Friday 22 January 2016

The Rock of Gibraltar

Just back from a short break in Gibraltar.  

 I thought I would share pictures with you.  

Runway/road looking down from the top of the Rock Spanish town of La Linea in the background
If you have never been to Gibraltar or seen pictures it is unique in many ways, including the fact that the main road to the border actually crosses the middle of the airport runway and traffic is halted to allow planes to land and take off.  It is quite odd to stand in the middle of the runway/road.

 100 ton gun.

Entrance way to 100 ton gun

Fact or fiction?
It is often related that during a demonstration of the gun for the Inspector General of artillery in 1902, it repeatedly failed to fire.  After waiting 30 minutes, the General asked for someone to climb down inside the barrel and attach equipment to unload the gun.  Version differ over the identity of the volunteer who risked being scattered across the bay, but the most likely candidate to fit inside the barrel was the trumpeter, since he was only a boy.  

The gun had a crew of 25 men

Like so many Victorian guns dotted around the world this one never fired a shot in anger.

Gun in 'Casements' the main square in Gibraltar.  

You sort of forget that having created the unique tunnels in the Rock to look down on the besieging troops the British had to come up with a 'new technology' to be able to fire downwards.  Most of the time during this period it was about elevation to increase range.

 Obsolete WW2 4.7 inch naval gun pointing out over the straits.

WW2 guns overlooking the bay and shipping lanes

1880's 10 inch Rifled Muzzle loading gun 

The gun was originally one of three sited on the south bastion looking towards the bay.
The crest on the muzzle cover is that of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

At various point along 'Line Wall Road', there are bastions, counter guards and other Victorian defensive works.  Some still have guns in place.  Such as at Orange Bastion

The American Steps

I was surprised to find that the 'American Steps' were donated to Gibraltar by the US in the 1930s. You don't think of the US Navy being involved in WW1.

Nor did I know that the Americans had a Mediterranean naval squadron but I guess the marines can't have 'From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli' without a Mediterranean squadron.

The Great Siege Tunnels
The main reason for constructing the tunnels was the garrisons need to cover a blind spot on the north east side of the Rock.  The only solution found to cover this ‘blind spot’ was to site a gun on a spur of rock known as the ‘Notch’.  It was not possible to construct a path to the ‘Notch’ due to the vertical cliff face.  Sergeant Major Henry Ince of the Military Artificers suggested digging a tunnel through the Rock to reach it.  This was given the go ahead and work started on 25th May 1782.  Progress was very slow and problems arose with ventilating the shaft so the men could work.  The proposed solution was to blast a shaft with gunpowder to improve the ventilation.

Colonel John Drinkwate Bethune who was present described what happen in his subsequent book on the siege.

‘The mine was loaded with an unusual quantity of powder, and the explosion was so amazingly loud that almost the whole of the enemy’s camp turned out at the report, but what must their surprise be, when they observed where the smoke issued! – The original intention of this opening was to communicate air to the workmen, who before were almost suffocated with the smoke which remained after blowing the different mines but, on examining the aperture more closely the idea was conceived of mounting a gun to bear on all the enemy’s batteries, accordingly orders were given to enlarge the inner part [of the tunnel] for the recoil and when finished, a new twenty-four pounder was mounted’

Instead of following the original idea of a tunnel to the ‘Notch’, it was decided that the ‘Notch’ would be hollowed out into a broad chamber which the diggers called St George’s Hall (see picture) and it was eventually equipped with seven guns.

Gun at the entrance to the Siege Tunnels

Lieutenant Koehler

St George's Hall

Really useful to have the wife along to give the powder magazine a sense of scale!

Not sure about a 'white hat'.

The Trafalgar Cemetery

After the Battle of Trafalgar many of the ships anchored off the rock and wounded were brought ashore.  Many died and are buried in the Trafalgar Cemetery.

Captain Thomas Norman of the Royal Marines on HMS Mars

General Wladyslaw Sikorski Memorial - Europa Point

The Polish WW2 leader whose B24 Liberator crashed off Gibraltar in 1943 shortly after take off killing 16 including the General and the Polish Prime Minister.  Only the pilot survived.

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