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World War 1
The Italian families managed to rub along nicley with most people in the local area but that was all about to change.
The outbreak of war saw peoples lives turned upside down... some lives would never be the same again.
During World War 1 some of the Italian migrants were called back home to Italy to join the army and fight for the country of thier birth.
Conscription was necessary in many countries to form an army large enough to defend against the enemy.
Italy began to fight along the northern border against Austria & Hungary including high up in the now- Italian alps where the winters were extremely cold.
Despite winning the majority of battles by repeatedly attacking the Italians suffered heavy losses. Sadly they made little progress as the mountainous terrain favoured the enemy.
In 1917 Italy was forced to retreat by the couteroffensive attack made the German-Austrian at the "Battle of Caporetto." When Russia left the war it freed up troops from the eastern front allowing the central powers to move reinforcements to the Italian front.
In November 1917 the "Battle of Monte Grappa" & "Battle of the Piave river" in 1918 saw the offensive of central powers stopped by Italian forces. The Italians also took part in the "second batlle of the Marne" and the subsequent "Hundred Days Offensive" in the western front.
During October 1918 despite being out numbered the Italians breached the Austrian line in Vittorio Veneto and caused the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. After quickly recovering terrotory that had been lost fighting at Caporetto they moved in to Trento and South Tyrol.
Fighting ended in 1918.
The Italian army were also involved in fighting in the Balkan, African & middle eastern areas and then took part in the Occupation of Constantinople.
As with most English families some that joined up went to war as boys and returne as men ..... and unforunatley some never returned at all.
Most of the men that went to war had no formal training and were ill equipped to deal with the conditions they werefaced with.
The English Italians born to the migrant families were sent to the western front and endured the harsh realities of war.
No one will ever truly know the actual number of men who died at the western front in Flanders Fields....the numbers too many to count. France recorded almost 1.4 million military deaths most of these on the western front. A lot of the fighting took place on french soil. "The Battle of the Somme" in France and the "Battle of Passchendaele" in Belgium held as great historic events claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. For others that became ill or injured they were sent to make shift field hospitals to be nursed back to health only to be returned to the front to fight again. The majority of the men must have known that death was inevitable, if the ememy didn't get you the wide spread disease would.
The war raged on for four years .... over hundreds of miles. Some French villages in areas of France are home to small World War 1 cemeteries the result of all the small battles, skirmishes and bouts of trench warfare.
Quite a few of the men from the West Bar Families have graves out in France and Belgium.
World War 2
When the Second World War arrived there was a completely different atmosphere.
Mussolini announced his decision to side with Germany and this had devastating consequence for the Italian communities in England, people that they had lived and worked alongside treated them differently.
The government ordered all aliens to be round3ed up and interned or in some cases expelled.
Deportation was part of the "Collar the Lot" strategy that parliment enforced.... Anyone of foreign origin was targeted .... no one was safe.
By the end of 1939 and the early part of 1940 most of the 70.000 'aliens' - immigrants - living in Britain had to be sent before tribunal which assessed their loyalty to Britain.
The UK interned approximately 4000 people of Italian origin due to suspicion of thier loyalties to the Country. Most were sent to the Isle of Man. People were arrested and imprisioned for no other reason than the fact that they were born in Italy.
By 1943 Italy's war with the allies was almost over, this saw many freed from internment to return to what was left of thier lives and businesses.
Not many families were left untouched by the situation as if war wasn't bad enoug. Almost overnight they went from being hardworking Mosaic workers and Ice Cream sellers to being despised by the very people they lived alongside. Businesses were targeted and peoples lives threatened.
Local businessmen and respected families were herded up by the police. Quite often a knock on the door in the dead of night would see men getting dressed and being bundled in to military vehicles by the authorites. Ripped away from thier families and facing the prospect that they may never see thier loved ones again, they had no choice but to follow the orders of thier captors.
It is said that some of the experiences that affected the Italian communities at ths time were traumatic.
Many wives were left to fend for themselves and they did all they could to support and feed thier families in the hope that those taken would soon return.
I have no doubt that at this time the community would have pulled together and do what they could to help those in need and the families most affected by this parlimentary order.
The Italian community also suffered the effects of the blitz in Sheffield. The hard hitting bombing raids devastated all of Sheffield causing loss of homes, businesses but worst of all loss of life.
Once again the English born Italians joined the British forces and fought for the Country of thier birth. Despite the fact that some of them had family members afected by the "Collar the Lot" order they still took up arms for the country they believed in.... even though they knew full well that thier friends and loved ones at home were being treated so badly by that same country.
At the end of the war the familes displayed no sign of animosity to thier captors, only grief for thier dead and joy for the return of the living.