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The Italian Chapel


Afternoon all,
As many of you will know, in the early hours of 14th October 1939 U-47 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Gunther Prien crept into Scapa Flow located in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland. Scapa Flow had long been home to the Royal Navy.
U-47 successfully torpedoed and sank the old British battleship HMS Royal Oak with the loss of some 834 lives. Amongst the dead were a number of boy sailors.
Churchil immediately ordered that the defences of Scapa Flow be improved with building of a number of barriers which became known as the Churchill Barriers. The company to undertake the construction, Balfour Beatty, started the works which were slow. As a result, a number of Italian prisoners of war who were captured in North Africa were sent to two prisoner of war camps on Orkney Islands and told to assist with the work.
Initially they refused citing that it was against the Geneva Convention. However, they eventually agreed and undertook the work. After a while, the prisoners requested that they be able to build a chapel to pray in. The British authorities agreed and the prisoners were given two Nissan huts. These were bolted together. One if prisoners Domenico Chioccheti led a group of 24 tradesman to fit out the chapel. Materials were hard to come by and a lot of recycling was undertaken But the chapel was eventually completed.
The prisoners were repatriated beginning in September 1944. During their time on Orkney they became friends with local population which continues to this day. Indeed, Sg Chioccheti visited Orkney more than once to do restoration work on the chapel and his home town of Moena is twinned with Orkney’s capital of Kirkwall and exchange visits have happened. His daughter continues to visit the chapel.
Now, why, I hear you say, are you telling all this. Well, on Saturday 20th August 2022, I was fortunate to be able to marry my fiancé in the Chapel. I attach a few photos below. There is much more information and photographs on the internet or in books that can be purchased. Both prisoner of war camps were removed after the war but the foundations of some of the camp can been seen next to the Chapel. If ever you get to visit Orkney then I do recommend visiting the chapel.
One word of warning though, the weather tends to be wet, cold and miserable. We we’re very lucky though!
Regards to all,
PS The first five photographs were taken last year when visited the Chapel to check it out!


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Staff member
Congratulations! I see your spouse is happy to support your research! I am sure you have some future travels planned.


Jeff, Thanks for your kind words. Yes she does! 2018 she was ‘Delighted’ to accompany me to the Naval Museum! Currently trying to arrange a visit to the Fighter Collection in the UK where they are currently a Swedish Fiat CR 42 to flying condition. She will soon get fed up!