian entry into war on June 10th, Germans were joined by 4,500 Italians in camps at Bury, Huyton, Kempton Park Racecourse, and the Isle of Man, where many were lodged in guest houses, home to many intellectuals and artists.
Those in camps, however suffered overcrowding and lacked status as military prisoners of war as the intention, fancifully, was eventually deportation.
By July 1942 only a hard core of 400 were left interned as the policy was deemed insensitive as most were foreign refugees from Hitler. Many were employed on farms and became model workers. POW.s were a different problem altogether, the last not to be repatriated until 1948.
After the war many elected to stay in Britain, with many Italians forming a community around Bedford, employed in the brick-yards.
(1) As reported in Cabinet Minutes of the time.
(2) The Arandora Star was launched by Cammel Laird, Birkenhead on 1.4.1927 was torpedoed 2.7.1940 was known as the Wedding Cake or Chocolate Box. 8000 were to be shipped to Canada and Australia.
(3) Henry Poretta an Italian who travelled from Newport, South Wales selling ice-cream was arrested and interned as recorded in Yesterday’s Country Village. p.93. Henry Buckton. David/ Charles. 2005.
wikipedia.org/Pic of ship.