Around 7,000 men of Italian origin served in the British Army during the Second World War, including 331 who died.
Following Italy’s declaration of war on Britain in June 1940, second-generation male Italians were torn between their military obligations as British citizens and their familial identities as sons of the ‘enemy’.
The fact that many British Italians were of dual nationality, deriving Italian citizenship from their father and British citizenship from their place of birth, made the fact of serving in the British Army a complex and symbolic act.
A major stumbling block for many British Italian soldiers was that they had to succumb to the manpower demands of the very state that had interned their fathers or relocated their mothers from their homes.
In this revealing talk, Dr Wendy Ugolini will discuss the shifting allegiances and dual identifications of second-generation Italian servicemen, providing an insight into the functioning of ethnic identities within the British Army at war.
She will also consider why this group of servicemen is largely forgotten in both British and Italian commemorations of the conflict.
Dr Wendy Ugolini is an award-winning historian of the Second World War, specialising in ethnicities and identity formation. Educated at both Cambridge and Edinburgh, she is now Senior Lecturer in Modern British History at the University of Edinburgh.
Her first book, 'Experiencing War as the "Enemy Other": Italian-Scottish Experience in World War II', was awarded the Royal Historical Society's Gladstone Book Prize. Her forthcoming book on the mobilisation of Welshness in wartime England will be published by OUP.