Sunday, March 01, 2009

Royal Marines Gibraltar Memorial Unveiled... a day late

On Saturday, Royal Marines from 40 Commando returned to the scene of one of their most famous and historic battles and conducted a ceremonial parade exercising their 'Freedom of the City of Gibraltar'.

Unfortunatly, they also returned to a very rain-swept Gibraltar!

In my post leading up to the event, I said I hoped for 'a nice sunny day and no Levanter'. Clearly... I forgot about the rain... (and probably put the kibosh on things!) which deluged and delayed the unveiling of their wonderful new monument until today!

The weekend’s events for the Royal Marines culminated tonight, with a band concert at St Michael’s Cave. (I hope to publish some pictures of this tomorrow).

The weekend's events, commemorate the capture of the Rock of Gibraltar, in an amphibious assault, on the 24th of July 1704 by Engligh and Dutch Marines, who after capturing the Town, withheld a prolonged siege from October 1704 to April 1705, thereby achieving 'immortal glory' according to commentators at the time.

'Gibraltar' became the only one of many battle honours that the Royal Marines include in their 'Globe and Laurel' insignia (image on the right) when, in 1827, George IV ordered them to wear it with pride. I explain the Royal Marines long association with Gibraltar more fully in my post on Friday.

This is the first time the Royal Marines have marched through the streets of Gibraltar, exercising their 'Freedom of the City of Gibraltar', since it was awarded in 1996.

Despite the rain, their parade along Main Street was lined with hundreds of people and dignitaries. A public reception was then held on their behalf by the Governor, Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fulton KBE, himself a Royal Marine.

In a hastily-rescheduled Sunday lunchtime ceremony at Europort, Chief Minister Peter Caruana (seen here in the middle) unveiled the monument, near the point where the Marines first came ashore in 1704. Commandant General Royal Marines, Major General Garry Robison, then dedicated the monument.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, the Commanding Officer of 40 Commando, said:

"It is an immense privilege to be able to represent the Royal Marines at such a Parade and provide a Guard of Honour.

Gibraltar holds a hugely important position in our history and every Royal Marine is acutely aware of the events of the early eighteenth century and the traditions they helped engender."

40 Commando’s Alpha Company and attached ranks have been practicing arms drill and marching for weeks in preparation for the parade. On the transit from the United Kingdom, on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay, the Company was even practicing on the flight deck of the ship.

Marine Andy Tipping, who is 22 and from Durham said, "we are very conscious of Marines of the past and their exceptional achievements, which continue to inspire us all today".

"We were all proud to be a part of this parade. All Royal Marines learn about the taking and holding of Gibraltar during our training and it’s a great honour to follow in the footsteps of our forebears."

The Commandos are in Gibraltar as their first port of call on the Royal Navy’s Taurus 09 deployment, the largest in over a decade. They move next to Cyprus to undertake amphibious exercises as the Royal Navy demonstrates its ability to project a landing force from ship to shore using helicopters and landing craft, all based from the Amphibious Task Group.

Major Sean Brady, the Officer Commanding Alpha Company and also the Guard Commander for the Parade, said:

"The Marines of Alpha Company have worked exceptionally hard preparing for this weekend but representing the Corps on such an occasion is a perfect opportunity to pay our respects to Royal Marines of the past and their exceptional achievements, which continue to inspire us all."

The commemorations and weekend's events have also been enjoyed by a large contingent of veterans, members of the Royal Marines Association, many of whom have travelled to Gibraltar from far and wide and proudly paid their respects to this wonderful memorial to the Royal Marines in Gibraltar.

Note: I am indebted to HQBF for the images of the memorial which are shown here courtesy of Cpl Ralph Merry, Command Photographer, Media Operations - HQ British Forces Gibraltar. Cpl Merry must have been challenged 'beyond the call of duty' by the torrential rain on Saturday, as unfortunately, no pics of the actual parade were able to be provided. Hopefully, nothing will get in the way of pics of the band concert at St Michael's Cave tonight... stalactites and stalagmites notwithstanding! ;)

Update: This post has been updated to include more images and a video. You can see the updated post here.