Tito Vallejo

Tito Vallejo has 3 articles published.

The Gibraltar Flag

in Event/Features

The first, is the famous “Pendon de Gibraltar” or Gibraltar Pennant, which is kept in San Roque’s City Hall. This pennant or flag was presented to the most noble city of Gibraltar, key of Spain, together with the Deed of Arms and is supposed to have been embroidered by Queen Isabella herself in Santa Fe. Later her daughter Juana la Loca, “Crazy Joan” who followed her as queen, added the words “Most loyal and noble city”. The pennant has the Castle and Key on one side and the Spanish Royal Coat of Arms on the other. Many will be surprised to hear that this is not the Castle and Key we use on our flag. 

The one Gibraltar has adopted is the true Coat of Arms, which is described and drawn in the Deed of Grant.  The original drawing is just one inch high by three-quarters of an inch wide!

In 1869 a circular dispatch was sent to all British Colonies requesting that a sketch of arms or badge to be emblazoned in the centre of the Union Jack used by Governors should be supplied to the Colonial Office.  No less than eleven examples were submitted. And then it happened, when on 28th September 1926 the late Sir Charles Monro, Governor of Gibraltar, recommended that the arms originally granted by Fernando and Isabella should, by right, be regarded as the true, proper and ancient Arms of Gibraltar and since the people liked the motto “Montis Insignia Calpe”, he suggested that these words should also be regarded as part of the device.  The Garter King of Arms advised that this could be done without a Royal Warrant, but only if a properly attested and accurate copy of the Spanish Grant of Arms by Fernando and Isabella in 1502 could be obtained.  This was obtained and the Arms were accepted. 

With reference to the motto “Montis Insignia Calpe”, which literally means “A mountain named Calpe”, there are those who see it as rather insignificant after the Rock’s turbulent history. Another motto which was coined after the Great Siege of 1779-83 was suggested and taken up by the Gibraltar Regiment as “Nulli Expunabilis Hosti” which can be translated as meaning one of three different interpretations.  The first “Never Yield Unto the Enemy” another “Never Defeated by the Enemy” or “Conquered by no Enemy”, which more or less convey the same message. 

Now we take an in-depth look at the flag and realise that the castle has no association with our Moorish Castle as most people believe. This castle on the flag in non other than the one representing Castille. The flag of Queen Isabella was that of Castilla La Mancha which is red and white with a golden castle on the red sector. This she cleverly turned with the white above and the red below and put her castle in red on the white sector, to this she added a golden key hanging from the castle gate. This Key is the only thing that has to do with Gibraltar as it was seen as the key to Spain and also to the Atlantic and Mediterranean Seas.

In the past recent years people both in Gibraltar and San Roque have taken liberties in their own interpretation of the flag and badge of Gibraltar, making many variations and departing from the true version.  I have selected a few as examples.

These two flags are NOT true Gibraltar flags; compare the Castles with the true one below.

National Day 2002 the last time we would see that flag displayed.

National Day 2003 at long last the correct flag is displayed after my appearance on Gibraltar TV where I shot all the other flags down!

The closure of the border between Gibraltar and Spain

in Features

Despite the numerous sieges Gibraltar has undergone, there was no border fence between Spain and Gibraltar until the year 1910. The demarcation lines were the batteries and walls themselves, between them, the Neutral Ground (No Man’s Land.)

Before this date there were just two lines of British and Spanish sentries in their boxes looking at each other from a distance inside the Neutral Ground. 

Contraband from Gibraltar into Spain has always been rife with tobacco being the prime item. This used to be carried across the Neutral Ground strapped to the bodies of specially trained Contraband Dogs. In trying to stop these dogs, sentries from both sides would take shots at them and in so doing were sometimes in danger of shooting each other.

The Spanish Government was very anxious to stop this practice and suggested to the British Government that some sort of fence or barrier be constructed to put an end to it. A two metre high chicken wire fence was erected from shore to shore but soon enough mysterious holes started to appear, ending with a full iron fence being installed. Thus was the border fence born. People would walk to and from Spain without passports but had to go through customs only and this went on for years without harassment. 

Things begin to change!

I will begin with the visit to Gibraltar in 1954 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth which was seen as an insult by Spain’s Dictator Francisco Franco and from then on Gibraltar started to suffer a string of restrictions and harassment. Any Spanish worker in Gibraltar who retired or lost his job would not be replaced; there was also the threat of the confiscation of property in Spain belonging to Gibraltarians. My grandmother who had a lovely villa in Campamento had to sell it quick to the first offer she got. 

In the years 1963 and 1964 Spain begins its campaign for the recovery of Gibraltar at the United Nations. This was headed by Spain’s Foreign Minister Fernando Maria Castiella with his famous Red Book which he presented to the UN with Spain’s evidence (according to Spain) that Gibraltar was Spanish. Our leaders Sir Joshua Hassan and Peter Isola both went to the UN to put our case before them, why we wanted to remain British. On 10th September 1967, we had our famous Referendum which showed the whole world Gibraltar’s desire to remain British. 12,138 voted in favour against 44 votes.

They started to intensify the restrictions with the French nationals who were going back to France from Morocco via Gibraltar’s ferry. They were kept in the sun for hours in a queue before they were allowed to cross. The next move was to make every Gibraltarian who wanted to cross into Spain apply for a special pass; the British Gibraltar Passport was not recognised and only those who lived across the border applied. When the UN rejected Spain’s claim, the Spanish Government warned all Spanish workers in Gibraltar that they would close the border with Gibraltar and they would not be going back. To compensate for this massive job loss, Franco promised the Spanish workers that they had built a refinery in the bay which would give the men work and a large textile factory called “Confecciones Gibraltar” for the women. The truth was that the refinery could only employ 200 men whilst the textile factory lasted for a short period and came to an abrupt halt when the Director disappeared with all the funds for its creation (Very typical). The great majority had to immigrate to other European countries like UK, Germany, Holland, and France. 

Plenty of work was still available on the Rock and many Spanish workers who were not given work permits for Gibraltar by their government bypassed this by coming to work via the Algeciras-Tangier-Gibraltar ferry. The only problem was they had to stay and live on the Rock. Many local families hired spare rooms for these poor unfortunate people. They used to send their earnings home with friends who could still go through the border daily. These workers used to be known as “Trabajadores de Pasaporte” in other words passport workers. The first batch who went back to visit their families had their passports confiscated by the Spanish police in Algeciras for having the Gibraltar immigration stamp on them. Word soon reached the Rock’s authorities and the stamp was no longer used. 

In 1967 all the Spanish women working on Gibraltar were withdrawn for their own protection under the pretext that they were being insulted and molested by Gibraltarian men. Some of them appeared on Spanish television saying so. A propaganda campaign by Spain’s television, radio and press was constantly slagging Gibraltar with their famous slogan “Gibraltar Español”.

In December 1968 the UN instructs Britain to end the colonial status of Gibraltar by 1st October 1969. Britain responds by implementing the Gibraltar Constitution Order on the 30th May 1969, which infuriates Franco and the border is closed on 8th June 1969.

Many Gibraltarians who lived across the border had to leave their homes and come into Gibraltar. Most of them who could not be taken by their families were put into old empty barracks which were used as transit centres until proper accommodation could be found. 

Despite the Spanish gates which had been closed, Gibraltar’s were kept open all the time as if nothing had happened. Suddenly overnight, Gibraltar lost its Spanish labour force. Luckily contingency plans had been made for this foreseeable turn of events by making contact with the Government of Morocco who covered the shortage of labour by sending hundreds of Moroccans in their stead. In the meantime all Gibraltarians mucked in to cover whilst the shortages were filled. The most essential services like the hospitals and old people’s homes were covered very effectively. Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as fish came from Morocco whilst meat and other essentials were imported from UK and other countries. Nothing came from Spain who was trying to strangle Gibraltar’s economy. 

In 1968 the UN made a recommendation to the UK that it should try by all means to decolonise Gibraltar by the end of 1st October 1969. Franco interpreted this believing Gibraltar would be returned to Spain and if not he would take it by force. I found myself involved in this conflict which could have turned into a nasty incident short of war. I was doing military service at the time when we were sent to the border together with the Black Watch Highland Regiment, armed to the teeth. The Spanish military forces were re-grouping with tanks and artillery in the vicinity to make an armed assault. 

The British Forces retaliated, three days later we had a task force arriving with aircraft carriers, helicopters and Royal Marine Commandos. Gibraltar became a hive of activity involving military personnel. On seeing the British response the Spanish troops withdrew and dispersed to whence they had come. I was very happy and relieved at the outcome of this episode where no shot was fired more so because I was right in the front line! Then Franco died and we were all expecting a drastic change in Spain’s government and a possible opening of the border gates. It was believed since they had now become a democratic government things would start to look better for us. No way, it was the same dog with a different collar. Years went past and nothing happened. Then as Spain was very anxious to join the EEC, the UK took advantage of telling them that unless they opened the border UK would veto their entry. Talks commenced for the opening of the border, but what happens? The start of the Falklands War! The talks were suspended pending the result of the war. The truth of the matter was that Spain was anxious to see what Britain’s reaction to the invasion of the Falklands would be? Would Britain fling its military might to aid the Islanders or not. I personally think that if they had not aided the Islanders as they did, today we would be telling a different story. Once that war was over talks commenced once again which led to the opening of the border. The Spanish Premier at the time Felipe Gonzalez, told congress that he had opened the border on humanitarian grounds. (Not that they wanted to join the EEC!) 

BARRACK LIFE on The Rock of Gibraltar, 1797

in Features

There was a Society of Methodists in Gibraltar, chiefly composed of men, belonging to the different regiments in the garrison. They had a small place, where they had started meetings for prayer and exhortation; there were a few of these Methodists in our regiment. Shortly after I joined it the commanding officer gave out an order, for none of the regiment to attend any of their meetings. What effect this order had, in deterring any from attending at the time it was issued, I know not: it had not at least a permanent effect, for I know that several did attend afterwards, and no notice was taken of it. I went to this place only once. all the time I was in Gibraltar, and I was nearly a twelve month in the place. This shows what a careless state of mind I was in; for I may say it was the only religious exercise I was at, in all the time. There were indeed prayers read to the garrison, every Sunday morning on the Grand Parade, when the weather was dry: but the Chaplain was always at such a distance, that I never heard a word he said. There was a chapel at the governor’s residence, where service was performed through the day, but I never was in it.

I began to fall into company which led me frequently to get intoxicated; I did not indeed fall into a habit, nor acquire an inclination for intoxicating liquors for their own sake; but had some circumstances continued, I have great reason to fear that an appetite for them would have been formed, and that I might have turned out a habitual drunkard. Gibraltar was indeed, to produce a habit of drunkenness. The wine was cheap; and the place is warm; and in time of war with Spain, there are very little fresh provisions, and what is fresh, is frequently indifferent. There is a great deal of hard labour for the soldiers, for part of which they get extra pay; by the evening, many of them are fatigued, and actually need a refreshment beyond their ordinary provisions; but those who need the refreshment are not content to go and get what is required for themselves; they often take one or two of their comrades with them, and having once sat down in the wine house, they generally sit until either their money is exhausted, or their time has run out. The moment the evening gun fires, for the men to be in their barracks, the wine houses must be emptied and shut, until after the new guards are marched away to relieve the old ones next morning, that no soldier may have it in his power to get drunk before guard mounting. Those who are treated one night, treat in their turn who treated them, when they get pay for work.

Many of the barrack rooms are uncomfortable, on account of their size, containing sixty or more men. This greatly destroys social comfort; for one or two individuals can molest all the rest; so that select retired conversation cannot be enjoyed. Anything of that kind is always ready to be interrupted by the viscous and ignorant, who do not fail to scoff and gibe, at what they do not understand or relish themselves. Among so many men, too, there will always be found some, who take a malicious pleasure in making their neighbours unhappy. This renders the barrack room quite uncomfortable during the evening, which, as a greater part, are employed at work, or otherwise occupied during the day, is the principle time when they can be together. This, along with other things,  induces those who have a little money, to spend the evening in the wine house with their more select companions. Different sorts of vermin are plenty in the barracks; and it is the common excuse for drinking, that they cannot get a sound sleep unless they are drunk. It was customary at the time to settle the men’s accounts once in two months; and as very little pay was given to the soldiers over their rations during the intervals; the greater part had a considerable sum to receive; and then drinking was so very common, that to prevent a multiplicity of punishment, it was found necessary to have no parade, except in those for guard, in order that the money might be the sooner done; and the different regiments in the garrison had to take different days to settle their men’s account, that the garrison might not be involved in one general state of intoxication at the same time. But I hear that matters are differently managed now; the men are oftener settled with, and get a larger proportion of their pay weekly, which prevents them having so much money to receive at once. The most comfortable time I had, was when I was upon guard. There are many very retired stations, some of them in elevated situations, on the very summit of the Rock, 1300feet above the level of the sea, from which the view is surely grand, and where a fine opportunity is afforded for meditation. I sometimes took my bible to guard with me, but I never read it

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