1727 - S.H. Anon - Innocent Debaucheries
It has proved impossible to identify S.H. other than that he was almost certainly a serving officer in the British army. Whoever he was he left us one of the very few records of the 13th siege of Gibraltar based on personal experience. Written nearly three hundred years ago the Journal of the Siege of Gibraltar - with its lengthy sub-title - An impartial account of the late famous siege of Gibraltar by an officer who was at the taking and defence of Gibraltar by the Prince of Hesse of glorious memory and record during the Siege -still manages to convey to a modern reader what it must have been like to experience it. I have included below a selection of extracts from the diary. The complete document can found in the Gibraltar Museum.
11th February 1727 - The Governor gave them a Gun, at four o'clock, by way of Challenge, and, in an hour, Canonanded them very warmly.
Spanish workers had been drafted from San Roque to begin the construction of the battle lines. That warning shot over the heads of the workers was the beginning of the 13th siege.
13th February - They possest themselves of a Cave, under the Rock, in order to undermine it, so as to get into the Town; upon discovery . . . our Men made a mine over their Heads and blew up the Rock upon them.
16th February - A body of the Jews desire leave to retire to Barbary, because commanded to work for the common Preservation, but answer’d by the Governor that as they had enjoy’d safe and plenty during Peace, if they will not assist for their own safety, they shall be turned over to the Spaniard.
The Governor was Jasper Clayton. Other commentators, however, have confirmed that the majority of the Jews in Gibraltar worked just as hard and suffered just as much as everybody else on the Rock.
Spanish plan to dig their way to victory dated 1782. Both the idea and the starting point were probably based on the attempt made in 1727.
26th February - Our Men were put to allowance of a pint of Wine per Day, to prevent their frequent drunkenness.
2nd March - It is true that they were besieged yet was it only on the one side thereof having no line of circumvallation from the town , but on the contrary lay open to the daily supplies of our own shipping, a plentiful issue of water springs almost everywhere from the rocks, the best source truly we have.
4th March - A Soldier, not three minutes on his Post, must be peeping over the Wall at the Prince’s Line, his curiosity cost him his Head, which a Cannon Ball made bold to carry away without leave. Another, just come on Duty, lost his fire lock off his shoulder in the same Manner.
13th March - A poor Lady, by name Chidley, confin’d to the Black Hole, or Dungeon, for the space of a Night, but next day, to make her some amends for her want of company, she was most formally conducted to a pretty Whim or Whirligig, in form of a Bird Cage, for the greater benefit of air. It contains Room enough for one person, and tho’ in length it be ten foot, yet, by the narrowness, I find it does not answer our old saying of “it’s as broad as it’s long.”
It is fixed between two swivels, so is turn’d round till it makes the person, if not us’d very gently, a little giddy and Land Sick. This Office was performed by two of the private Gentlemen of the Garrison, for the space of an hour in the Market Place, being well attended. All this was to oblige her for the following good qualities, which she had the goodness to make frequent use of such as giving soft words in smooth language, beating better manners into several men and a too frequent bestowing of her other favours
Understandably, a much quoted passage from the diary as it provides a rare mention of the 'Whirligig' and the kind of people who were subjected to its punishment. The 'Black Hole' was situated on the south-west corner of the Grand Parade, today John Macintosh Square.
Plan of the Grand Parade in the early 18th century showing the Black Hole ( Thomas James - detail )
9th March - Came a deserter who reports that while our guns were firing at them an officer pulled off his hat, huzzaed and called God to damn us all, when one of our balls with unerring justice took off the miserable man’s head and left him a wretched example of the Divine justice.
17th March - Mrs Mahlone was committed for proper reasons to the whirligig during two hours. It gave great pleasure to the spectators.
17th March - St. Patricks day was celebrated by the families of the Shambruks in a stately drunken manner.
24th March - Prodigious firing all last night... The Spanish General, it seems, has alter’d [sic] his opinion of the Rock, and it seems too hard of Digestion, tho’ he has a good stomach to it, yet he is too impatient to wait two years to eat a passage to us that way.’
28th March - Tents were fix’d toward Europa Point and three Regiments encamped to make room in the Town for Middleton and Hayes’s who disembarked this day.
Camp Bay gets its name from this. Some of those tents were 'fix'd' just above it. There must have been quite a few. Garrison numbers were probably around 5000 after the arrival of these reinforcements.
5th April - A dispute hath happen’d betwixt two Generals about storming us, upon which the one ... is going to Madrid to complain to the King.
The overall Spanish commander - the Marquis de la Torre - had promised Philip V of Spain that he would deliver Gibraltar in six weeks by attacking it from the Neutral Ground. The Flemish engineer George Prosper Verboom, however, was convinced that this would fail. He warned Philip V of Spain that it would be impossible to take the Rock other than by a seaborne attack from the south. The two commanders spent the rest of the war squabbling with each other.
Marquis de Verboom
11th April - 4 days agoe , the Conde de la Torres sent a present of some choice Fish to Admiral Wager, who gave them to the Governor and came to dine. . . .’ ‘Lt. Clarke of the Tiger, having been with a message to the Spanish General and had the honour to dine with the Duke of Wharton and Lady Mrs., brought a present of a whole wild boar and a large basket of fish from an officer to Colonel Anstruther. The fish proved to be bad, but the boar was dressed the next day.
An insight into the odd type of chivalry that existed in those days between the commanders of opposing forces. None of this of course, was available to the ordinary soldiers. Admiral Charles Wager was the commander in chief of the British forces.
Sir Charles Wager
12th April - A recruit who refused to work, carry arms, eat or drink was whipped for the fifth time, after which being asked by the officer he said he was now ready to his duty.
17th April - There was found on him a Plan or description of the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Garrison... He was condemned to have a halter put about his neck, to be whipped under the gallows at the new mole, Southport and Market Place and Water Port – in all 500 lashes by the common hangman. After which he was drummed out of town with the Rouge’s march, a rope about his neck, then naked as he was, put on board a ship designed for the West Indies, there to be put on shore as a slave on the plantations never to be redeemed.
This was the fate of a Cameronian who was unfortunate enough to be caught trying to escape to the Spanish lines.
26th April – By break of day the Enemy open’d all their batteries, and fired till ten, without intermission. Wounded several and Killed some of our Men... A Ball came, from their Battery, to the new Mole, the place where our ships lie, and carried away the Mast of a Merchantman, which was two Miles Distance.
27th April – ‘On our part, since yesterday two O’clock, several men kill’d and wounded, the Houses beaten down by the exceeding hot fire, insomuch it’s scarce possible to walk the Streets. A shell broke at the signal house, more went over into the Town, and as far as the South Port. Willis’s Battery’s in a manner demolished, the Mole half level with the sea, all the cannon but one at Willis’s Battery dismounted. . . They continue their fire with inexpressible fury.’
1st May - ‘They dismounted 16 out of the 24 guns at the Old Mole... and demolished all our batteries in an extraordinary manner. At Willis’s all the Guns but two dismounted and the cover so beaten down that the men cannot do their duty. Several gunners and soldiers kill’d and wounded.
2nd May – ‘The same hot work all Night... Two Thousand Balls and Bombs at us, several .die of their wounds in our Hospital.’
Map of Gibraltar at the start of the siege ( 1727 - Delahaye, Guillaume, Nicolas )
4th May - A Flag of Truce to the Governor With a Compliment to inform his Lordship that they have not begun the Siege, and that as yet they were only trying their ordinance, tho’ they yesterday sent us, most part into the Town, 119 Bombs and near 1500 Balls and keep still a most dreadfull firing.
18th May - Another deserter confirms their being in a miserable state of Health, with great want of Water and Provisions.
20th May - We laugh at them for Fools to throw away their Powder Ball and Shells, since they neither fright, kill or hurt us.
7th May - This morning Ensign Stubbs of Colonel Egerton’s regiment retired a little out of the camp and shot himself.
The logistics of supplying the troops with food and water were seriously undermined by the dreadful condition of the roads in the Campo area and beyond.
12th June -This night a Colonel of Ireland came to the Head of the Prince’s Line and called to let them know he had a letter for Lord Portmore, but the commanding officer let him know unless retired they wou’d fire at him Sometime after the same person came out of the zigzag beating a chammade and was admitted into the town and deliver’d Lord Portmore’s letters from M. Van der Meer, Minister of the States at the Court of Spain with a copy of the preliminary articles signed by the plenipotentiaries of the several powers of the two alliances for a suspension of arms whereupon his Lordship agreed to it and all hostilities ceased on both sides
17th June - Today two corporals of the Guards boxed over a rail until both expired, but nobody can tell for what reason.
12th August - A young Jew was circumcised in the presence of all the great officers and gave them good diversion.
11th October - One of Pearce’s regiment went into the belfry of a very high steeple, threw himself into the street, and broke his skull to pieces.
16th October - Will Garen, who broke his back, was hanged.
5th November - This being our annual thanksgiving for our delivery from Popish gunpowder and having no other diversion, a lady for cheating the sick men of necessaries of live and some other liberties and indecencies was put into the before described whirligig
. . . A gentlewoman that was kept by a pretty fellow in town, not a soldier but a valet de pied - asked of his commanding Officer leave to marry her the lady - but instead of receiving an answer in the affirmative he was sent to cool his courage in the black hole for the night. . . . and for breakfast received a hundred lashes for presuming to wed the lady who bore so good a reputation . . .
. . . however, though his back was like raw hide, and bloody bones, he came to his commanding officer again his courage being not a whit abated, desired the same favour viz to marry the lady for whom he had the honour to suffer, when after an examination of how he could support a person of her dessert and worth and of so good a character and his giving good satisfaction as being a porter by profession, the court in consideration of his sufferings, noble merit and undoubted gallantry gave a verdict for the petitioner . .
Their nuptials were celebrated with great pomp and splendour, a heart breaking to her devoto, though not her first nor the first time of her husband's happiness with her.
9th December - Last night a deserter clambered up within a little of Willis’s battery and was assisted by a ladder of ropes by our men. When the officers came to examine his face, they found him to have deserted out of the Royal Irish two months ago. Asking the reason of his return, he said he chose rather to be hanged than continue in the Spanish service, so is to have his choice.
2nd January - Here is nothing to do nor any news, all things being dormant and in suspense, with the harmless diversions of drinking, dancing, revelling, whoring, gaming and other innocent debaucheries to pass the time—and really, to speak my own opinion I think and believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were not half so wicked and profane as this worthy city and garrison of Gibraltar.
9th January - A gentlewoman of the footguards was pinioned in the market place thus; viz; she was set upon a stone and an iron bar, that is about five feet high fixed to the ground - supports her back upon which bar is a chain or collar that moves up and down and is fixed to the neck. This made her sit in great pain, each hand being fastened to a ring on the side of a stone. The time of suffering is three hours or more in proportion to the offences, and an inscription which signifies the nature of the crime is pinned to her stomach.
A ship from Ireland laden with women from which comes great numbers of necessary evils.
Perhaps it is worth mentioning that the 1727 Siege was also covered by another anonymous journalist. It is quoted at length by Thomas James in the second volume of his History of the Herculean Straits. ( See LINK ) Unlike S.H.'s diary it is a relatively humourless piece of work.