A CUMBRIAN woman has shed light on a moving chapter of Carlisle's history.

Lindsay Farrer, 43, has researched the events that led to the death of her great grandfather, Alfredo Pieri - when the ship he was sailing on, the SS Arandora Star, was torpedoed by a German U-boat on July 2, 1940.

Last week marks the 80th anniversary of the tragedy.

There was controversy over the sinking as the ship wasn’t displaying the International Red Cross symbol, which shows that civilians were on board, access to lifeboats was obstructed by heavy wire mesh and it was sailing without an escort.

Alfredo, who was born in 1898, was a hard working, and well known, Carlisle trader.

An Italian immigrant he came over, with many others from the Barga area of northern Tuscany, about 1920.

He set up a sweet shop, and a chippy, in Denton Holme, together with an ice cream selling business which was done using a horse and cart.

The chippy bore his family name until its closure in 2018 and had been run by his two sons Ronnie and Fred until 1985 - it was famous for its patties, a potato dish which included ingredients like meat and cheese.

Alfredo, along with the other men from the Italian community, was interned when Mussolini's Italy joined the Second World War, on the side of the Nazis, in June 1940.

Despite living in Carlisle for decades was considered to be an enemy alien and put on board the ship, which was travelling from Liverpool to Canada, on July 1.

The ship had 1678 Italian internees and German prisoners of war on board.

About 734 of them were Italian.

On the second day of its voyage it was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland.

The British press at the time said 470 Italians and 143 Germans died.

He was declared missing, presumed dead - his wife Elda was left heartbroken but never gave up hope.

Lindsay said the fear and paranoia bought on by Italy's declaration of war resulted in the family facing a torrent of abuse, threats and property damage.

The accountant and mum-of-two, from Agionby, near Carlisle said: "What happened seems so unfair.

"His sons, my grandad and his brother, were both serving in the British Army at the time, leaving his wife, my nan, who was also Italian but was a British citizen, at home.

"I've found out about this over the last 10 years where I became more interested in the Arandora Star.

"There is a big memorial in Glasgow and one in Barga.

"We wanted to go to Glasgow for the 80th anniversary but we couldn't because of the coronavirus.

"He was about 41-years-old when it happened.

"My great grandma never really accepted it.

"When they rescued the Italians internees they shipped them back to Liverpool, some went on to Australia instead but others went to Canada.

"It's quite strange because after that great grandmother suffered racist abuse, they had their windows broken.

"I think a lot of British people were probably quite scared with all these Italians in the community, they had been friends with these people.

"It is very interesting to hear what they all went through but it's also really sad, those left behind in Carlisle found it really hard."

Lindsay, who's been married to husband Stuart, 51, for 14 years, has been teaching her children Louisa, 12, and James, 10, about their family history during lockdown.

She added: "They have been doing the research and reading about it themselves, they are equally fascinated.

"They've already learnt at school about World War II.

"They have a British and Italian side, many assume that you just have British side.