Italian POWs in Orkney

Discussion in 'Prisoners of War' started by KJane, Mar 20, 2007.

  1. KJane

    KJane Junior Member


    I'm new to the forum so not sure if this has been covered by hundreds of people hundreds of times before. I'm looking for information about camp 60 in Orkney, especially personal accounts of Italian POWs and people who knew them.

    Hope someone can help.

  2. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

  3. the_historian

    the_historian Pillboxologist

    Not much more help here either. If memory serves there were at least two camps on Orkney-Burray & Lamb Holm. Prisoners from both were used to build the Churchill barriers-a system of blockships designed to be sunk and block as many unofficial entrances into Scapa Flow as possible after U47 sneaked in and sank the Royal Oak in 1939. The barriers were extended into inter-island causeways after the war.
    Under the 1929 Geneva Convention POWs couldn't be used for war-related work, but after the Italian Armistice in 1943 many 'Co-Belligerents' (or friendly Italians) volunteered to work to get out of the camps, and did a variety of work which they couldn't be asked to do previously. This didn't apply to those classified as 'Black' or categories 'C' or 'C+'- the die-hard Nazis and Fascists. They remained locked up until after VE Day.
    If you go to the Scottish Archive Network website (SCRAN), you'll find photos of POWs from both Orkney camps. Scran - Group Of Italian Prisoners Of War Outside The Italian Chapel, Lamb Holm
  4. vailron

    vailron Senior Member

  5. spidge

    spidge RAAF RESEARCHER Patron

    Thanks for posting those Vailron.

    They must have been Christopher Wren and Michaelangelo wrapped into one.
  6. vailron

    vailron Senior Member

  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Bumping this old thread because my oldest daughter has just returned home after a tour of the area and was waxing lyrical about the Italian chapel that she and her husband visited.

    The historiical aspect of Scapa Flow and the naval disaster is, I regret to say, not an area of ww2 history that I have studied in depth but I intend to remedy that as soon as possible.

  8. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

  9. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    By one of those wierd quirks of fate my daughter visited the chapel during the relevant period and has already sent off photos taken within the chapel as requested by the local constabulary.

  10. martinb

    martinb Member

    The Italian Chapel is such beautiful work = how could anyone steal from there.
  11. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Sadly, Martin, some people have no morals whatsoever. A lousy thief hitting a soft target becoming more and more commonplace now unfortunately.
    Ron, I hope your daughter's photos will help the police in their investigation.

  12. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron


    When my daughter was discussing the holiday, prior to the theft being announced in the press, she commented on how the lack of security in that part of the world was very evident and that in a lot of the tourist sites it was left to the honesty of visiitors to pay for items.

    It seems now that the expected honesty could have been misjudged !

  13. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

  14. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Just returned from a visit so am sharing some photos, a really interesting site and beautiful craftsmanship. 58.889637, -2.890407

    Italian Chapel (1).JPG Italian Chapel (2).JPG Italian Chapel (3).JPG Italian Chapel (4).JPG Italian Chapel (5).JPG Italian Chapel (6).JPG Italian Chapel (7).JPG Italian Chapel (8).JPG Italian Chapel (9).JPG Italian Chapel (10).JPG

    Much of the chapel was made from scrap materials including the lanterns - from old bully beef tins!
    4jonboy and Hugh MacLean like this.
  15. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    The Chapel is located at the historic site of Scapa Flow, some photos of the Churchill barriers, constructed by the Italian POWs
    58.892994, -2.896472

    Scapa Flow (1).JPG Scapa Flow (2).JPG Scapa Flow (3).JPG Scapa Flow (4).JPG Scapa Flow (5).JPG

    and sunken block ships 58.870205, -2.912937

    Scapa Flow (6).JPG Scapa Flow (7).JPG Scapa Flow (8).JPG Scapa Flow (9).JPG
    4jonboy likes this.
  16. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Thanks for the photos.
    Is the wreck used for diving? as there appears to be a landing deck along the side.

  17. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

  18. Ian Balcombe

    Ian Balcombe Junior Member

    Hi Tom,
    The wreck is called "The Reginald" and was sunk as a blockship during WW1. It lies about a mile from my house. There are local tales which suggest that she would roll from one side to the other as the tide changed. The deck is just a platform used as a place to store "creels", the local name for lobster pots. This wreck is in very shallow water.... just 3-4 metres so is very rarely dived. However, the wrecks on the western side of the barrier are dived on a daily basis during the summer, usually during training dives. The divers swim out from the shore.

    Kind Regards,
  19. Ian Balcombe

    Ian Balcombe Junior Member

    Hi KJ,

    There is a wealth of information on this subject. Until recently I worked at Kirkwall Grammar School which has in the past hosted large groups of schoolchildren from Moena, the hometown of many of the Italian prisoners including the key figures behind the Chapel. The children are often the direct descendents (grandchildren, great-grandchildren) of the Italian prisoners. I have a 44 page booklet entitled "Churchill's Prisoners - the Italians in Orkney 1942-44" which details the story. It was privately published and has no ISBN number. I think that it might be on sale at the Italian Chapel itself.

    Kind regards,
  20. Simon Smith

    Simon Smith New Member

    hello, new to the forum but hoping someone somewhere can help me.

    My wifes father was an Engineer sent to Orkney after Scapa flow help with the construction of the Churchill Barriers. The story we have is that during the construction, where he worked closely with the Italian POWs, there was an explosion. Possibly from a steam engine, an Italian POW pushed my partners father, Norman Stewart Pollock, out of the way and the POW was killed doing so.

    If this story is true we want to set out on a pilgrimage to find this mans family and thank them, because without his selfless actions she, her children and her grand child would not be here now.

    Any leads or information on this would be really gratefully received.

    Thanks in advance

    Simon Smith

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