Rando Bertoia

Montereale Valcellina – Glasgow
1920 – 2013

Rando’s Early Life

Rando was born in Northern Italy in 1920. Like many other families in the area, his father, Ermenegildo, worked in terrazzo marble and mosaics. He came to join the well-known Toffolo family in Glasgow in 1914 and Rando grew up in Scotland. He attended Abbotsford School before joining his father, working in the terrazzo sector.

Rando’s Internment

When Italy declared war in 1940, Rando and his father were among the thousands of Italians resident in Britain who were arrested. The police arrived at their home at 4am, eventually taking them to Maryhill Barracks and then to Milton Bridge Camp near Edinburgh.

They were transferred to Bury by train and interned at Warth Mills along with a cousin, Luigi. When lists finally arrived at Warth Mills indicating who would be sent where, Rando and Ermenegildo were put in separate groups. Although they didn’t realise it, Ermenegildo was destined for the Isle of Man while Rando would be deported to Canada.

On 1 July 1940, Rando boarded the SS Arandora Star with hundreds of fellow Italian internees and some German prisoners of war. On 2 July 1940, a German U-boat torpedoed the ship. Rando survived and was rescued by a Canadian destroyer, HMCS Laurent. On shore, he would learn his cousin Luigi had not survived.

A few days later, Rando was placed on another ship, HMT Dunera, headed for Australia. Like all the Italian internees on board, Rando was treated appallingly by the British guards, who were court-marshalled on arrival in Sydney.

Rando spent the war years at internment camps in Adelaide and Melbourne where he learned Italian (he didn’t speak the language, despite being a suspect Italian fascist) and took drawing classes. Significantly, Rando also gained watchmaking and repairing skills.

Life After the War

Rando returned to Glasgow in 1946 and, with his younger brother Oriente, opened a watch and jewellery business on Victoria Road in Glasgow. In 1958, he married Giovanna who originated from the same Italian village. They had two children, Marco and Gilda.

Rando would remain life-long friends with some of his fellow internees and survivors, including Nicola Cua. They attended annual memorial services to commemorate the lives lost on the SS Arandora Star.

When he died in 2013, aged 93, Rando Bertoia was the last survivor of the SS Arandora Star tragedy.

Stefano Paolini presents his talk, ‘The Tragedy of the SS Arandora Star’, at The Fusilier Museum, Bury on Saturday 11 August, 2018. For more information, visit the Events page.

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Kurt Schwitters

Hanover — Kendal

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