The People of Gibraltar
1856 - Anonymous - a most disgraceful state.

Mr. Cohen and Mr. Cohen 

In 1856 an anonymous British traveller published a book with the title Inside Sebastopol and Experiences in Camp being the Narrative of a Journey to the ruins of Sebastopol by way of Gibraltar, Malta, and Constantinople  . . . 

The Crimean War was still on while the book was being written but this was not about the heroics of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'.  It was about the 'Repulse at the Redan' - a battle which was a disaster for the British.  The author was well  aware that it was 'known to everyone except the ordinary English public' and the book is an attempt to enlighten the masses. After having read parts of it I think I can understand why the author decided to remain anonymous.

General Windham, the British 'Hero of Redan' - In the middle of the battle he twice left his troops to fend for themselves, while he went off to inquire about reinforcements. For this - which in any other service should have led  by a court-martial - he was promoted to general  ( Unknown )

The following offers a selection of  quotes from the chapter on his visit to Gibraltar.

A boat put off from a hulk with a yellow flag flying, and a very gentleman-like official paid us the compliments of the fortress, making special and particular inquiries after our health. After this polite attention, two touters, one an agent for a coal company, and the other a provision-merchant, came on board; and a bum-boat came alongside, laden with melons, pumpkins, grapes, and tobacco.

The captain arranged with the coal-merchant, and the steward with Mr. Cohen, the Gibraltar Jew provision-dealer. The latter took us on shore, as he said, in his own boat, and charged us a shilling each for landing us ; a little bit of finesse upon a small scale, which did him honour, vouching for the purity of his lineage as a Caucasian Arab.

Upon landing, Mr. Cohen introduced us to " a young man," (whose name we should have guessed to be Cohen); and, rendered prudent by recent experience, we bargained with this youth that he should, for half-a-crown, attend us to all the lions of Gibraltar. The Israelite set forward as though he had made up his mind to tire us out, and earn his half-crown in half an hour.

The People
We passed the drawbridge, delivering up the paper which our polite friend in the bay had given us, and which admitted us to pratique; we crossed the fruit-market, abounding with indifferent grapes and unripe peaches; we made our way at a trot along the lengthy street which runs the whole extent of the town; we jostled as we went the reverend Jews of Barbary; we nearly stumbled over the Moors and Arabs who sat solitary and grave in the fierce sunshine, bare-legged and cross-legged upon the foot-pavement;

. .  we dodged out of the way of Englishmen in straw hats and nankeen clothes, mounted upon trotting ponies ; we stood aside as Spanish postillions, whom we fancied we must have seen before at Mr. Gye's opera-house, rattled down the street; we remarked that the Gibraltar women, with their never absent fans, their rich black hair protected from the sun only by a black veil, and their dark eyes sparkling through that veil, were wonderfully alluring; and we regretted to perceive that some of them, if we might without uncharitableness judge from smiles and gestures, were not improved in their morals by living in a fortress-town.

Pertinaciously keeping up our jog-trot, we thrust our letters into the post on passing, and arrived at the Governor's office in Secretary Lane. Here we were detained not a moment. Permits to ascend the mountain were given us with a readiness which certainly augurs well for official speed in Gibraltar. Away again speeds the fleet-footed son of Israel; but this time it is along the steep streets that lead up the shadowless white limestone, sun-reflecting mountain. By steps and steeps we have climbed above the houses.

The Queen's Chair 
We are arrived at a sentry-box and a sentinel. Vox here stops me to point to Gibel al Kadir, the Tower of the Moor, and to tell me a story of a Moorish maiden, who, having been espoused by a Gur, was carried across the bay on the wings of an Afreet, and placed in the arms of a Castilian noble, who was waiting for her upon the opposite hill, now called the Queen's Chair.

The Rock from Queen of Spain's Chair  ( 1853 - G.P. Pechell )

. . . Here stands the gun with the double-action depressing carriage, invented  by Lieutenant Koehler during the last siege in 1782, and which is, I believe, the most modern military invention in Gibraltar. Fortunately it is not likely that Gibraltar will have to stand a siege, for if it had, I believe it would be found to be in a most disgraceful state.  There was a half Spanish half English dinner, badly served and at long intervals. We should have got a much better dinner on board ship. We had, however, plenty of company. They are English, Irish, and Scotch; and it is not at all difficult to perceive that they are nearly all of them officers of a regiment proceeding from England to the Crimea. . .

The Alameda
We left the dinner-table, and took a glance at the public gardens, or rather parade ground, which is the promenade of Spanish beauty while the band plays. But the captain had laid his injunctions upon us; so, after observing what an entirely military appearance everything presented, and what an erroneous idea of the English nation any one would form who should judge them by what is to be seen in Gibraltar, we turned reluctantly from this beautiful spot, and walked down to the quay

The Mighty Fortress
That precipice which looks towards Spain, and which our ancestors burrowed with such persevering energy, is armed with pop-guns. There is not even a sixty- eight pounder in the whole line of galleries. Gibraltar is full of enormous stores of military weapons, which are to the improved military science of the present day, what the arms of Montezuma were to those of Cortez. . . 

The arms of Montezuma  (  1870s - George Washington Wilson )

The Club House Hotel

Thirsty and tired, we descended the hill, and betook ourselves to the Club Hotel, in the chief square of the town,—an hotel which may be, for aught I know, the best in the  town, but if so, the others must be very bad indeed. There is a table-d'hôte at four o'clock, and the sherry, which is imported free from Spain, is charged the same price as at the Bedford or the Queen's at Brighton.

Anonymous was not enamoured with Gibraltar - the women were dangerously flirtatious, the grapes indifferent, the peaches unripe and the sherry more expensive than in Brighton. As for the hotels - they were terrible and the food worse. But the thing that took his biscuit was the awful realisation that Gibraltar's defences were dangerously out of date. The final verdict - Gibraltar wasn't England.