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The British Army in Gibraltar

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is a rocky headland on the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of just over 2 square miles and a population of 30,000. It enjoys a strategic location at the western entrance to the Mediterranean, where the straits between Europe and Africa are only 14 km wide.

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in perpetuity by Spain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 but Spain still presses claim to Gibraltar, however the Gibraltarians wish to remain British as was demonstrated in 1967 and 2002, when an overwhelming majority voted to retain British sovereignty.

The Army has had a presence in Gibraltar for more than 300 years. The people of Gibraltar took up arms as the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps from 1915-1920 and again as the Gibraltar Defence Force shortly before the outbreak of WW2. This force later became the Royal Gibraltar Regiment which remains as the only formed Army unit in Gibraltar.

In 1991 the last UK based infantry battalion left Gibraltar and its role of defending and securing the Rock was taken up by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. In addition to the Regiment, there are Army sub-units in Gibraltar with responsibility for signals and infrastructure, and several Army posts in the tri-Service Headquarters. Along with the other Services, the Army in Gibraltar retains the Rock as a Permanent Joint Operating Base for UK operations in the region.

Strategic importance

Gibraltar is well situated to observe shipping channels through the Straits and it could dominate the western entrance to the Mediterranean in time of war.

Its communication systems, runway facilities and harbour make it an important base for NATO.

Gibraltar (Image copyright Chris Robert Shaw)