Defending the Rock (of Gibraltar)


Defending the Rock

How Gibraltar defeated Hitler

By Nicholas Rankin

Published by Faber & Faber; Dist. by Allen and Unwin
RRP $39.99 in hardback • ISBN 9780571307708

The actual Rock of Gibraltar is a chunk of Jurassic limestone at the very southern tip of Spain at the strategically vital entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It became a British protectorate in 1704 when the English, aided by the Dutch, ousted the Spanish governor. The Rock became the portal for British expansion eastwards as far as the Suez Canal.

Fast forward to World War II. Gibraltar is menaced on all sides – by Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Vichy France and Francoist Spain. Every day Gibraltar had to let thousands of people cross its frontier to work. Among them came spies and saboteurs, eager to blow up its 25 miles of secret tunnels.

By 1940, civilians were being compulsorily evacuated to Morocco. By 1942, Gibraltar became US General Eisenhower’s HQ for the invasion of North Africa, the campaign that led to Allied victory in the Mediterranean.

Rankin suggests it was Hitler’s failure to commit to ridding himself of his last opponent – England – either by invasion, blockade or cutting its Mediterranean links of Gibraltar, Malta and the Suez that was pivotal to the outcome of the war.

While the sub-title of this book, ‘How Gibraltar defeated Hitler’, seems to me to be a bridge too far, Rankin has nevertheless written a fascinating book which demonstrates the strategic value of Gibraltar in the broader context of the war in Europe.

For a more comprehensive review of this book, go to The Guardian (21 Sep 2017) at THIS LINK.


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