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Chapel (20th Century), Military Camp (20th Century)

Site Name Warebank

Classification Chapel (20th Century), Military Camp (20th Century)

Canmore ID 305602

Site Number ND49NE 43

NGR ND 4780 9813

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish South Ronaldsay
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney


Desk Based Assessment (2009)

ND 4780 9813 (reported) An unrelated investigation discovered references in various sources to a second WW2 Italian POW chapel on Orkney for which there is no reference in Canmore or the Orkney SMR. Several references were found in local literature and sources, with a consistent but brief series of details. An Italian POW chapel was constructed during WW2 in a Nissen hut at Camp 34 (Warebank) on Burray, but was demolished with the rest of the camp immediately after the war by salvage contractors. The Secret Scotland website gives an NGR for Warebank Camp as ND 4780 9813, placing it SE of the Burray end of Churchill Barrier

No 3 in the N of the island, immediately E of a curve in the A961; the camp is therefore additional to those recorded in Canmore for Burray (ND49NE 20.2 Camp B1 at ND 45782 96657 and ND49NE 41 Burray village at ND 47578 95930). As with the famous counterpart chapel on Lambs Holm within what was Camp 60 (HY40SE2 6.0, HY 48829 00628), the prisoners were involved with constructing the Churchill Barriers during the majority of their stay.

One significant photograph, a black and white interior shot shows the Camp 34 chapel occupying one end of a

Nissen hut as a plaster walled and roofed area with an altar and lower screen to separate it from the rest of the hut; the normal corrugated roofing can be seen at the edges of the photograph. Nothing was found to show whether there were external modifications to the hut, as at Camp 60. A second photograph was found on display at a museum on Burray and appears to have been reproduced from an Italian book. Although much poorer quality, it is taken from the same viewpoint and shows the chapel end at a presumably earlier stage, without some of the background painted or carved detail or the ceiling paintings. Two more photographs show

hut ends at Camp 34 decorated as different stage sets, but the photographs do not indicate if the sets are in the same hut. However, they could not be the same hut as the chapel if the main hut entry was through an end wall as with the Camp 60 chapel.

The story of the Italians at both camps has been well recorded, with several unusual anecdotes. These include

their skills with concrete construction, which enabled them to build a concrete bowling alley and a concrete billiard table, each accompanied by sets of concrete balls. Another describes how after the Italian capitulation in September 1943, two POWs started work as mechanics in Burray garage. The result was that anything they repaired apparently ran incredibly well, despite the variable quality of wartime fuel. This was to some extent explained by the pre-war background of one of the mechanics who had worked for the Ferrari racing team.

The main sources of this compilation were:

James Macdonald, 1987 (reprinted 2007) Churchill’s prisoners: the Italians in Orkney 1942–1944. www. s e c re t s cot l .uk/ index.php/Se c re t s /


Museum display at Orkney Fossil and Vintage Centre, Viewforth, Burray, which includes photographs and design sketches of the features of the Camp 34 chapel

David Lynn


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