Trafalgar Day in Gibraltar


The day I spent in Gibraltar when I was in Andalucia last summer had never seemed quite enough to see everything I wanted to, even without my camera dying halfway through it – plus I wanted to go back in the spring or autumn, when there was a chance of flocks of birds passing through or over the straits. So the combination of Trafalgar Day, the weekend, and reading week making my work go quiet seemed like a good excuse for a second trip, even if it did put two big adventures into the same month.

I spent Friday travelling via London – the flight to Gibraltar was in the early evening, but as a lunchtime flight to London would mean cutting it a bit fine, and a late morning flight would still mean taking the whole day off work, I took an early morning flight and went via St Paul’s, which was having Trafalgar Day on the Friday.

I wasn’t sure which day was going to be Trafalgar Day in Gibraltar, because I’d read that the service in the Trafalgar graveyard was held on the Sunday closest to Trafalgar Day, but I went down there when I got up (quite late) on Saturday morning anyway, and that was a good thing, because the various groups involved were beginning to gather then.

This was a very different thing from the public services at Tynemouth, or even in London – very formal and naval, with various important guests. You didn’t get too bad a view from outside, although there were always trees in the way.

Trafalgar Day service, Trafalgar graveyard

There are two graves there actually from Trafalgar, and they left wreaths on both of them.

Trafalgar grave

Both services I saw that weekend began with words of Collingwood’s – it’s the one privilege he does get – St Paul’s with the General Order for a day of thanksgiving after the battle, and this one with the words from the Trafalgar dispatch which are also on a monument there.

Trafalgar dispatch

There were at least two Lord Nelsons (or Lords Nelson?) prowling the streets of Gibraltar that day – this one had joined the reenactment of the Ceremony of the Keys which takes place on Saturdays.

Ceremony of the Keys

There did turn out to be a service on the Sunday as well, but in the King’s Chapel. I wasn’t really dressed for church at the time, though.

Trafalgar Sunday service

Later on Saturday I went to the Alameda, where Stephen Maturin watched a great variety of people walking as he sat on Worcester, but now the botanic gardens – the main parade ground seems to have become a car park.

There’s a monument there to General Elliot, governor of Gibraltar during the great siege.

Eliott monument in the Alameda gardens

The gardens also have a very nice view of the tower on the dockyard buildings.

Dockyard tower from the Alameda

On Sunday morning I walked out to Europa Point early to watch the sun rise (but not too early, because it was the last week of summer time and sunrise wasn’t until 8.30), then came back, had a proper breakfast, and started walking down again, this time sticking to the coast rather than the quick way by Europa Road.

The naval base is, of course, still very much in use, so that it’s hard to get a good picture from anywhere around it. Apart from the Alameda picture, my favourite was taken from the rock the next day. The South Mole – the old New Mole – is the one running in from the left, although it wouldn’t have been so long in Jack and Stephen’s day.

Naval Base from the Rock

Behind and above the dockyard is Jumper’s Bastion, where some of Worcester‘s young gentlemen stood, for some reason, with a black calf.

Jumper’s Bastion

Nelson’s Anchorage, at Rosia Bay, is really just the name for the site of an enormous Victorian gun, although the bay itself is where Victory anchored after Trafalgar.

Nelson’s Anchorage

The old vcictualling yard at Rosia Bay now seems to be used for all sorts of things, but still has its original entrance.

Old Victualling Yard

The bay is the only natural harbour in Gibraltar, apparently. It’s a bit elusive – easy to look down into, but not at all obvious how you get to sea level. But I did find a way down by an odd spiral staircase, and it’s then easier to find the old archway and the steep slope which lead back up to the yard.

Rosia Bay

Again, I had a very good view from the rock the next day – the yard entrace is just behind the stripy looking roof on the left.

Rosia Bay from the Rock

Beyond that there’s nothing very much until Europa Point. The lighthouse was built in 1841, and belongs to Trinity House.

Europa Point lighthouse and Africa

I did get to see Africa this time – but if there were any birds about, apart from odd seagulls, it was so calm that they were right out to sea.

Algeciras Bay was quite busy, but relatively peaceful.

Algeciras Bay

Monday I spent mostly on the rock, starting at the Tower of Homage and going on up to the siege exhibition at Willis’s Battery. It’s quite nicely done, but the buildings themselves are possibly the most interesting thing about it. (Except maybe for a sign which told me that over 400 *horses* were destroyed by bombardment during the siege. Poor horses!)

Willis’s Magazine

There’s quite a lot of grafitti from the period there, including this drawing of a tall ship.

Tall ship grafitti

Further up again are some of the tunnels dug out during the great siege – originally with the intention of getting guns onto a ledge called The Notch on the north face of the rock, but openings from the tunnels themselves turned out to work just as well, and when the Notch was reached guns were put inside it too, rather than on it.

The notch

I went up to the top of the rock, where an odd cloud was hanging about, by the steps on the Charles V wall, and then ran out of time to come down by the Mediterranean steps – instead I just came down by way of St Michael’s Cave. So I’ve still got something to go back for…

Mount Misery

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