For the serious student of military history as well as those with a more casual interest, Gibraltar is a great place to visit. Just about everywhere one turns there are shadows from ‘Gibs’, sometimes turbulent, past.
This page is a little bit of a cheat because although I have dated it as November this year, the photographs come from two one day visits, the first being back in 2017 and the second as dated. To see as much of ‘Gib’ as is represented on this page in a single day would be far too rushed to be enjoyable.
Walking around ‘Gib’ hstory is to be found on just about every corner, these pictures show some of the of what the ‘explorer’ will come across.
The Great Siege Tunnels
In 1779 Great Britain and Spain came into conflict when the Spanish tried to take control of Gibraltar. This conflict lasted something like 4 years (June 1779 – Feb 1883) and coincided with the American War of independence, no doubt to take advantage of the distraction caused and the stretching of Britain’s military resources. Referred to as The Great Siege the attempt was unsuccessful and of course ‘Gib’ remains firmly British to this day.
During the Siege a labyrinth of tunnels were built as a part of the defensive system, today a part of those tunnels are The Great Siege Tunnels Museum and admirably tell the story of what happened.
100 Ton Gun – Napier of Magdala Battery
The Armstrong 100-ton Rifled Muzzel Loading Gun of 1879 is one of just two survivors from the 17 that were originally made, the other gun being on Malta in Fort Rinella. For their time these were enormous guns designed to protect key strategic locations. The Napier of Magdala Battery is an excellent museum to visit, but clearances are quite small around the site and for the best experience I would advise arriving early. Dee and I were lucky, arriving just after opening time and we had the place to ourselves
The Battery is sited on Rosia Bay which is historically significant as the place where HMS Victory was towed after the Battle of Trafalgar (21st October 1805) and where Admiral Lord Nelson‘s body was brought ashore.
The World War II Tunnels
In World War 2 further tunnels were dug into the rock, the work started in August 1940 by the Royal Engineers and was later continued by the Royal Canadian Tunnelers. These tunnels are more extensive than the earlier 1879 tunnels and formed an underground operations block and barracks all rolled together.
Once again we have an excellent museum called, unsurprisingly, the World War II Tunnels. Very informed guides take visitors around a small section of these tunnels, tours take a little over an hour. The pictures of RAF Gibraltar and the Sepcat Jaguar aircraft were taken from Jock’s Balcony,which gives a splendid view over the airport and border with Spain.
Princess Anne’s Battery
Coming out of the World War II tunnels one arrives at the Princess Anne’s Battery. This comprises QF 5.25″ dual role guns and is, I believe, quite unique at the time of writing being the most complete battery of its type in existence.
I should add that there seems to be some confusion over the battery name and it is sometimes referred to as Princess’s Battery (which is actually located just above it) and I have also found it referred to as St Anne’s battery.
The Gibraltar Gun at Duxford
For those of you in the UK a 9.2″ Coastal Gun from Gibraltar’s Spur Battery can be seen at the Imperial war Museum, Duxford.
As I complete this page it occurs to me that on my website I have placed it under the category of Foreign Fields, which of course is wildly inaccurate; Gibraltar is as British as Kent and Yorkshire and as much a part of our British history as the story of the Armada and the Battle of Britain. I’ve decided to leave it under Foreign Fields and am really stretching the category to include ‘overseas’ and for that I hope that all you ‘Brits’ that are also ‘Gibraltarians’ will understand and forgive me.
Gibraltar is really an amazing place to visit and explore, the content on this page does scratch the historical surface rather well but is by no means definitive. Let’s also not forget the beaches, the proximity to Spain and the Dolphins. Dee and I are likely to go back in 2019 for a week or 10 days when I can continue my historical explorations and we can both soak up some sun relaxing with a good book and a cool drink!
Thanks ‘Gib’ – see ya again soon!