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Capture of Gibraltar

Discussion in 'Royal Marines History and Knowledge' started by Sad Ivies, Aug 26, 2014.

  1. Sad Ivies

    Sad Ivies Member

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    One of the greatest achievements in which the Marines played a heroic and vital role thus securing for Britain, the greatest prize of all was the Capture of Gibraltar. The ramifications of such event had become apparent during the ensuing 300 years and are in fact still commemorated on the insignia of the twenty-first century Royal Marine Commandos.

    An Anglo-Dutch fleet was returning from a fruitless expedition to Barcelona when the chief commander of the Alliance Army, Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, suggested that they might instead begin a new siege of Gibraltar to make up for loss at Cadiz, coupled with a demand for unconditional surrender and an oath of loyalty to the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne, Archduke Charles. Since the beginning of the war the Alliance had been looking for a harbour in the Iberian Peninsula to control the Strait of Gibraltar and thus facilitate naval operations against the French fleet in the western Mediterranean Sea. Rooke, agreed but the Spanish Governor of Gibraltar, by now well used to such attempts on his city, had no intent of opening the gates. Therefore, he refused this latest ultimatum point-blank, as the city had gone on 11 previous occasions when a siege was threatened. Prince George prepared his troops to land on the Rock with 1,900 English and 400 Dutch Marines, and on the night of 3August the fleet first launched the preliminaries with heavy bombardment. This onslaught and subsequent assault by the land forces was heavier than any previous attack, and the Governor eventually surrendered his city to Prince George, who accepted in the name of the Habsburg pretender.

    However, according to the English version of events, George Rooke arrived on the scene almost immediately after the Marines had secured their positions and ordered the British flag to be hoisted as he formally announced the he was taking possession of the Rock in the name of Queen Anne, ignoring Prince George’s original intent which was to receive a declaration of allegiance to the Habsburgs. Nevertheless, this version has been hotly challenged through the ages by Spanish historians, who counterclaim that the only time the English flag was raised was when the Marines landed, to indicated their position and avoid being hit by friendly fire from their own ships.

    Rooke’s claim of English Sovereignty was the one which was ultimately accepted. Of course the greater challenged now holding onto Gibraltar, as the Marines soon discovered. Within days of the arrival of the Anglo-Dutch force, large numbers of the town’s residents packed up and left, along with the administrative council. They set up camp near the Chapel of San Roque, and eventually established a new town of that name when it became apparent that the English would not easily give up possession of Gibraltar.


    The first great challenge to the Anglo-Dutch force emerged within a month, when a Spanish-French fleet appeared off Málaga apparently intent on regaining possession. Eventually, they were met by Rooke’s fleet with the Marines aboard, temporarily having been taken from the defence of Gibraltar. Although the French-Spanish ships were halted and turned, there were heavy losses on both sides. To safeguard the rock, Rooke landed 2,000 Marines together with 120 naval gunners armourers and carpenters and six months’ provisions, then promptly retired to England for the winter. Taking into account this remarkable development, a combined force of Spanish troops and French ships delivered 4,500 troops to Gibraltar to launch the twelfth siege, at the time when only Anglo-Dutch administrative officials and Marines were the only remaining people inside.

    Being heavily outnumbered, they were quickly reinforced with a further 400 Marines to ward off repeated attacks, launched in strength against alternative targets around the city. In one attempt, on 11 November, at least 500 French-Spanish Grenadiers tried a surprise attack at dawn on the Round tower; Captain Fisher with just 17 Marines under command, had successfully held off until further reinforcement of Marines had arrived to bolster defences in the tower.

    The French moved even more troops in their attempts to break the stubborn steadfastness of the Marines and further assaults came ever closer to penetration as the Marines were reduced in numbers to less than 1,000 men as well as being thinly spread and short of supplies. Fortunately, supply ships arrived with ammunition and rations and the following months returned with 2,000 reinforcements. Numerous additional attempts were launched as the siege dragged on into the New Year of 1705.

    The new commander of the French-Spanish force was not any better to bring the siege to a conclusion; hence they finally gave up on the 31 March 1705. At the end of the War of Spanish Succession, Spain formally ceded the territory in 1713.


    Sources:


    Parker, J. (2006). Royal Marines Commandos (1st ed.). London: Headline.


    Wikipedia,. (2014). Capture of Gibraltar. Retrieved 26 August 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capture_of_Gibraltar
     
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  2. Langa please?

    Langa please? Well-Known Member

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    This looks pretty spot on from my readings. However, you should never consider Wikipedia as a credible source. Always look for published works such as books or journals as they can be considered a reliable source of info!
     
  3. Sad Ivies

    Sad Ivies Member

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    Thanks for the advice. This is the only extract from Wikipedia; "Since the beginning of the war the Alliance had been looking for a harbour in the Iberian Peninsula to control the Strait of Gibraltar and thus facilitate naval operations against the French fleet in the western Mediterranean Sea"
     
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  4. Batman

    Batman Royal Marines Commando

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    It can be credible and usually is but you must check the sources to be sure.
     
  5. Langa please?

    Langa please? Well-Known Member

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    It can be but the problem is it's public contributions and so you can never be sure of the validity of the contribution. It's never accepted as a credible source by professional institutions so it's generally good practice to steer clear when you can just to get into good habits!
     
  6. Rover

    Rover Moderator

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