General Robert Boyd and Picton - Sergeant Ince and General Eliott
Colonel Bennet and William Skinner - Mrs de Webber and Abraham Hassan
Admiral Rodney and Prince William - Admiral Juan de Lángara
General Sir William Green ( 18th century - After George Carter )William Green was born in Aberdeen in 1725. His father was an Irishman and his mother was a sister of Adam Smith, Scottish moral philosopher and author of The Wealth of Nations. Educated at Woolwich Green joined the army at the age of 12.
He was soon moving up the ranks while taking part in various campaigns in Flanders and France. By 1748 he had discovered his metier as an engineer. While stationed in Langford Fort outside Felixtowe in Sussex he found himself under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Justly Watson of the Royal Engineers. His relationship with his boss must have been excellent as in February 1754 he married his daughter Miriam Watson.
Lieutenant Colonel Justley Watson R.E. - Green's first boss ( Mid 18th century - Bartholomew Dandridge )
In 1761 he was sent to Gibraltar and was soon promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Some eight years later he was promoted to Chief Engineer of Gibraltar He was by now a middle-aged man and by all accounts without a trace of a sense of humour and as dour as the proverbial Aberdonian Scot. His written reports were always overly cautious and wearingly pompous.
He was also a small man with a disconcerting habit of staring intently at the person he happened to be speaking to. One can take it as given that he suffered from a sense of insecurity. Engineers were held in scant regard by infantry officers. So much so that John Drinkwater's ( see LINK ) in his History of the Great Siege hardly mentions him at all other than the following passing reference:
The new bastions on the sea-line were planned and executed, by and under the direction of the present Chief Engineer, Major -general Sir William Green, Bart. Lieut. Gen. Sir Robert Boyd, K. B. laid the foundation-stone of the King's bastion . . .And then in a killer footnote:
It will not be improper in this place to repeat, that General Boyd was the founder of the King's Bastion.
Contemporary plan of King's Bastion
Spilsbury ( see LINK ) - Drinkwater's contemporary - only mentions him when he finally returns to England at the end of the Great Siege for a well earned spot of leave:
June 6th 1783 - Wind the same. Sailed . . the Landahn for England, with Generals Green and Picton and several officers.Samuel Ancell ( see LINK ) - another chronicler of the Great Siege - comes up with the following indirect and somewhat ridiculous entry:
A misplaced sense of honour by the protagonists often led to absurd displays of chivalry. When a Spanish general was found to be within range of the British guns, the soldiers, by some curious courtesy were forbidden to fire at him. When General Green’s mule strayed into the enemy’s line the response was immediate. The Spaniards sounded their drums for a truce and the mule was ceremoniously returned to its owner.
Proposals for various placements in the Prince's Line, Grand Battery, and the Old Mole ( See LINK ) ( Late 18th century - William Green )
Nevertheless and perhaps not surprisingly Green took his Gibraltar appointment very seriously. Soon after his first review of the fortifications he gave evidence of their defects. There was, he wrote, serious cause for concern.
William Green ( Convent Collection )
In 1769 another special commission was sent to Gibraltar to examine its defences. They agreed with Green but their findings were undermined by Lord Sandwich who was Secretary of State at the time, a man who was not just ‘ludicrously inefficient,’ but thoroughly corrupt.
It was said that under his watch money earmarked for either military or naval improvements had a habit of disappearing between the Exchequer and wherever it was legitimately supposed to go to. Horace Walpole memorably called him ’the second most honest man in South Britain.’ Not surprisingly nothing much was done until nearly a decade later when major improvements began under Colonel Green’s direction.
Plan of the Prince of Orange demi-bastion ( 1773 - William Green )
But there were also serious local problems that required his attention. Military engineering works at Gibraltar were mainly executed by civilians either from the continent or from England who were not military men, were hired as employees and could therefore stop working whenever they felt like doing so. As they were not subject to military discipline they did not take kindly to authority and could afford to be as lazy and as insolent as they felt like. Even the more experienced English ‘quinea men' - known as such because of their high wages - could not be relied upon to work consistently and without disruption..
In fact the only real means of punishing them was by dismissing them - something that was both inconvenient and expensive and that any kind of engineering work progressed at snail's pace. Hardly surprising then, that Colonel William Green - decided that enough was enough and came up with a surprisingly simple solution - the formation of a company made up of mechanics from different regiments.
Green convinced the Governor who in turn wrote to the Secretary of State who also thought it a good idea. A Royal consent in 1772 led to the formation of the company of artificers and a Warrant followed shortly. Green was left with the pleasurable experience of sacking most of the civilian mechanics as well as all the 20 English ''guinea men' who were unceremoniously sent back home.
The warrant used the name ‘The Military Company of Artificers' but the corp became known as the Soldier Artificer Company. How or why the change took place is not known. For all that, Green was quite prepared to use local labour whenever he felt it necessary. Prior to the Great Siege he had employed;
. . a working party of between 200 and 300 Jews and Genoese (to) level out the sand dunes on the isthmus close to the Rock to deny cover to the enemy patrols . .
Montagu Bastion ( 1774 - William Green )
In 1777 and well before the Great Siege, George Augustus Eliott sent Green to London to beg, borrow or steal enough money for much needed for the:
. . . expensive but necessary work for maintaining the fortress and added to it must be many internal accommodations in barracks, bomb-proofs, store-houses, hospitals, magazines; with all which this place . . . is so very indifferently provided, that the wants in most of these articles are by no means supplied proportionally to our present garrison. I submit it therefore, what must be our situation in case of service, when our forces must be at least tripled ?The letter - quoted in full by Frederick Sayer ( see LINK ) in his version of the History of Gibraltar - also contains Eliott's very complimentary opinions of his chief engineer:
Col. Green, from close and repeated examination, is perfect master of the advantages to be taken from any recess or protuberance of this mountain . . .
Green bolstered his own arguments with copies of previous reports compiled by his engineering predecessors - Colonel Joseph Bennett ( see LINK ) and Colonel William Skinner ( see LINK ) and the London authorities more or less accepted what was asked for in first request, accepted the need for the second but still managed to get their numbers all wrong by failing to include enough artillery men. Green returned to Gibraltar in 1778 with enough funds to go ahead with his plans and proceeded to overhaul:
. . . every inch of the fortifications. He strengthened, he redesigned, he re-sited. He had an eye for the use of land - and rock; he had a thorough knowledge of gunnery as well as of military engineering. His most spectacular achievement was the King's Bastion . . . roughly midway between the old and the New Mole.
The most imposing, and the one that gave Governor General Boyd the most concern was the building of the massive walls of the King’s Bastion. Its construction was not without a certain amount of trepidation - not to say humour as evidenced by this footnote in Connolly's History of the Corps of Royal Sappers and Miners:
To carry on the work with vigour, an opening was made in the sea-line, which, as long as it continued so, made the fortress defenceless in that part. Similar openings were made in the line some years before by a storm, which, being observed by Monsieur Crillon, who commanded at St. Roque, he proposed a scheme for an attempt on the Rock.
Remembering this, ( General Boyd ) always kept an anxious eye upon the gap; but he concealed his fears, lest they should fill the people with alarm, and the French or Spaniards with notions of invasion. He would not post any additional guards or piquet's there for its protection, but gave private directions that all the guns and howitzers that could be brought into position in that part should be attended to.
He, however, did not conceal his uneasiness from the Secretary of State; and in urging upon Lord Rochford the necessity for his being furnished with the means for completing the bastion, he facetiously remarked, “there is an idea of glory, my lord, in the thought of being killed in defending a breach made by the enemy. but to be knocked o’ th' head in the defence of one of our own making would be a ridiculous death.”
King's Bastion ( 1851 - William Henry Bartlett )
As for Mrs Green, she seems to have ensconced herself as comfortably on the Rock as possible. She was almost certainly the most senior of the senior officers' wives. Eliott was a widower when he was made Governor of Gibraltar and Robert Boyd never married.
At the very start of Great Siege without a shot having yet been fired in anger, it was agreed at a council of war that the British should start off the proceedings from Willis', Queen Charlotte and - appropriately -Green's Lodge Battery. Following Eliott's much quoted order of 'Britons strike home', the first shot of the Siege was fired by one of the officer's wives. That was almost certainly Mrs Green.
The Spanish historian Ignacio López de Ayala ( see LINK ) suggests that she and her family lived in a rather attractive house:
Cerca de la muralla de Carlos V esta la armería, un nuevo almacén para el tiempo de guerra , i antes del cuartel nuevo sobre una regular eminencia la casa que de sus amos se llama de Mrs. de Webber. Mr Green , que era ingeniero en jefe en 1777 , formó un primoroso huerto con muchas plantas i árboles frutales muy particulares i exquisitos, conducidos a su costa . . .
He certainly did so during the Siege. Ayala's 'primoroso huerto' may have been Engineer House in the appropriately named Engineer Lane. During the Great Siege Colonel Green sacrificed part of the beautiful garden for the safety of his family by building a bomb-proof shelter for them. His wife, Miriam Green, kept a diary which was later published under the title - A Lady's Experience in the Great Siege of Gibraltar. She mentions the mentions the shelter in her entry for the 9th of September 1780:
A bomb-proof . . . making under the garden . . is in good forwardness. It will be a very useful place in case any bombardment takes place . . it will consist of three apartments, and it runs deep. The top of this bomb proof is covered with many well prepared coats of hardened clay etc. . . . and well rammed down. It is about nine feet thick. . . it is a work of much labour, attended by a great deal of uncommon noise, ramming down and corking all amongst heavy oak timbers . . the noise is not of any consequence; when we think how essential it may ne hereafter.
Engineer House in the mid 20th century - it no longer exists. The Stanley's Clock Tower which lies just below the main entrance to the Moorish Castle can be seen peeking above the main building.
The bomb proof shelter became indispensible while Mrs Green was in Gibraltar during 1781 and whenever it was damaged the repairs were almost certainly have been carried out by local civilians. Jewish residents seem to have been particularly prominent in working parties used by the military to help with maintenance and repair. According to Sir William Jackson:
One Jew, Abraham Hassan, was particularly outstanding in his contribution. He enlisted and acquitted himself so well that Eliott granted him a small property near South Port after the Siege.From Mrs Green's diary one gleans that she was by no means as great an admirer of her Governor as was her husband: According to her 17th of April entry:
The smallpox raged greatly and has got among all the Regiments . . . No inoculation yet.Her doctor appealed to Eliott to allow him to administer inoculations against the disease although Edward Jenner’s vaccination was still in the future. The Governor refused and the death rate increased especially among the children.
He answered; No, by no means! He could not answer it to his conscience.A fortnight later Mrs Green was in even greater despair:
The ‘great person’ was of course Eliott.. . during the course of this last fortnight, not less than 40 children have died of this dreadful complaint . . the air is now quite full of the bad infection . . all this time every means have been tried to obtain the Governor's leave to innoculate, but to no purpose. Everyone appears unhappy and are dreading the approaching warm months. . . . we hear that a great person in the garrison says he thinks it a fortunate circumstance to those soldiers who have large families to lose three or four children.
Windmill Hill - Note the Nuns' Well on the left ( see LINK ) and the' Inquisition' building ( see LINK ) on the centre bottom of the plan ( 1778 - William Green )
In 1781 Admiral Rodney entered Gibraltar to the cheers of the inhabitants - his was the second relief of Gibraltar. His capture of an isolated ship has become the source of a much quoted anecdote. It was commanded by Admiral Juan de Lángara who was wounded during the battle. He and his ship were taken back to Gibraltar under the command of a young midshipman.
When a convalescing Lángara came to pay his respects to the Governor he found out that the midshipman in question was the King’s son Prince William who would later become the ‘Sailor’ King, William IV. There isn’t a history of Gibraltar that does not mention the Spanish Admiral’s astonishment.
Well does Great Britain merit the empire of the sea when the humblest stations in her navy are supported by Princes of the Blood.
During his stay in town, the Prince was chaperoned and shown the sights by Colonel Green. According to the Mrs Green, early one morning the fifteen year old Prince was dragged off for a lengthy tour of the Rock including some scrambling around in Saint Michael's Cave. This was followed by what must have been an extraordinarily boring stroll through the gardens of the Mount.
Later, happily left to his own devices, he managed to get himself involved in a brawl in one of the local pubs. It needed an official intervention by Rodney to get him released from custody. His rather lame excuse was that local Garrison soldiers had insulted the Royal Navy. It seems far more likely that he had been thoroughly fed up with all those endless lectures on the impregnability of Gibraltar’s bastions and it's unique flora and had thought to ease the pain with a few extra rations of grog.
Europa Pass ( 1770s - William Green )
Green, now General Sir William Green, remained in Gibraltar until 1802 when he returned to the UK. That was well over forty years spent defending the Rock of Gibraltar by which time he had converting the place into a formidable fortress. Mrs Green, however, never made it to Lady Green. In 1782 she returned to England and died from a chill she caught from her prolonged stays in her garden's bomb-proof shelter.
Ken Anthony in his excellent article - William Green - The Man who Saved Gibraltar - suggests that:
Gibraltar owes an immense debt of gratitude to this brilliant soldier of the eighteenth century. Without his foresight and professional skills as an engineer, Gibraltar could quite easily have fallen to the Spanish and French forces during the Great Siege of 1779-1783. Yet strangely enough, Green has never been given any public recognition by our community. All that stands to his name is a hard to spot emplacement, Green's Lodge Battery, which lies in the upper face of the North Front.
He certainly deserves a vote of thanks from Britain and an acknowledgment by Gibraltarians that he, just as much as Eliott and very much more so than Wellington, forms part of their colonial past.
A general plan of the fortifications of the town ( 1778 - William Green )