APPENDIX Italians in Eastern Province.
APPENDIX Italians in Eastern Province.
We were lucky enough to get in contact with Enzo Amendola in 1994. He was part of that early group of Italians from Eritrea. The following is extracted from Enzo's recollections:
The first group of Italians who came to Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, arrived at the end of July 1944. They came from Eritrea which had been an Italian colony until 1941, at which time it was occupied by a British Military Administration until 1952. Contrary to common belief in Dhahran, the first Italians were not prisoners of war, but a group of contracted employees of Aramco. Their contract was for three years, and after two years they were given a short vacation of fourteen days and round trip ticket Dhahran/Asmara. The first group traveled from Massawa, a Red Sea port, to Ras Tanura by a Russian cargo ship. There were about a thousand men in the group. Enzo arrived in Eastern Province at the end of 1947. He traveled with a group in a DC-3 two-engined airplane which had only metal benches on both sides of the fuselage and no seats. The flight began in Asmara, stopped in Jeddah for an hour, and then went on to Dhahran. The entire journey took eight hours.
Enzo's first assignment was in Al Aziziyah camp. It was right on the beach close to Dhahran. After the camp was no longer used by the Italian workers, it became a tuberculosis hospital, and eventually the site was used for the desalination plant. During the Second World War the site had been a submarine refueling base. All that was left of the base after the war were two badly corroded piers from which men used to fish.
Al Aziziyah camp was made of wooden framed canvas structures. The showers, bathrooms, and laundry facilities were housed in a concrete block structure. The walkways around the camp were made of wooden pallets approximately one metre wide. The Mess was a large wood and canvas building about a hundred metres long and thirty metres wide. There was a kitchen at one end separated by a wood and chicken wire mesh frame which could be lifted on a hinge to allow the food to be served. The food was served from stainless steel rectangular pots by the 'cooks' with either big forks or a ladle. The customers pushed their military style compartmentalized dishes along the counter and the cooks dumped the food on the dishes and all over with great satisfaction. The men were not as enthusiastic about eating the food as the cooks were about serving it. "The pasticcio had a unique taste."
The drinking water provided was raw water (potable but with an unpleasant taste of various salts and minerals). The water came directly from a faucet and was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. After a few years the water was collected in big pots and ice cubes made from raw water were added. Just before the camp closed, grapefruit or orange juice were added to the iced water to kill the petroleum taste.
Two other buildings in the camp were the hospital for minor surgery, which was a huge tent with no facilities for separating the infectious patients from the others, and a recreation tent with a concrete floor. At one end was the barbershop, a canteen which sold a few necessities, and a busy bar which sold vermouth, beer, and Coca-Cola.
We have not researched nor included details of the Christian Cemeteries in Bahrain; however, Robert Jarman generously contributed the following information:
Details of records from The Old Christian Cemetery will be available at the BACSA (British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia) at some point in the future. Their address is 76 Chartfield Avenue, London SW15 6HQ, United Kingdom. Details of the history of the cemetery can be found in two files (ref.: R/15/2/59 and R15/2/1537) at the India Office Library and Records in Blackfriars Road, London, United Kingdom.
Some burials in the Old Christian Cemetery are entered in a register held at St. Christopher's Cathedral, Manama, Bahrain while others (i.e., Catholic burials) are in the Burial Register held at Sacred Heart Church, Bahrain.
For more information on this subject, see the article on the History of Bahrain Cemetery by J. Mandaville in Chapter 4 of this publication.
Some Details on 1947 deaths
We have very little detail on the deaths which took place between June 1947 and January 1948. However, Mr. Sam Whipple, who was teaching in Ras Tanura at this time, remembers one particular accident during this period. We quote the following from his letter.
Jane [Jane Ellen Dean] and her boyfriend Claude Fay White, and three other passengers were killed outright when the RT-DH bus (station wagon) met head on with an army 6 truck driven by an Arab driver. All in the station wagon were killed except the passenger who was riding in the front seat with the driver. The driver of the bus was also killed. The driver of the truck seemingly was not seriously hurt and took off across the desert on foot. He was tracked down, however, and put to death before nightfall, so the story goes. One of the passengers in the bus was a Catholic Priest from Bahrain. [Father Gabriel Fleming.] I, too, had planned to go to Bahrain that fateful morning with Claude and Jane, but decided not to go the last minute. Barney Smeaton, the first American Arabic teacher hired by Aramco (Princeton graduate) was following the bus in another car when it all happened. In those days anyone killed had to be buried by sundown that same day. Tragic! . . . Two or three months after the accident, I returned to the U.S. and was able to visit Jane Dean's parents who were living in the San Francisco area at the time. I'll never forget what the mother said to me. She said, 'If Jane had to be taken at this time, I'm glad it happened in Saudi Arabia because Jane was happier there than she had ever been in her life.' "
November 14, 1995