The Sunday Post (Dundee)
Is this a picture of my long-lost half-brother?
The fascinating story of a passionate wartime affair between a handsome Italian prisoner of war and a mysterious Scots farmer’s daughter has led to a race against time for Armando Terni to find a secret family member... before it’s too late
ARMANDO TERNI is a man on a mission – a mission to get to the bottom of a 75-year-old family mystery.
The native of Serravalle de Berra in north-east Italy is desperate to track down the Scottish brother he has never met... and who doesn’t even know he exists.
The tale has its roots in the dark days of the Second World War. The year was 1941 and, as the Allies battled the Axis powers across the scorching sands of North Africa, one young Italian soldier was captured during fighting in Libya.
He was 23-year-old Gino Terni, Armando’s father. Like many thousands of other prisoners of war he was brought back to Britain where he would see out the rest of the conflict.
Stationed at Moor Camp at Thankerton, near Biggar in Lanarkshire, there was to be no relaxation for Gino.
He, like many of his fellow PoWs, was put to work on the surrounding farms, an essential help to the British war effort as so many young Scottish men were away fighting.
It was while working on one farm – where he was well-liked and often stayed over – that he caught the eye of the farmer’s daughter.
Gino was a handsome Italian, so perhaps it’s not surprising he seemed alluring to a local lass.
Although he had a wife and son back in Italy, Gino clearly found it impossible to resist and the pair had a passionate wartime affair.
At some point – though the exact year is unknown – a baby boy was born as a result of their liaisons.
After the war Gino was repatriated to Italy and resumed his life with his wife Luigia and son Fernando as before.
Armando was born in 1960 and knew nothing about his secret half-brother until Fernando told him just last November.
Following the revelation Armando later found a wallet hidden away in the family home. It contained photographs which he believes show the farmer’s daughter and a little boy on a bike, who he is sure is his mystery brother.
He reckons his father must have treasured these pictures.
Now Armando is desperate to find his long-lost brother, who will be in his 70s, before it is too late.
“My father never told me about this child in Scotland. My parents both died in 2001 and I cannot explain why they did not tell me anything, because I would have been happy to know.
“When I learned of my halfbrother I was astonished, but immediately I thought of looking for him.
“I would be very happy to find my brother in Scotland, I am hoping he is still alive. I’d like to know if he was aware of his father being in Italy, if he is married and had children, if he has had a good life. “I know it is a very sensitive subject, but I have a great desire to know him.
“If he was found I would be willing to come to Scotland, although right now I have no chance as I am unemployed.
“To see him or have some news would make me the happiest person in the world!”
As Armando speaks no English, he has enlisted the help of friend Grace Carrick, from Biggar, in tracking him down.
Grace said: “I live locally in Biggar and decided to take up the challenge of trying to find details of Armando’s halfbrother. The problem is he doesn’t know the name of the family or even the farm his father worked on.
“Many of the locals in Thankerton and surrounding areas who might have known the family are sadly now gone.
“The boy in question may now be dead or have moved away from the area. He may well have even emigrated like so many in the 1950s. Who knows?
“It is not a unique story by any means. So many of these things happened during the war years and the secrets were never disclosed.
“But it would be a marvellous ending to a story if, after more than 70 years, Armando could make contact with his half-brother.”
If you have any information that could help Armando find his long-lost brother or his family, email email@example.com or call 01382 575799.