Monday, March 02, 2009

Royal Marines Excercise their Freedom of the City of Gibraltar in Weekend of Commemorative Events

Last Saturday, in torrential rain, the Royal Marines exercised their 'Freedom of the City of Gibraltar in a weekend of events commemorating their long history and association with the Rock.

On the 24th of July 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession with France and Spain, a combined fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir George Rooke, assisted by Field Marshal Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, captured the Rock of Gibraltar. English ships bombarded the city while a force, comprising of 1,900 English and 400 Dutch marines, in an amphibious assault, stormed the defences, captured the Town and prevented Spanish reinforcements reaching the fortress.

Later, in the months following the capture of the Town, the English force of marines withheld a prolonged siege from October 1704 to April 1705, thereby achieving 'immortal glory' according to commentators at the time.

(Note: The Acts of Union, which joined the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland into a single United Kingdom of Great Britain... making the English marines and Gibraltar British, was not until 3 years later in 1707)

'Gibraltar' became the only one of many battle honours that the Royal Marines include in their 'Globe and Laurel' insignia (left) when, in 1827, George IV, faced with having to choose battle honours from an extensive list, decided that Royal Marines’ 'Colours' would in future bear the symbol of the ‘Great Globe itself’ and that thereafter the only battle honour on Royal Marines’ Colours would be that of Gibraltar. So he ordered them to wear it with pride... and they do!

In 1996, the Corps was granted the 'Freedom of the City of Gibraltar'. On Saturday 28 February, 78 Marines from Taunton-based Alpha Company of 40 Commando accompanied by the Band of Royal Marines Scotland returned to the scene of their most famous and historic battles and conducted a ceremonial parade exercising their right, marching through the streets with 'fixed bayonets', the only time that a service force can do so in peacetime.

A large contingent of veterans, members of the Royal Marines Association, many of whom had travelled to Gibraltar from far and wide, also participated, marching proudly with the younger marines in the parade.

The parade, under the command of Major Sean Brady, the Commanding Officer of Alpha Company, assembled at Casemates Square, then marched off along Main Street.

Despite the torrential rain the Marines were applauded along the way by hundreds of proud locals and many visitors, who lined the route.

As they marched past the Piazza, the Marines saluted a gathered throng of dignitaries outside the the Assembly House (Gibraltar's Parliament), including Mayor Mommy Levy who was surrounded by Royal Marines 'Top Brass' including the Commandant General Royal Marines, Major General Garry Robison, Brigadier Noble, the Deputy Commandant General of the Royal Marines and Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, the Commanding Officer of 40 Commando.

Here's a video of the Royal Marines and Band marching through Main Street:

To finish the day off in style, a public reception was then held on their behalf by the Governor, Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fulton KBE, himself a Royal Marine.

Royal Marines Memorial Unveiled

In 2006 the Gibraltar Heritage Trust suggested that a monument be erected to mark the long historical association between the Royal Marine Corps and the Rock of Gibraltar.

On Sunday, in a ceremony at Europort, Chief Minister Peter Caruana (seen here in the middle) unveiled the monument which commemorates the Royal Marines history and long association with Gibraltar. It is sited near the point where the Marines first came ashore in 1704. Commandant General Royal Marines, Major General Garry Robison, dedicated the monument. More on this story here.

This ceremony had to be hastily-rescheduled as it was originally planned for Saturday. Unfortunately, the torrential rain on Saturday made it impossible for the ceremony to go ahead as planned and so was able to be postponed to Sunday lunchtime.

You can read more on the Unveiling of the Royal Marines Memorial here.

Royal Marines Band Concert at St Michael's Cave

The weekend’s events of celebration for the Royal Marines culminated on Sunday evening with a concert given by the Band of Royal Marines Scotland at St Michael’s Cave.

St Michael’s Cave was packed and the audience were able to enjoy an evening of inspirational music from a Band that only a few days ago was playing at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

The concert ended with a standing ovation for both the musicians and the conductor, Principal Director of Music, Lt Col Chris Davis.

The concert was marked by another significant moment. This was Lt Col Davis' very last appearance as conductor, in a military music career that began when he joined the Royal Marines as a musician in 1975.

Brigadier Noble, the Deputy Commandant General of the Royal Marines thanked Lt Col Davis for his immense contribution to Marines' music. The retiring conductor was clearly moved by the significance of the occasion.

In addition to thanking the conductor, Brigadier Noble also asked the audience to reflect on the fact that many Marines are currently serving in Helmand Province, in Afghanistan.

Related Posts

You can see more posts on these events by clicking on the links in 'Related Links' box on the right margin.

Images Credit

I am indebted to HQBF for many of the images of the events shown here which are courtesy of Lt Col (Ret'd) Stuart Green, Media Ops Officer and Cpl Ralph Merry, Command Photographer, Media Operations - HQ British Forces Gibraltar.

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