GIBRALTAR – WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
Contributor / 2009-07-31 10:00:12
The Rock of Gibraltar fell into British hands during the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century and in August 1704 Don Diego de Salinas and his downtrodden troops surrendered to British forces under the command of Sir George Rooke after a lengthy siege and heavy bombardment.
It has been identified as one of the Pillars of Hercules and has been besieged 15 times deriving its name from the invading Arab leader who captured Spain in the eighth century. But during the Second World War, Hitler plotted to capture Gibraltar with the help of Spain's General Franco but the plan,
Operation Felix, was abandoned. In the following years he tightened border restrictions with Gibraltar, eventually closing the frontier and all other means of direct communication with the mainland in 1969. After 16 years of isolation the border reopened but tensions remained fraught.
In 2002 the Government of Gibraltar called a referendum on proposals by Britain to share sovereignty with Spain. Almost 99 per cent of Gibraltarians voted to remain British.
The 2006 creation of a Tripartite Forum for Dialogue among the governments of Spain, Britain and Gibraltar attempted to put aside the issue of sovereignty and for the first time established a framework of co-operation to improve the life of those who live and work in Gibraltar and the Spanish towns across the border.
The Rock comprises less than 2.6 square miles, but its value as a British naval base has been proved many times. It was a key point in the anti-submarine campaigns in both World Wars.