On being a boy in 1950’s Gibraltar


Gibraltar.   There was an old Sherman tank to the rear of our crumbling block of flats.  It  served as the centre piece of a children’s play area.  It was wonderful.  Of course the tank’s open hatches had been welded immovable, and you couldn’t swivel the turret, or raise, or god forbid, fire the guns.  But you could easily imagine the hatches closed, imagine the turret swivelling to its target, and imagine that the gun fired, and time and time again we soldier’s children would sit in the tank, passing radio messages to each other and bumping off passing vehicles and especially blasting to pieces the old ramshackle school bus as it trundled up the Europa Road

Around the rock there  were dozens of old army store rooms and empty gun forts to explore and to play upon.  On one occasion we discovered a subterranean store room full of Second World War steel helmets, hundreds of them.  We raided it one Sunday afternoon, armed with mum’s shopping bags and lengths of washing line rope.  We filled the bags with tin helmets, hauled them up from the subterranean buildings and took them off to our secret caves set in the rocks above the Europa road.  There we fought pitched battles with imaginary Germans until we were called in for tea.  The helmets would be carefully hidden in the caves for battles yet to be fought, next week perhaps, or after tea.

School was the Bishop Fitzgerald’s set on the edge of the town walls close to a  cemetery which we were constantly told,  held the bones of Admiral Nelson’s men.  The school playground was on the roof and we ran wild and free under the Mediterranean sun, with the most stupendous views of the Navy yards and the great Royal Navy ships.  Christian brothers ran the school with a rod of iron or more accurately, with straps of leather, which they applied generously to over exuberant boys.

Often, sitting in class on a drowsy morning, an ape would appear on a wall near by.  It was  so common that we hardly looked up from our books and if we did then the leather  strap would be cracked across a desk to ensure it was but a glance we would steal.  School finished at midday and we would rush off to the Nuffield Pool or Catalan Bay for a swim, making our way to the bay through long wet tunnels and climbing carefully down rickety steps.

They were always making films in those days and the bays seemed full of film stars dressed as sailors.  They would throw explosives into the bay and we would swim out and collect the dead fish that always came up after the blast and which the film stars, or more probably the extras,  would cook on the beach.  Occasionally, in fact quite often, the whole school would be marched off to the Navy cinema to see one the films that had been made, The River Plate, The seas shall not have them, the Man with no name, I was Monty’s double, Sink the Bismarck, all black and white and terribly patriotic.

There was a regiment of Scottish soldiers on the rock at that time. Each year they held their annual games down at the sports ground near the Europa lighthouse.  There would be Scottish sword dancing, tossing the caber, bagpipes and kilts. Running, leaping and  lots of Scottish shortbread.

Occasionally we would go to La Linea in Spain.  Perhaps to the Easter fair  when there was roundabouts, neon lights and candyfloss, sometimes to a bullfight.  The Spanish children were even poorer than we were, many barefoot and raggedy.

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We were materially very poor, living in a terrible block of flats that served as married quarters, but which had  the most wonderful views across the Gibraltar bay towards Spain.   There was No T.V. but we grew to love the radio.  In fact we had quite a large radio which was combined with a record player and set into a cocktail cabinet.  Oh yes, we would often listen to the Goon show or the Navy Lark, drinking cocktails and eating our bread and dripping.  But mostly we were out and about running free across the rock.  Once, on a cool dusky Gibraltar evening,  we raided, with my big brother Peter, the storeroom of an army cookhouse.  We found great olive coloured tins containing dozens of packets of army hardtack biscuits and we moved them, unseen by adults or parents,  to our secret Europa road caves.

The caves were dotted all over the rock and proved the most perfect playground for adventurous boys.  There were no girls in those days.  We would light them with candles stolen from St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.  Often we would sit outside our caves, wearing our Second World War steel helmets, feasting on our hardtack biscuits and just watch the ships sailing into and out of the bay of Gibraltar.   There was always an aircraft carrier or a destroyer or a submarine or a troopship retuning from the East and stopping off to pick up more troops and families before leaving for England. We would sit for hours watching in utter peace.  It was during those times that I fell so deeply in love with Gibraltar, my dulcet rock. One day I shall go back.  I know I shall be disappointed but I must, someday, return.

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90 thoughts on “On being a boy in 1950’s Gibraltar

  1. Dear Sir

    I am a Gibraltarian born and bred and I have found your reminiscences of your childhood in1950s Gibraltar as very interesting especially the “discovery” of the wartime helmets and the existence of a Sherman Tank in the play area. I have been researching the existence and use of Tanks in Gibraltar for the past two and a half years and have collated considerable infomation from wartime documents and eyewitness reports. I would nevertheless be extremely grateful if you could contact me via email in order to enquire further on your recollections of said tank.
    Thanking you in anticipation.

    Ian

    • Dear Ian,

      I just came across this web site by chance.
      I was also a soldiers son. Dad was stationed in gib. from early 1957 until late 1959. Our family lived in ”B” block at Europa, I am very familiar with the tank that was refered to , I believe it was a ”Churchhill”, which was the British name for the American Sherman tank.
      At the time I lived there,the gun barrel elevation was welded but the turret could be rotated by pushing on the barrel itself. The hatches were welded open,but, oddly,the fuel filler caps were not.My younger brother lost his eyebrows and a little of his hair when he and a friend tried to look into the fuel tank using a match.
      I guess it was a different time, I can’t imagine kids being allowed to play on something like that today.
      We also found underground workshops and offices, all circa WW2. There was a really large one off Europa road heading towards govenors beach, just past where the old brickworks or cement plant used to be.
      Anyway,just thought you might be interested in some old Gib. trivia.

      John.

      • Dear John

        You may not believe it but I have just seen your comments to the subject. Your recollections are really excellent though I don’t suppose your Dad ever took a picture of this tank, did he?
        A picture of this tank is proving elusive, it was easier to find King Tut’s tomb than this!

        Ian

      • Dear Ian,
        I went through a lot of the old Gibraltar photographs,,but no joy i’m afraid on shots of the tank.
        Lots of Catalan Bay, Europa Point etc: . All mainly family pictures I’m afraid.
        Sorry I can’t be of more help.
        I took a look at Gib. on Google Earth,seems like it’s changed out of all recognition,like I should be surprised.

      • Dear John

        Thanks for the reply. Like I said before, a photo of the Sherman is elusive, anyway if you are interested I would be glad to send you some modern pics of the Europa area including B block, just send me your email address.

        regards

        ian

      • Thanks Ian, It would be fun to see what the old place looks like today.
        Our family lived at number 5, which was on the upper level of B block.
        My email address is – jp.west@comcast.net
        Regards,
        John.

      • John,l believe l was on the sherman when your brother dropped a match in the fuel tank. I lived two houses away from C block. Can you remember the Butcher brothers,they lived on the ground floor on the left? Carl and Graham.

      • Hi there David, I do remember the two Butcher brothers. I remember that they had an older sister,Margaret, who was about may age. All the crazy things we did as kids around that old Sherman tank, its a wonder we still have fingers and toes!

    • I also remember a tank that I usd to play in with my friends, not by Europa point though. There were also some old ambulances and a truck that t thought was used for X-rays, I was only seven though so maybe I was mistaken about the X-ray truck, That was in 1959 and I also love climbing the rock, finding cannon balls and sitting on the cannons. I went to a school below Alameda Gardens and loved Gibraltar.

  2. just been reading this the tank was put in to the sea at the lighthouse on a calm sea day you can see the gun.

    • Oh no!why was that.i suppose these days it was deemed as dangerous health and safety?id haved to have seen that againin situ!

    • When I was there (1959-61) there was a Sherman in the water next to the Europa Point lighthouse. The tank behind E Block was still there. It was a cast-hull, 75mm gun M4 with applique armour covering the ammunition stowage areas. The turret hatch was open, and we boys cracked the welds which prevented the turret from rotating. Ergo, hours of fun riding on the gun barrel. My research tells me there were originally 12 Sherman tanks in Gib. The US Army did an audit, and recalled 9 of them, leaving 3 in place. One is in the water, one was behind E Block. Where was the 3rd tank located, I wonder?

      Cheers,
      Cliff Sweeting

  3. British must STOP COLONIALISM, Nazis invaders were removed from many countries but the Brit invaders keep invading countries and lands as Ulster-Ireland, Malvinas-Argentina or Gibraltar-Spain. In Gibraltar the original population were killed, raped and forced to exile, now you can only see settlers from the whole Commonwealth, squatters. This is where live most of the REAL gibraltarians exiliated.

  4. Hi just found this!lived in Gib with my two sisters.Dad was military police.We were there from 1958-1961 .Id love to see a photo of the tank.I used to tell my girls about it.i can still smell the grease inside!we used to slide down it,girls and boys alike!i remember a few of us exploring one of the caves.wed frighten ourselves silly telling ghost stories.i was age8- 11 when we lived there.i used to play in my clubhouse too on the verranda!it was actually a dog kennel.i have photo of me with our veg man Pedro on his donkey!im wearing bare feet and still do indoors.we often reminecse about those times our hearts are always there and never left.our roots as far as im concerned.i remember the levant and when it rained it poured!i also remember a fluke snow fall,just a fewflakes at rhodesdia point it was in the newspaper!.i could see the coast of spain and the outline of morroco on a good day and the popoises and thge lighthouse .we all miss it terribly still.wesley House on a saturday and a piece of bread pud.Nuffield swimming pool and the marina,playing in navy blues after school.lucky for us an early finish in summer,my sisters at st Christopher’s and me at st georges.the head was calledb!mister wall and he was well respected.i believe it was Thursday’s the school woulkd all walk down to the church for a service.siestas were gt if there was a fiesta on near la linea in spain.great fairs.always tanned but often covered in calomine!picnics were frequent either at one of the local beaches..spanish countryside or at ghuitares beach.i yearn for those days back.we couldnt afford holidays but who needed it?we were. Living a childrens paradise!god bless you gib and all our childhood memories!maybe we can afford to return one day!x Debbie Sayers was Goodridge

    • im one of debbies sisters the youngest one even though i was very young when we went to gibralta i still have very fond memories it was the happiest place i lived in and will never forget i went on a cruise in 2012 and the first place we stopped was gib all my childhood memories came flooding back the smell the beach caves the lavant the apes was truley a paridise to me im hoping to return for a holiday this year with my husband always in my heart gibralta x katrina ockendon was goodridge

    • Debbie, I loved reading your post. The 2yrs I spent in Gib. were absolute heaven. Lived at Europa Point in E Block from 1959 till 1961. The old Sherman tank was right behind our block, between it and the Europa Boys’ Club (old AA gun emplacement). Dad was in the Prince of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire (PWO), and they went to the Rock after a 9mths posting to Aden. My sisters Sylvia and Patricia went to St Christopher’s; I went to Holy Trinity Grammar. The Nuffield Pool was our Mecca in the summer: half-days at school, then we’d pack our picnic tea and troop down through the tunnel, through Little Bay to the pool. Evenings would be spent at the Globe Cinema in Europa, watching old AKC war movies. What more could a boy want? Please keep in touch.

      Cheers,
      Cliff Sweeting

      • Cliff,I tooo remember tge times you mentioned!Coming for school walking through tge tunnel and tea on the beach e.t.c.I do remember the cinema and seeing Sinbad and Tom thumb ,thinking they were magical!I had a friend called Sylvie who red hair.I. remember other names too; Brian Moxon,Sammy GordonDavid Kingdon and more.
        I revisited Gib in November 2014.There were loads of memories but alas,as I expected ore sea reclaimed for building and less open gree space!Still,the memories hold well.A fortnight for me was not long enough to find and revisit some memories of places which could,or may not exist any more.the little bay is no longer tgere but cocreted with a small building!I wasnt sure if tge Nuffield was the pool I saw down that point as I remembered being a way off but of corse that could be that I was smaller then and perhaps there was a route via car
        The highlight was finding C block where we lived .I cant tell you how my tummy jumped and I was back there all the memories flooding my head.Very emotional! And looking over the lighthouse ,although now cordoned off for health and safety.The beautiful view to Morroco and witnessing the Levant! Seeing dolphins!
        There is a lot more concrete there too instead of beach.I think the exit of St Michaels Mustve been originally the entrance as that is where I remember the wall wed lean over looking out to the harbour
        How short is Main St now though,when I seem to remember it being much longer and of couse some shops I remember that are no longer there.I did see the corner shop which facinated me as child though.
        Wesley House apparently still there but never had chance to find my school St Georges! La linea of course still there but all so different now!…..Too much to go on and two weeks not enough! Id love to go back but of course memories are mine and my sistersnot my husband so he has no wish to revisit.Maybe I have to persuade him all over again !

  5. Gib will always stay with us.It always comes into conversation somewhere when we all meet up.We lost our dear Mum 2011 and my parents had a chance at least,before then,to have a few return visits.Mum told us that every night shed sit at thge pool( The Bristol ,I think) and bathe her feet whilst the sunset and closed her eyes to reminese.At one point on first return, Mum spied what she thought was our old quarter,and scampered up a steep slope to investigate( around 80 at the time but very young for her age!)She came back hurrying down to tell Dad who shed left at bottom of slope in his electrivc scooter!( she called it his chariot!)They later went to investigate and the family invited them in to look around!They enjoyed the rest of the day there!My sister saved for years and went on a cruise last year with my nephews family,where Gib was on the days itinerary.She said when she got there the feeling was that shed never left and had come home..She could close her eyes and was bought to tears as the memories came flooding back.She hopes to return again and has been saving for a holiday in Gib this year.Im trying to persuade my husband!I know It wont look the same but the igniting of memories ,tge smell and to touch the soil of wonderful childhood would mean the world.No one who has never experienced those times and memories will understand but Gib holds a great chunk of me and there is always a piece of the rock in me!

      • After Gib it was Blighty for a year then France,three years,After that Belgium for three months onto last posting to Germany- three years! Dad wecame backtoEngland summerof ’68 and Da left services following year! I met my husband as art students inPompeye and we eventually settled in Essex where We still live!My huuby tires of thge Gib stories especially at family gatherings! But like I said Gib is still with Dad and my sisters! Its good to hearhow others of similar age reme mber Gib and their childhood memories ofthat time.I dont think it was rose tinted glasses but the freedom of childhood in that setting at those times Would be wonderous to any child and Im grateful for that!

    • Lovely to read all your comments. I was stationed in Gibraltar with my parents in 1968. My father was in the RAF, I too have such wonderful memories of Gib and roaming free and I was only 7 years old but it was so safe .
      I have been ill recently and my partner said that When my chemotherapy is finished that I can choose to go anywhere in the world on holiday so of course I chose Gib! We go in July staying at the Rock Hotel I know that you will all understand why it was my only choice. Can’t wait to go back it has been a life long dream.

      • We have some good memories from all our postings but Gib is engraved in my heart and Im so lucky to have had that experience.I wouldnt change my childhood for the world.like you,I dream about returning but Im still working on hubby! I hope the journey will be a memorable one and help you on your way to recovery.Medicine for the soul! Enjoy walking the old path.

      • Hi Kate, small world, my family were in Gib in 68, Dad was in the Royal Irish Rangers. I was only 3 at the time, my sister would have been 7. I went to St Georges, my sister, Sheelagh, went to St Christophers!

    • Debbie, some of the names you mention I remember, Brian Moxon in particular whose father was a Staff-Sergeant in our Regiment (1 PWO). Your friend Sylvie with the red hair, sounds like my sister Sylvia (who, sadly, passed away earlier this year). My other sister, Patricia (Trisha) is now living in the UK. I remember some of the hair-raising things I did on the Rock: like climbing the 150ft cliffs behind our married quarters. Mum would’ve had a fit if she’d known the risks I was taking! And, of course, the tunnels – exploring them was every boy’s dream of adventure. John MacIntosh Square in town, was the civic hub (law courts, police station, Cathedral etc.). And the ice-cream vendor who’d tour the quarters, yelling out, “Wall’s Ice Cream!” to announce his presence. (This, despite the fact that his pushbike-mounted ice-cream cart advertised Neilsen’s Ice Cream.) The hundreds of black-clad middle-aged women who crossed the border each day to work as domestic servants for the British – to the anger of Generalissimo Franco. And an old itinerant, known to the locals as Tobaiba, whom we Brits nicknamed Malaga Joe. Returning to gloomy, rainy England after all those glorious technicolour experiences, was a severe disappointment. School in particular – after two years of the focussed, dedicated Christian Brothers – was never the same again.
      Cheers,
      Cliff

  6. I know my sister recently posted on here recently with some of her memories but I cant see them here?She says she can read on her computer.Im not that aufait withe mechanics of computer,just wondered how I could read or If Im up to date.Ive enjoyed followingso far.Milton ,also Ive made cotribution to TACA and have no idea if Ive responded on relevant site!Thanks for passing on on this information.N.B my grammar is fine normaly but I get fed up correcting auto type! I type generally type one figered so it takes ages.My daughters acopywriter and proofreader and despairs of me!

    • I have just worked out the reason for that. I have to “approve” comments before the site publishes them and I am not very diligent about visiting the site and approving. My fault alone and nothing to do with any lack of computer skills on your part. A fault which I admit to sharing and have to confess that were it not for spellcheck I would have been drummed out of the barristers profession years ago! Indeed you might enjoy reading a brief history of my own disastrous education as a soldier’s child:

      https://broadsidesdotme.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/queens-school-rheindalen-and-the-profumo-affair/

      • Thanks Milton,at least I know why!Yes ,Id be quite happy read your memoirs! I have so many myself and enjoy reading like minded memories.Isnt this how history develops!At least a version of it!

  7. Just read your school recollections.Quite enjoyable.Memories I think help mould us in life or are there to reflect on in times of melancholy!

  8. I was born in the UK in 1936 to a Gibraltarian Mother Army dad,I have lived in Gib on and of since 1937/1954,,my family and I lived in E Block Europa Point, and Europa Pass, i and my brothers always had a good telling of from my dad for being in places where we shouldn’t have been, loved going down to Camp Bay , through the long slopping tunnel down the rickety steps, hard work going back up again, there was also Jacobs Ladder behind E Block that we used to go up,( told of my dad not to go there ), one thing about Gib in those days there was always something to do,, Church on Sundays at the Garrison Church, my dad used to pick me up and take us to Catalan Bay,( I used to wear my swimming costume under my Choir Dress) Saturday s my dad used to bake sausage rolls and pies and get things ready for the beach,We had a tent in Catalan Bay my mum used to order hot water to make tea, Great times, been back a few times, first time I was looking forward to have a swim at the Montaque Baths, but alas its gone,Regards Mary

    • Remember tge old ricket steps going down to Camp bay.we t tgere regularly and can still hear the sound my flip flops on the wet stoney floor of the cave.We lived in C block 1958-61.Best childhood there!

  9. I loved the beaches and finding my own ” mini pools” to sit in!my own private spa! I remember running onto the beach from swimming and as lots of costumes of the time,they would sag with collection of wet sand! Returning to picnic,cucumber sandwiches were peppered with a condiment of sand and Mum would tell us to go back and rinse the sand off in the sea.i lost count of the numerous times i did so and came back only to put my hands back onto the sandy picnic blanket! Also the prolific amount of calomine that was used and the itchyness as it dried!

  10. Hooray!Cant wait!A wish come true!Am visiting my favourite home, Gib ,in November! My youngest sister too! I know everywhere is built up these days but hopefuly I can explore and find some place that was my Gib!

  11. Hello John… What a splendid account of growing up in Gibraltar! I am a born and bred Gibraltarian although I left and joined the Royal Navy at 14 in ’68. I go back regularly of course, as we do. I came across your site by accident but have been enthralled by your lovely reminisces and the many nice comments… we’ll forget the idiot from San Roque (there’s always one, surprised there’s so few). I can relate to a lot of your memories. Although I was brought up closer to town, in the Humphreys buildings by the Alameda gardens, I used to spend a lot of time in Europa, enjoying similar adventures and playing with school chums both locals and ‘English’ ones, of which we had many. Anyhow, I wanted to leave a comment to say thank you and also to invite you to visit our Facebook group page (I am one of the Admins) dedicated to Gibraltar Old Photos… as we have one very rare photo of your dearly remembered Sherman tank! So, when you have a moment, come pay us a visit. It’s a closed group but I shall be delighted to approve you on your request! Hope to see you soon. Meantime, thank you again for your very nice post… hasta luego! 🙂
    All the best
    Ernest

  12. I am ‘big brother’ Peter that john relates. Gib was marvellous to me, although today I would probably be in ‘care’ for the criminal exploits we got up to.
    I remember we would slither up a water drain to bypass the locked gat at the top of some steps leading from Europa Point to Windmill hill that had some glorious big naval guns pointing out to sea
    There were also machine gun posts overlooking little bay and the Nuffield pool, that contained outline pictures of enemy aeroplanes.
    We would go fishing near the raw sewage outlet down the steps from the sports field near bomb proof house catching horrible contaminated fish

    I went to the Dockyard and technical Shool, not the Grammar, as I was a bit thick, but I liked it there. the head was Commander Smart a RN man and a real gentleman – we would play sorts on the playing fields that are now tourist bus stations, or on the Navy playing fields near the Navy Cinema
    School in the morning, back in the school buses to the glorious hot afternoons, down the dank wet tunnel and the wooden steps to the Nuffield pool, or snorkelling in Little Bay or exploring the multitude of underground caves – it was during one of these explorations that my friend came a cropper and had to be rescued by the Fire Service – for some obscure reason I was given a Humane Society certificate for this – the certificate is now lost in the memories of time
    I used to love wandering along Irish town where the shipping agents had models of ships and the smells were of roasted coffee beans, along main street to stare at the rows and rows of cheap watches in Indian shop fronts, the Emporium near the Catholic Cathedral to examine the sweet counters (what on earth was an Emporium I wondered)
    I remember a shop just about opposite the Cathedral whose windows were stacked high with sea-soap – we used to have a bath in sea water as fresh water was in short supply

    I found the steps leading up from main street up the rock very romantic- they went on and on with houses and bread-smelling bakeries pressing in on each side. Just like Naples as I later discovered.
    Sometimes to the beach near the airport landing strip where planes would land and take off just a few feet above our heads. Camping out in pellucid warm nights on a rocky outcrop at Catalan bay where an hotel now sits – to our surprise we witnessed one of our teachers and his friends skinny dipping in the warm mediterranean
    Catalan village was a poor fishing village at that time

    We would walk from Europa point through tunnels to Sandy bay singing in the clear summer air, passing assorted military installations as we went

    Massive American carriers would dock outside the harbour moles and the Andrea Doria, a lovely Italian liner would rush by carrying Italian migrants to the USA. This streamlined modern liner would later sink in the Atlantic near the NY coast

    Lovely times. I left in 1957, very sad to go and went to a much unhappier place, but that is another tale

    • I remember the Emporium,the caves the little bay ,also the”Anchor” sea soap we used in the bath.The small kitchen had running fresh water but the bath was sea water.Probably cost a lot in spas these days in UK! We’d sometimes get bits of seaweed in the bath!What memories ,I miss.I went to .St Georges and wonder if any one has a pic of it?Sad the tank no longer there ,I usex to love slicind down it and would even play inside.I can still smell tge grease!

      • Debbie, the saltwater baths were brilliant! Of course, in summer we were in the Nuffield Pool straight after lunch (also saltwater, but heavily chlorinated). Then a quick freshwater shower before getting dressed & climbing those wooden steps; the gloomy, echoing tunnel back to E Block; and a family trip to the cinema for a good, healthy dose of British war propaganda: Dunkirk or Sink The Bismarck, that sort of thing. My return home – to the cynical, hard-nosed attitudes of my fellow Hartlepudlians – was a rude awakening.

  13. I lived in Gib 1946-47 in New Camp RAF by the Yacht Club and flying boat hangar. Went to school in the Covent opposite the Governor’s House in the High street, I was six- seven at the time. I will add more later.

  14. Hi, really enjoying the comments, not a bad memory among them. My dad was a sergeant in the Royal Artillery, we lived in Gib from 1954 or ’55 to 1958. I was only 5 so memories are a bit sketchy. We lived in 9&10 D block, Europa Point. There were 6 of us kids so two apartments had to be joined together. My dad was involved in providing the tank for all the kids to play on. The turret was welded after a boy got his foot stuck. I went to a Catholic school in town and ran away when a nun told us we would be put in the shed with the rats! So I was transferred to a school in the barracks. I loved my time in Gib and on the day we left to go to Blackpool UK of all places, I felt so sad! I have returned for very brief visits since and it’s never the same when you go back anywhere when so much time has passed. I left a small piece of my heart when we left in ’58. I will endeavour to put old photos on Gibraltar old photos 2 on Facebook. (Unfortunately none of the tank!)

  15. Great to hear the memories of Gibraltar. My Dad was in the dockyard and I first went there in’48 living in Cormarant and started school in St John’s Annex.
    We returned in ’52 and lived in Cumberland buildings we had a wonderful childhood spending our time in the caves, swimming in Rosis bay, fishing in Camp Bay. We caught the green school bus to St. Christopher’s school that finished at one o’clock in the summer , and went straight to either Risia or Camp bay. Cumberland buildings were great to play hide and seek. On the Royal tour we had bunting all over the flats and had a party in the patio I’ve a photo of the Royal family passing the flats with me watching the Royal car. I was invited on the Vanguard for a tour, hence I spent 24 years in the Navy.
    Every time when I called at Gib I would go off alone visiting my childhood haunts.
    I even had the nerve 20 years later to knock on my old home to look around. The buildings have now gone and new luxury flats have been built
    I now live in New Zealand, but I had my wonderful memories of growing up in Gibraltar. Bob Handy handyscan@aol.com

    • Lovely I do recall the tank , and spent hours skinny dipping in Rosie bay club . Army at the time 1959 .

  16. I’m amazed at how many times that gloomy, dank tunnel leading to the rickety timber steps, has featured in so many people’s memories. It was an iconic feature of my time in Gib. I know the contrast – between the gloom and the sudden burst of vibrant scenery at the end – will always be with me. And my time there was a very British experience: Gibraltarians and HM Forces people alike, shared a dislike and distrust of the embittered Franco dictatorship which was our neighbour. The Sherman was also an icon – relic of a war in which Gib was a lynchpin for British and Allied naval and air power, culminating in the landings in French North Africa (Operation Torch). I loved the delay on the way to Four Corners (I’d take Dad his lunch when he was Guard Commander) if the RAF Hawker Hunters or Avro Shackletons were taking-off. And the displays of naval power were endless: British, American, French or Netherlands naval units were forever occupying berths in the harbour. In short, the perfect home for a militarily-obsessed teenage boy.

  17. I lived in Gibraltar in 1967/69 as a child. My dad was in the royal Irish rangers and I went to st Christopher’s. I have some wonderful memories of walking through the tunnel with my brother to get to the Nuffield pool and of cinema nights with the family. We would buy hot sunflower seeds of a little man who sold them on the street. I went back there in 2015 with my husband and had a wonderful time reminiscing. I think my brother may have some pictures of the tanks. Wonderful times

      • I may have one coming to you which I viewed today. There is some work to be done as it is only a small print. How do I attach it to the site?

    • Di, the Sherman tank was an iconic memory for so many of us. It was the centre of a military fantasy world for us young boys – all with dreams of joining the Armed Forces sometime in the future. The Europa Boys Club – about 50 metres away from the tank – was the site of an old WWII anti-aircraft gun site (the ordnance long since removed). The short tunnel behind the emplacement, which no doubt used to hold ammunition and stores, was our hangout. Returning to the UK, where so many of our contemporaries were surprisingly anti-military, was a huge culture shock for an impressionable adolescent. The Rock was a huge military showcase in the late 1950s/early 1960s.

    • I’m also a Rangers Brat Di, are you on our Facebook page? “2nd batallion royal irish Rangers brats”

  18. I used to live in b block Gibraltar from 1956 to 1958.i think I used to play with John west.He would probably know my elder brother better as he was more his age.He went to Gibraltar grammar where as l went to st. Christopher’s a primary school.l have photos of John and myself on top of the Sherman tank also both of us at the entrance of our secret cave.well l thought you might to know

    • Hi there Ken,I remember you and your family very well.
      You’re right about me knowing your elder brother Len somewhat better, we were closer in age. As you were going to St Christopher’s you probably remember my younger brother , Stephan, who also went to St Christopher’s. He was 8 when we moved to Gib. in the summer of 1957 and I was 13.
      As I recall there were 3 families on that upper floor of B block, you guys, the Oliver’s, us, the West’s and on the far end, the Watkins. They had two daughters, Pat, who would have been about your age and Lorraine, who I remember being particularly smitten with at the time !
      It all seems like a million years ago now.
      Cheers, John West..

    • Dear Ken, any chance in sending a scan of your tank picture? I am constantly searching for info and pictures of these tanks.
      Regards
      Ian Reyes
      Gibraltar

    • Dear Ken/ john ,
      I would be very grateful if you could send me copies of these pictures. I am always on the lookout for any pictures of the Tanks in Gibraltar.
      My email is chikitutu@hotmail.com. Thanks , Ian Reyes , Gibraltar

  19. From John Oliver.a memory has just come
    Back of a near riot at the Nuffield pool when they tried to make an officers only day. Do anyone
    Else remember it

  20. Hi John do you remember when our parents must have been at some do and left us with no baby sitters.when they had gone we all climbed out of our windows onto the veranda and felt so grown up.referance leonard he ended up in the army a officers of course.he was s the clever one.alas in 1971 as a captain in the r.e.m.e. he was killed in Germany by a drunken driver.cheers John.

  21. Hi John,I do remember we got up to some crazy stuff while the parents were absent! Always lots of fun.So sad to hear about Leonard,he and I spent most of our waking time at the Nuffield pool and Little bay during the summers of 1957 and ’58.I remember that 5 metre board seemed awfully high, but it didn’t faze Leonard, he was a great diver.
    Our family really loved Gibraltar, so much in fact that even though my father was stationed in Germany after we left Gib., we drove back down there the summer of 1960 and 1961 for our holidays. Full of good intentions, but have never been back since, one of these days perhaps.
    Like Len, I was in the Army for awhile, though not an officer, left in 1971 , moved to the US and to make a long story short, ended up as a pilot for Delta Airlines, finally retired at the end of 2009.
    Always good to hear from you John, I’ll be sure to let my brother know.
    Cheers, John..

  22. So marvellous that, 6 years after it was written, this thread is still attracting comments. I lived in Gibraltar, as a serving Royal Signals soldier, from 1974 to 1976. I was a Corporal, and single when I first arrived, living in Governor’s Cottage camp. I was promoted shortly afterwards and move to the Fortress Sergeant’s Mess, in Town Range, just above the The Convent.

    I returned home to get married in July 74, and my wife joined me in Gib, even though we had nowhere to live. We hopped from quarter to quarter when people were on leave in UK and then ended up in 263/7A Main Street, a very small flat that cost £14 per week.

    Our daughter was born in October 75 and holds dual nationality, so Gibraltar, of course, holds a very dear place in our hearts.

  23. So nice to read about the experiences so many had in their time on Gibraltar. I’m one of the 2 surviving Portlock family. Those of you who recall the name know that my father used to look after the apes. We lived in 16 E Block and like so many remember the tank alongside our block. The kid who got his foot stuck in the tank turret was my brother Derek. The other 2 tanks were despatched into the sea at Europa Point. One tank landed upright and complete whilst the other parted company with its turret which landed barrel down on the sea bed with the track upright. Remember the Oliver’s, Lomax and Segie( not sure about spelling) families. So much I could put here but my typing skills are one finger. Joined the navy and returned to Gib on the way to the Far East. I went back E Block to see if things were still the same. As I walked up to the block a woman who was sat on the air raid shelter in front of the block spoke my name almost in disbelief, it was Mrs Lomax who had not seen me for about 8 years. One last thing for now. I went fishing with Sid James whilst he was making a film close to the Nuffield pool. I’ve not been back to Gib since but hope to do so in the next year or two.

    • Dear Neil. Do you recall where the other two tanks pushed into the sea were located and when were they actually thrown into the sea?

      Thanks
      Ian
      Gibraltar

      • Hi Ian, The 2 remaining tanks were put on transporters and taken to Europa Point, unloaded and pushed into the sea using a bulldozer. We kids were not allowed in the area at the time but watched from about 50ys.

      • Neil, thanks for the interesting info. The method of pushing the tanks into the sea confirms a story I heard first hand from one of the local REME drivers that took part in this operation, that they were unable to push them with their Scammell Recovery vehicle and had to push them with a bulldozer. If a transporter was used , it means that these two were located elsewhere on the Rock. I have also heard that they might have been located in Windmill Hill prior to their disposal. I presume their dumping into the sea must have taken place in the mid 50’s? On another thought, I presume that the Sherman beside E Block must have been scrapped in the 60’s.

      • Hi Ian. Footnote to any other message. You are right to think that the last 2 tanks were parked on Windmill Hill as their turrets were visible from certain vantage points.

      • Hi Ian
        Have put a comment on here re the tank. Today I viewed one of my deceased sisters photo’s taken from my mothers collection which shows me and my brother Derek stood on the tank. We are going to invest in an enlarged version so that the detail will be better portrayed. How do I post it on this site. If I can’t do it would be prepared to give me your email address so that I can send it to you. If you wish to test my email I am on neilportlock@hotmail.co.uk. Wait to here from you.

  24. From John Oliver of course I remember the portlocks.we used to be friends.when did you lèave Gibraltar. I remember getting into the cinema for free we would wait at the rear entrance where the projections was and once the film started we would get in .you were I remember only allowed to take one person with you.i have photos of us together also on one of these websites there is a photo of your dad with the queen from when she visited. Famous! I’ve been back to Gibraltar about six times unfortunatelyeach time it has changed that much I have been disappointed.not with Gibraltar but my memories get faded each time.the reason I have been back so many times is that I was in the merchant navy. Well like you I am a one finger types so I’ll finish for now John.

    • Hi John. Brilliant to hear from you. Have lots of memories about ‘US’ the boys of Europa point. We left in 1960 as my dad was leaving the army. It was my sister who let us in to the cinema. Sad to say she passed away last year. Your right about my dad being on another sites. Only last year a friend put the record right on Wikipedia about his contribution to looking after the apes. I have few photo’s of my time on The Rock. It is my fervent wish that I can make it back it Gib with members of my family although they will never be able to appreciate what it was that we had, which was a bit of growing up in a youthful paradise.
      Keep in touch
      Neil

  25. When I were but a lad in Gibraltar the RAF had a squadron of Shackleton bombers. Quite big beasts that resembled the old Lancaster bombers of WWII and which had a deep throaty roar as they flew over the rock out to sea.
    Down at Europa Point alongside the lighthouse there was a kind of ledge and from time to time the military, probably the Royal Artillery, would set up a line of anti-aircraft guns, six of seven of them, probably a whole battery of guns although I’m not sure how may guns are in a battery. We would watch them, had a grandstand view only a few yards from the ledge. They would practice drills for hours, loading, unloading, traversing, and cleaning gun barrels and running around with boxes of ammunition. In the afternoon one of the Shackleton bombers would appear far out to sea, flying high, North to South and towing behind it, on an enormously long rope, an orange target. And now the guns would open fire and there was a great cacophony of noise with men in tin hats running about with shells, loading the firing guns, more tin hats, moulded to the gun seats spinning little brass wheels and tracking the targe,t and more tin hats with binoculars watching the target and shouting instructions. The poor orange target didn’t stand a chance and there was acrid smoke from the guns and it was really really exciting. Afterwards would come a NAAFI tea van, or maybe it was the WRVS and serve the soldiers large mugs of tea and huge white sandwiches, “wads” they called them and the soldiers would chat to us and give us a sip of tea
    Edit

  26. My family, Mother, Father and brother Andrew lived in Gibraltar for 7 1/2 years. We came back to York, England in 1961. My Father was a Garrison Engineer, I think it was for the then named Ministry of Public Building & Works) working from an office going up the Rock, somewhere near the Hospital. We lived in Buena Vista Barracks in a delightful flat, a large stone building with Army offices occupying the other half. We had a very large verandah looking over to Algeciras and Africa to the left. Also a large patio to the side of the building and two smaller patios. We were very fortunate. Marvellous sunsets. I first went to St Christopher’s School and then to the Loreto Convent which was directly opposite. I still have an autograph book with lots of Gibraltarian girls entries – Georgina Dialdas, Lolita Levy to name just two. Whilst we were there my Father was in charge of building the Nuffield Pool. He was called Jim Bainbridge and my Mother Pat Bainbridge. Sadly my Father died in 1962 and my Mother in 2016. I would love to hear from anyone who remembers my family. I am so pleased to have found this site.

  27. Neil about that film they were making near Nuffield pool.I can’t remember the name of it but it was all about commander Crabb the royal navy diver.I ‘ve got Sid James and Dawn Adams autograph.
    GOING ONTO another story the guns the artillery were using at Europa Point were Boffos I also used to watch them firing at the targets.Great fun for us kids at Europa point we had so much to do with no restrictions unlike Tue kids of today.We had no telly no game boxes smart phones but who needed them I’m afraid today’s kids have missed out of just playing and enjoying themselves.Still I suppose it is just the sign of the times.

  28. Ken. The film was a true story about how the Italians cut an access below the waterline of a defunct ship in Spanish waters from which 2 men chariots would cross to Gibraltar and set charges against our ships in the harbour. The film was called Silent Enemy 1958. Commander Crabb and his team were instrumental in limiting the damage done and finally stopped the incursions into Gib waters. Another film clip you may want to look at, available on YouTube, is The Clue of The Missing Ape, a film starring George Cole, in which my dad had a bit part reporting a missing ape called Bess who was his favourite. Great times

  29. Ken. Do you have any recollection of the ammo ship blowing up in the harbour. I was only 4/5 at the time but I was up the rock with my dad and have blurred recollections of watching it blowing up.

    • Hi Neil, apply for membership of Gibraltar Old Photos 2 on Facebook and there you will find quite a few pictures on the explosion of the ammunition ship “Bedenham”.

      • Hi Michael.
        Thanks for message. Will enquire by other means as I am not on Facebook.

  30. We were in Gib from 1958 to 1959 when my father was seconded from BEA to fly with Gib Air. I was about 8 at the time. I had a not too enjoyable time at the Christian Brother school! Talking of the caves, when I was in hospital having my tonsils removed, a couple of young lads were brought in with bad burns. As I recall they’d been in the caves, lit candles where there was some form of gas and a subsequent explosion. I can also remember sitting in the bus waiting to cross the runway on Battle of Britain Day and watching a Shackleton do a low flypast with wheels up, come too low, hit the runway and end up one wing in the water off the runway. I also have memories of massed battles as the various fleets came into town and after a few drinks international differences came to the fore.

  31. Hello all, I’ve just discovered that my great grandfather worked in Gibraltar in the 1920s and 1930s – something to do with the British Army but I’m not sure what – and so my grandad and his sister, Ronald and Muriel Talbot, went to school there. My grandad went to the Christian Brothers School, which I’ve seen referred to as Line Wall College elsewhere. I don’t really know much more than that – but if you have any information or photos about life in Gibraltar around 1930 for army families, I’d really appreciate you pointing me to it.

    Claire Talbot

  32. Our family was in Gib January 1964, when I was 10, until April 1966. My father was a chef in the RAF and we lived at North Front, beach on one side and runway on the other.
    Because we were RC, I went to Bishop Fitzgerald’s where I passed my 11 plus and then went to Gibraltar Grammar.
    I have great memories of that time. I remember seeing the Fourmost (pop group) at St.Michael’s Caves and getting Donovan’s autograph at North Front Radio. Alf Ramsey brought an FA XI over in 1965 to play Gibraltar and a Combined Services side. I got all the autographs.
    My mother played piano for all the shows at the Inces Hall put on by the local drama soc. and even had a show on forces radio. When we left, they had a jazz band in the airport terminal and a red carpet out to the plane. They were great days and I’ve never been back, but that will change as last my wife and I have booked to go next June for our wedding anniversary. Staying at the Rock Hotel! Can’t wait.

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