The People of Gibraltar
1704 - An Exact Journal - All those Sorties

As every Gibraltarian schoolboy knows, 1704 was the year in which the Rock was captured by the British. Although of, cause, Britain did not exist at the time and the actual capturing was done by Anglo-Dutch forces in the name of one of the Pretenders to the throne of Spain.


The taking of Gibraltar in 11704   ( 1712 - Gerard  Van Keulen )

Somewhat even less well known is that It is listed as the 11th Siege of Gibraltar and that the subsequent attempt by a Franco-Spanish alliance to regain the town for their version of the pretender to the throne is known as the 12th. From the point of view of those involved in the actual fighting, however, it must have been hard to tell when one siege ended and the other one began. For all intents and purposes both were just one long drawn out affair that began in August 1704 and ended in March the following year.


The 11th Siege as seen and sketched by yet another anonymous officer   (1794 - Unknown )

It was definitely seen as such by an anonymous officer who took part in both sieges and wrote a journal with a title which was almost longer than the account itself. Excluding the pages in which he quoted the Articles of Surrender (see LINK) in both English and Spanish, it only ran to 20 large-print pages and which one would surmise has never been read by any local schoolboy - or indeed most of their teachers.



The front page of a very short account of the 11th and 12th Sieges

The journal is in fact rather banal. Apart from some notes on troop movements and exercises, the weather, and one or two naval battles and going-ons there is little that is new. Nevertheless the following selections are probably interesting enough to merit quoting.
August 1 1704 - The English and Dutch fleet arrived at twelve a-clock, and immediately landed the Marine Forces commanded by the Prince of Hesse, consisting of 2000 Men and encamped within half a Cannon Shot of the Town. (See LINK 
August 3 1704 - Twenty One Sail of Men of War were command by Admiral Bing to cannonade the Town which they did with all vigour imaginable, beginning at six in the Morning and continuing till Twelve at noon and then the Enemy hoisted a Flag of Truce to capitulate and terms being granted they marched out on the 7th day.
A rather succinct account which more or less agrees with most other reputable ones. Bing is Admiral Byng who was indeed in charge of the cannonade. Curiously the author fails to mention Admiral Rooke in any of this and continues the omission throughout the journal. There were it would seem more than the twenty one ships mentioned - but then it all depends whether one includes the Dutch fleet, or even what actually counts as a man-of war.
24 August 1704 - Our fleet met the French in the height of Malaga where the battle began at two in the morning and lasted till night, having got no advantage on either side . . . 

The Battle of Malaga    ( 1704 - Willem van den Hagen )

Also referred to as the Battle of Vélez-Málaga, this one was indeed indecisive. The unmentionable - or unmentioned Rooke was the commander of the combined Anglo-Dutch fleet. 
December 23 1704 - About seven at night we made a sally of 200 Soldiers and 150 Grenadiers into the next Gabions and burnt some of their Gabions and demolished some of their works. January 28 1705 - There was a little Sally made about nine at Night, in order to fatigue the Enemy

Plan of an attack carried out on the 13th February which is not mentioned by the author
February 26th 1705 - A French Squadron of 26 Men of War anchor'd in this bay which gave us occasion to believe they would attack us by Sea and Land, but by stress of weather they were compelled to depart in a few Days leaving five ships behind.
The man in charge of what would become a fiasco was Admiral Baron de Pointis. His decision to leave those five ships proved cringe worthy. As the weather turned the British Admiral Sir John Leake returned on the 25th of March with a combined fleet of twenty eight English, four Dutch and eight Portuguese, entered the Bay and destroyed the five French ships. For some odd reason the author makes no mention of this event. 


The destruction of Pointis's Squadron by Admiral Leake   (1705 - Unknown  )
February 27 1705 - . . . the night following we made a little Salley of 16 men, in order to throw down some Gabions, which lay close to the Round Tower, which was affected.

Plan of enemy trenches on the isthmus and Gibraltar's northern defences - including the Round Tower mentioned above, as drawn for our anonymous writer's boss, the Prince of Hesse   ( 1700s - Col D'Harcourt )
February 28 1705 - The same Salley re-iterated 
March 8 1705 - We made a Salley of 24 Men by Night into the next Gabions, where there were thirty Men of the Walloon Guard surprised and taken Prisoners 
March 22 1705 - About eleven at Night was made a Salley of fifty men to fatigue the Enemy. 
May 2 1705 - In the morning several Officers and Soldiers out of Curiosity went to the Enemies Trenches, which were found empty, and at two in the Afternoon there was leave granted to the Spanish Volunteers to go out and destroy the Enemies Works, where they engaged a Party of the Enemy and beat them off and pursued them, but going too far they were surrounded by a Squadron of Horse, by which some were killed and seven besides English, Scotch and Irish taken Prisoners, a Drum was sent out to relieve tem, but being late was refused Audience. 
May 13 1705 - The Prince commanded all the Grenadier Guards of the Garrison to go beyond the Enemies Trenches to cover the remaining Part of the Garrison, who were ordered to demolish the Works that were raised against the Town, and in our retreat the Enemy attacked our Rear Guard, but were warmly received, and our great Guns played upon them obliged them to retreat with considerable Loss, in this action we lost three Men, one Officer and Twenty men were wounded.  
May 14 1705 - We march'd out again to the aforesaid Works, and returned without any attempt from the Enemy. 
November 11 1704 - Three hundred Spaniards attacked the Middle Hill, but were soon repulsed and 100 with the commanding officer taken, the rest made their escape or broke their necks down the Precipices, and in the skirmish Prince Henry was wounded. 
The reference here - without actually giving  the names of the individuals involved - is that of the well known episode of Simon Susarte and the Franco-Spanish attempt to take the fortress by attacking it from the supposedly impossible to climb east face of the Rock. (See LINK)

The Siege nominally ended on the 12th of April when the "Sun King" himself Louis XIV of France ordered it to be lifted which the diarist records as follows.
16th April 1705 - The Portuguese Squadron sailed from hence to Lisbon. The same day a Flag of Truce was sent from the Prince to the Spanish Camp, whose Business was unknown to us.
It would seem that it was not for the ordinary officer to know what was going on and entries continue to describe the odd skirmishes on the isthmus until the journal ends abruptly with the following entry.
May 16th 1705 - In the evening was a Trumpet sent to relieve the Captain and two other men, but were denied, because of our Spaniards in their hands.

 Gibraltar from Spain as it probably looked just after the ending of the 12th Siege ( 1721 - Van den Hagen )

The 14th Siege of Gibraltar was a siege to end all sieges. Usually referred to simply as the Great Siege it fully deserves its name as one of the most famous of all sieges -and not just of Gibraltar. (See LINK) It was a battle in which British and German forces proved the impregnability of the Rock as a fortress by withstanding the combined might of Franco-Spanish forces from 1779 to 1783 a period of nearly four years.

One memorable event that took place during this siege was a sortie - or sally - into enemy territory. It took place in 1781. (See LINK) It was the kind of military engagement that British military historians love as it can be used to confirm their compatriots' valour and ingenuity in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The Great Siege sortie is therefore invariably treated as an astonishing and unique event in the annals of military history. 

It is perhaps worthwhile pointing out that according to our unknown diarist officer this daring and unique event occurred no less than eight times during the 12th Siege of Gibraltar.