Former PoW returns to Orkney’s Italian Chapel

93 year old Gino Caprara. Picture: Ken Amer
93 year old Gino Caprara. Picture: Ken Amer
Have your say

A FORMER prisoner of war has returned to Scotland to visit the famous chapel he helped build during the Second World War.

Gino Caprara, now 93, worked on the Italian Chapel 
on Lamb Holm in Orkney during his three-year stay on the island ­between 1942 and 1945.

The Italian made the pilgrimage both to see Orkney again and to express his thanks to local people for the kindness shown to him and his fellow prisoners during the war.

Mr Caprara was one of dozens of Italian PoWs who helped with the construction of the chapel which has come to symbolise hope and peace.

He said: “I am very thankful for the kindness during the war. I wanted to come again before it was too late, because I am 93.”

About 1,200 Italians, who had been captured in North Africa, were moved to Orkney in 1942 to provide ­labour.

The building of the chapel is known as the “Miracle of Camp 60”. The ornate Catholic chapel was crafted by the prisoners who were housed on the previously uninhabited island in two small huts. Only the concrete foundations of the buildings of their camp survive.

They built it while also working on the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow, under the direction of Domenico Chiocchetti, himself a prisoner.

The chapel was not finished until after the end of the war. In 1960, Mr Chiocchetti returned to assist in a restoration of the chapel and further work was carried out on it in the 1990s.

Hundreds of Italians were involved with the chapel, which was ­created from left-over concrete from the barriers and other scrap materials. Locals say the chapel has a special place in their hearts and, in 1958, a preservation committee was formed to look after the building.

The chapel remains one of the biggest tourist attractions on Orkney, with around 100,000 visitors a year.