Tea with Bernard


It’s really no great surprise that the Irish needed their independence.
There had been British indifference after the harvests failed and the folk began to starve.
There had been the issues of the setting up of a general election set up by the British authorities in 1918 where 70% of the voters decided to support candidates pledged to abstain from the ties of English authority but were ignored.


There had also been the issues of Easter 1916 when a “terrible beauty was born” and many good Irish folk died by shooting and hanging in the cause of shedding the yoke of an oppressive and uncaring ruling elite.
Tom Barry wrote in “Guerrilla Days in Ireland” about those dark but somehow progressive days. Tom was Commandant General of the West Cork flying column and in his early career was pitted against the combined might of the British Army in the days just after the first war to end all wars.
People like Major Percival and Montgomery were on his hit list. The first, who was later to surrender his entire army to the mercy of the Japanese in Singapore, due to his extreme anti-Irish attitude and encouragement of torture. The second because of the man’s habit of allowing his troops free reign to murder and pillage at will.
Percival survived the assignation attempt seemingly due to his habit of raiding and murdering IRA sympathisers at random, he was out on a raid on the night in question it seems. Montgomery, for his part, was out to tea with a new mistress on the night in question thus avoiding the assassins bullet.
Percival ended up as a guest of the Japanese at Singapore while Montgomery ended up as a hero of the Western Desert and victor at El Alamein.
After the desert victory of, by now, General Montgomery there were many prisoners a number of whom were brought back to the UK to live out the rest of the war in captivity. The Italians were the most numerous. El Duchy had neglected to provide them with much in the way of transport or indeed military supplies and their German allies stole much of what little they had forcing most of the Italian desert army to surrender at the first opportunity.
Out of over one hundred thousand Italians who surrendered in 1942, around 1300 were sent to Orkney and housed in three prisoner of war camps tasked with building the Churchill Barriers following the disastrous sinking of the HMS Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. From the desert heat and water issues they then faced the freezing winds and belting winter sleet of an Orcadian winter.
This beautiful chapel is their legacy. Built using found materials and the parts from two Nissan Huts it survives to this day as a memorial to the spirit and resourcefulness of the people of Italy in the face of the defeat of Fascism.
Mind you, if Tom Barry had succeeded in the assassination of General Montgomery then in all probability this Italian Chapel would not exist.


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