Jun 032023

20 Picardy Place, EH1 3JT

Site of 20 Picardy Place, former Italian Fascist Club, now a Holiday Inn.

20 Picardy Place was the site of the Italian Fascist Club, set up in 1923, as part of a global project to spread Fascist ideology beyond Italy’s borders. Although it functioned primarily as a social club, members were expected to swear an oath of allegiance to Mussolini and MI5 began routinely monitoring the club in the run up to the war. On 10 June 1940, when Italy declared war on Britain, the police occupied the premises and the press reported that the burning of papers caused a slight fire. Many of those involved with the club were deported as ‘enemy aliens’ on the Arandora Star and lost their lives when the ship was torpedoed by a German U-Boat whilst en-route to Canada. See also the sculpture of Edinburgh artist, Eduardo Paolozzi, entitled Manuscript to Monte Cassino (1991), which pays homage to his Italian heritage and those lost on the Arandora Star. It is located outside St Mary’s Cathedral, Leith Street.

Manuscript of Monte Cassino – current location on Leith Street, outside St Mary’s Cathedral.

An image of The Manuscript of Monte Cassino from 1991 can be seen here: https://www.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-000-095-300-C&searchdb=scran

Sources: ‘Italians Detained’ The Scotsman 11 June 1940, p. 6, Wendy Ugolini, Experiencing War as the ‘Enemy Other’ (2011), p.60.