Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Guardians of Gibraltar’s liberty

A modern-day guardian of Gibraltar
(Photograph: J. Ritson)
In 2008 I took the above photograph of one of the Barbary Apes of Gibraltar during a visit to the ‘Rock’. A local tradition has always said that Gibraltar would remain British while the Barbary Apes (actually tailless monkeys) remained on the Rock.

During WW2 Gibraltar was in a key strategic location, effectively enabling Britain and its Allies to control the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic via the Straits of Gibraltar. It was a key staging post on the supply route to the Malta, Suez and the Middle East and was an important base in 1942 for the Allied invasion of North Africa.

(For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below)


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

By 1942 the number of Barbary Apes living semi-wild on the Rock had fallen to single figures, usually quoted as six or seven. To ensure the survival of the Ape colony, and perhaps the British colony, a military raid was mounted to obtain additional Barbary Apes from North Africa. Tradition states that this was the idea of Winston Churchill, although the local military leaders had already had the same idea. So the colony of Barbary Apes on Gibraltar survived the war and in 2008 numbered more than 200.

Before the invasion of North Africa, General Eisenhower, who was using Gibraltar as his headquarters, patted the head of on of Gibraltar’s guardians, for luck. This is not a practice recommended in modern times as many of the Apes can be rather vicious. However, the Barbary Apes still stand guard over the Straits, and are likely to remain there so long as there is a Gibraltar.

Thursday, 10 July, 2008  

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