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Yesterday someone brought up Being Human's Daisy/Ivan flashback scene in the London Blitz, reminding me of something I've been looking for, and this morning I found it! \o/

(No spoilers past 2.07, and only non-plot-specific biographical ones before that.)

When I first saw the flashback scene, I assumed Daisy’s husband (mentioned as lost in a shipwreck six months before) was a sailor or soldier. Then Mitchell told Nancy her full name was Daisy Hannigan Spiteri. Then Nancy actually found a record of such a person dying in the Blitz, thus demonstrating that Mitchell had not — as I more than half suspected — pulled the unlikely-sounding name out of his scrambled little hygienically-challenged head.

Then, a few months later, I heard a memoir on public radio by an elderly gentleman with a strong Glaswegian accent, recounting his experience of being ordered onto a ship loaded with young Italian immigrant men and shipped across the Atlantic to a POW camp in Quebec, where he was interned for the duration of the war before returning to help his parents run their restaurant.

He was remarkably unbitter about the whole thing, and in fact considered it not a bad experience, once the Canadian guards got past their confusion about what category of prisoners had just arrived and stopped yelling at them in German.

And, before that, he got past the ocean journey. Which was no picnic, but about which the man was thankful his ship hadn’t sunk like another before it.

Needless to say, at that point I thought instantly of Daisy’s lost husband, alongside my astonishment at this intensely personal account of a chapter of history I had previously known nothing about. But apparently Whithouse & Co. know something about it, and wove it into the texture of their story without calling attention to their own cleverness. That, my friends, is worldbuilding.

Unfortunately, I heard it in the car, and by the time I got to a computer to look for a downloadable file, I had forgotten the gentleman’s name and exactly what program it was on. But! This time I managed to throw the right combination of keywords into Google to find the an amazon.co.uk listing for his book, Isle of the Displaced. That gave me his name, Joe Pieri, which allowed me to finally locate a podcast of the account, which turns out to have been on the BBC World Service “Witness” segment. (Here I’ve been sure all this time it was on either CBC’s As It Happens or the locally produced ReSound. I was driving a lot that weekend.) Scroll down just over halfway to the Fri, 10 Jun 11 edition.

I expect the Brits here know at least something of this bit of history, the way we do about the concurrent internment of Japanese-Americans, but it was all new to me. And whether you know it or not, it’s nine minutes of riveting radio.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 4th, 2012 08:23 am (UTC)
A lot of Italians ended up in camps in Wales. Leading, post-war, (and among other things) to some superb ice-cream being produced in those areas.

(We had POWs, as well as those interred for being of the "wrong" heritage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/nov/08/prisoner-of-war-camps-uk)
Jun. 4th, 2012 08:43 am (UTC)
Apparently, from the book synopsis, they were all supposed to be closer to home, and Pieri's group being sent to the Canadian POW camp was a mistake?

I knew (or more precisely assumed) there were regular POW camps in Britain, but hadn't ever thought about the possibility that anyone else did internment of citizens/residents the way the US did. I did learn some years ago that Canada interned its citizens/residents of Japanese descent too, but the notion of targeting Italians would never have occurred to me, though it seems obvious now.
Jun. 4th, 2012 09:06 am (UTC)
I don't know as much about it as I probably should. (I stopped doing history at school before we got to the Second World War *sigh*)

I have photos of my Dad in RAF uniform in Italy, and he did tell a few stories from that period of his career. (Most memorably about people using wheelbarrow-fulls of virtually worthless paper currency to buy loaves of bread...)

I honestly don't know how credible Mussolini was as a threat, but he was definitely on the 'other' side, so hapless folk who didn't deserve it got picked up and shipped to ridiculous places mostly, from what I can tell, because it seemed like a good idea at the time...
Jun. 4th, 2012 10:43 am (UTC)
Probably about as credible as Japan was via its diaspora. *wry g* Which is why I shouldn't be surprised that it happened elsewhere to people with roots in other Axis nations. Illogical through today's eyes, but not surprising. As with so many things that seemed like a good idea at the time!
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
I've recently watched a series called Bomb Girls, which is set in WWII Canada, and there's a whole subplot about the Italian guy who works in the factory and how people give him crap and assume he's a fascist sympathizer. I found this somewhere difficult to get my head used to. "No," I kept wanting to say, "that was the Japanese."
Jun. 5th, 2012 08:34 am (UTC)
I got hold of the first ep of that, but haven't watched it yet. Know a lot of people who rave about it, though.

Edited at 2012-06-05 12:35 pm (UTC)
Jun. 12th, 2012 09:27 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed it, though I wouldn't say it's, you know, subtle.
Jun. 4th, 2012 09:11 am (UTC)
I didn't know about the internment of immigrants, but I knew there were Italian POWs in Britain.

There's a chapel on one of the Orkney Islands that was created by Italian POWs during World War II. Originally a plain Nissen hut, the chapel was ornately decorated and has been preserved by a local group. I visited the chapel during my trip to the Orkneys in 1995.

The POWs, by the way, were put to work creating an underwater barrier in nearby Scapa Flow.
Jun. 4th, 2012 10:41 am (UTC)
POWs I expect, though I was startled by the number of dots on the map kjaneway linked to.

Internment always takes me by surprise. It shouldn't, but it just seems so obviously illogical through today's eyes.
Jun. 4th, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
I didn't know!
Thank you so very much for all your trouble finding and posting those links.

I just listened to the podcast. This is something about which I knew nothing! Like many Americans, especially here on the west coast, I know a moderate amount about the inexcusable US internment of Japanese-American citizens -- from a report in high-school to an art museum exhibit just this summer -- but, like you, I had just never imagined that other countries had... perpetrated the same stupid, frightened injustice. (Granted, the UK in this case doesn't seem to have exported women and children, nor appropriated land and property, which is a big part of the larger US tragedy, but... still!)

Thank you.
Jun. 5th, 2012 08:35 am (UTC)
Re: I didn't know!
You're very welcome! I wanted to have/save it for myself, so once I found it, sharing was the easy part. :-)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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