In 1940 my father Paolo Giordanelli – an Italian law student – volunteered for the army and was sent to the North African campaign of World War Two. My lawyer grandfather Avv. Pasquale Giordanelli was a Cavalry Officer in World War One. In WW2 Paolo fought at the Battle of Tobruk and El Alemein. He was captured in 1943 in Tunisia when the Axis Forces collapsed and brought to the UK “in chains” (his words), as a prisoner of war. In war-torn London he met an Italian girl – my mother. Rather than return to a shattered Italy, he remained in London, married her and raised a family. He was well educated and spoke five languages: Italian, French, Greek, Latin and English. In the 1970/80s he was the Investments Control Manager for Fiat UK at their Brentford HQ. He remained very Italian. Aged nearly 90, he died after medical complications following an accident whilst riding his bicycle.
My mother who was also Italian travelled back and forth to Italy during the build up to WW2. In 1939, wearing her black military uniform, she was presented to Mussolini and his generals. When war was declared she was in London and hid her military connection. Her family owned Rossi’s Café: a café/restaurant, ice-cream parlour, ice-cream factory and garage business in West London. My mother enjoyed working hard.
In 1911 her father Giuseppe Rossi walked the 2,000 miles from Southern Italy to Scotland. He also worked hard and eventually his six children joined him. In the late 1930s he moved his business to West London. At the outbreak of the world war two, early morning raids saw the arrest of some family members who were interned in Canadian POW camps. The West London premises became a refuge and ‘safe-house’ for displaced Italians and POWs. My mother who escaped internment, hid her military photo, uniform and equipment from everyone, fearing arrest from the UK authorities and being shot as a spy. She waited until the 1990s before revealing a picture of her secret military connection. The image is in the Scrapbook gallery.
Photography on this website is courtesy of Auto Italia, Michael Ward, Peter Collins, Jeff Bloxham, Maserati, Lamborghini, Ferrari & many other photographers. Please get in touch if your images require a credit.