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After Liverpool, with a strong breeze, we sailed up the coast towards Scotland and anchored off Staffa famous for Mendelsson's composition Fingal's Cave. When I saw photographs of the cave I had a deja vu moment because it looked so much like the memorial sculpture honouring Sibelius which I had seen in Finland. One of the reasons I would like to do this tour again is to visit the cave and Staffa. We had freak weather here: one side of the ship was brilliant sunshine and there was a snow storm on the other.
Nearing Scotland and the Orkneys
Not surprisingly the pools were empty.
Docking at Kirkwall with sunny skies we boarded a coach and drove round this beautiful place.
During the war Italians who had been captured during the North African campaign were sent to Orkney to work on the Churchill Barriers - a massive series of concrete causeways that seal the eastern approaches to Scapa Flow. The channels were blocked with sunken ships and it was considered that attack from that direction by sea was impossible. However, early in the war a German U-boat Commander took advantage of a gap in the defences and of an exceptionally high tide and sank the battleship Royal Oak where 800 men perished. Churchill decided to lay massive barriers of stone and concrete on the sea bed from island to island. From the coach we could see the great chunks of concrete. More than a quarter of a million tons of stone and rock were laid on the sea-bed and on top of these were laid causeways. Above we are driving over them.
Some of the wrecked ships are still visible
Such peace and beauty where years back there had been such devastation.
This is the Miracle of Camp 60 - a beautiful Italian Chapel built by the Italian POWs from two Nissen Huts joined together. an artistic prisoner Domenico Chiocchetti collected a small band of helpers including a cement worker, a smith, electricians and others. The corrugated iron was hidden by plaster board - smooth above panelled below. The altar, alar rail and holy water stoop were moulded in concrete. Behind the altar reaching up to the sanctuary roof and buttressed by two windows of painted glass was Chiocchetti's masterpiece the Madonna and Child based on a holy picture he had carried with him throughout the war. Now the interior made the outside of the chapel seem unsightly. An impressive facade was erected to hide the ugly outline of the huts. Windows of decorated glass added lightness and colour. One of the prisoners moulded in red clay a head of Christ. Through the years this has been marred by weather but the effect has been to make it even more touching
Chiocchetti fell in love with Barbara - an Orcadian but after the war he had to return to Italy. He left this scarlet heart imbedded in the floor of the Chapel. Both of them eventually married fellow country men but Chiocchetti and his wife named their first child Barbara.
Chiocchetti made this figure of St George from a frame work of barbed wire covered in
The bond remains strong between the Orcadians and the surviving Italians and their families.