Rock Gun, Gibraltar
The Rock of Gibraltar, a British Garrison colony, is located on the farthest south-western tip of Spain guarding the Straits of Gibraltar and the gate to the Mediterranean. The Straits or STROG for mariners and the Pillars of Hercules to the ancient Greeks, have always been important in history, separating Muslim Africa from catholic Spain and the other European countries. As recently as 2012, Morocco and Spain have had serious discussions about building an under-sea tunnel connecting the two continents.
Gibraltar is not, as commonly believed, an island but is a peninsula of Spain. The connecting “no-mans-land” is divided with an airfield running north and south on extra land reclaimed from the Bay of Algecirus on the British side and wasteland on the Spanish side. The border, halfway, is guarded night and day, mostly from smugglers but it is basically open to traffic and pedestrians, most of whom are day-time employees on the Rock. At its highest point, Gibraltar is 1396 feet high offering a good trivia question, which is higher, Gibraltar or the Empire State Building?
My association with the Rock started in January, 1947 when I stepped off a troop-ship as a brand new 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. I was stationed there for almost a year and enjoyed it very much. We were able to go freely to La Lignia if we wore civilian clothes and I was able to make trips to San Roque and Algecirus as well as to go to the Sunday bull-fights in La Lignia. I always wanted to go to Rock Gun, the highest point.
During WWII there was a very real gun there with almost a 360 degree field. Morocco was only 8 miles away and it had a range far east on the Mediterranean. The gun was removed when war ended. A fellow officer urged me to join him on a trip up the zig-zag road to the top on motor bikes. I told him I had never ridden a motor bike but he was sure I could learn all I needed one Saturday morning, riding on the parade ground. I had my lesson and agreed to go the next Saturday. We checked out the two bikes from the Corps garage under the frowning countenance of the duty sergeant and we took off. I was fine until we got to the gradient and the many hair-pin curves looking down on down-town Gibraltar. If you think I was scared taking those turns in loose gravel on the way up, you should have seen me coming down. The view from the top was very impressive and the sensation of standing still 1400 feet above the sea was special. We could see the entire south face of the Rock where it was a giant water catchment area providing all the water for the entire Rock. The views to Morocco and the North African coast were stunning as was the northern view of Algecirus across the bay.
Most tourists do not see this as the route is restricted. There were several Barbary apes up there eying us carefully as we were eying them. Altogether, a great moment and the happy ending was that we returned the bikes in excellent condition.