Víctor Manuel Patricio Amo’s grandmother was a Gibraltarian. Or at any rate one of them was. I am almost certain that it is this that encouraged him to research the history of her family during WWII and led him to write an article in Spanish about the evacuation during the war years of the civilian population of Gibraltar. The title he chose was both poignant and revealing - “ La dolorosa evacuación de Gibraltar”.
The Passport of Victor’s Gibraltarian grandmother - Maria Teresa Bellotti
I read Victor’s article and obtained his permission to translate it into English so that I could include it in my own collection of stories about the People of Gibraltar. (See LINK) Here it is. Thank you Víctor Manuel.
The Painful Evacuation of Gibraltar - by Víctor Manuel Patricio Amo
My grandparents - Maria Teresa Bellotti and Enrique Amo Molina - met in Guadarranque-San Roque an area in southern Spain with accessible beaches where many well-off “Llanitos” (see LINK) often spent their summers in rented or owned villas.
Maria Teresa Bellotti and Enrique near the San Roque to Guadarranque main road ( 1934 )
In 1940 Europe was at war. On one side Britain and France were trying to put a stop to Hitler’s aggressions, on the other Hitler and Mussolini were probing whatever weakness might have existed in the balance of power in Europe.
A general interest in the importance of WWII has generated a plethora of articles, documents and films - although there is in fact one particular historical event that is generally less than well known and rarely treated with the attention it deserves - the evacuation of the civilian population of Gibraltar. (1940-1951)
Gibraltar did not participate in the hostilities during WWI - or at any rate not directly although a considerable amount of espionage of one type or the other did take place on the Rock. Given this, most people were of the opinion that much the same would occur during WWII. They were wrong - the circumstance proved different and it didn’t.
The 18th of July 1936 saw the start of the Spanish Civil War. (See LINK) Enrique Amo Molia participated in this conflict as a provisional officer on the Nationalist side.
Maria Teresa Bellotti and Enrique Amo Molina on the beach at Guadarranque while he was on leave during the Spanish Civil War ( July 1938 )
The Spanish conflict ended in April 1939. It left Spain under a virtual dictator of whom nobody was quite sure as to exactly what position he would adopt as regards the Axis powers, nor as regards Gibraltar, which he claimed was territoriality part of Spain.
Enrique Amo Molina and Maria Teresa Bellotti - The Civil War had just ended ( April 1939)
Military operations in the Mediterranean, however, ensured that Gibraltar would become strategically important for the British - important enough for the authorities to consider the evacuation of the civil population from Gibraltar. An official announcement appeared eventually in the Gibraltar Chronicle (See LINK) under the heading of “Government Notice No.78”
Government notice that appeared in the Gibraltar Chronicle which makes reference to a previous one - Government Notice No 73 ( 17th May 1940 )
The result was the almost immediate departure to French Morocco of 13 082 Gibraltarians. The idea was to strengthen the fortress capabilities of the Rock using only those civilians needed to service the garrison in their defence of the fortress. The net result was that members of entire families were tragically separated from each other.
Meanwhile Gibraltarians in Morocco were faced with a veritable odyssey. France capitulated on the 25th of June 1940 which meant that the evacuees no longer found themselves in Allied territory. This led to a forced and rapid repatriation of the Gibraltarians back to the Rock which in turn led to tensions between the Gibraltarians and French locals, between the UK Government and the Gibraltarian authorities and between the British and the French military forces in Morocco.
On the 23rd of June 1940 the Spaniard Enrique Amo Molina married the Gibraltarian Maria Teresa Bellotti in the Cathedral of St. Mary the Crowned in Gibraltar’ .(See LINK) They were my grandparents.
Wedding photograph of Maria Teresa Bellotti and Enrique Amo Molina ( 23 June - Gibraltar )
Two months previously Enrique who had become a provisional ensign in the Nationalist army was allowed to leave the service. It meant that by less a month Teresa was able to avoid being evacuated to London.
Enrique Amo Molina is released from military service ( April 1940 )
Meanwhile the evacuees returning from French Morocco were faced with the intransigent authorities that wanted to re-evacuate them immediately and were even reluctant to allow them to land in Gibraltar to rejoin family members still on the Rock. Finally on the 19th of July 1940 the Gibraltarians were on their way, mostly to the UK but also to Jamaica, and for the luckier and better-off families - to Madeira.
According to records held by the Gibraltar National Archives under the section relative to the “Evacuation” (see LINK) my great grandparents Rogelio Bellotti Dalmedo and Maria Padiña together with my great uncles, Leopoldo and Rolly, left for England aboard the Clan Macbean.
The Clan Macbean
( Record from Gibraltar National Archives )
The family of my great uncle Luis Bellotti Padiña also went to England but in their case aboard the “Ulster Monarch”.
The Ulster Monarch
( Record from Gibraltar National Archives )
Sally Barker having seen the photos of the ships in my article gave me the following additional information:
I know we were in the same convoy and I don’t know why but it took three weeks to make it there. My father would often cook for us on the deck of the ship with what they gave us and tried to make something edible out of it. During the trip another ship broached ours as we had run out of food.
Leopoldo Bellotti Padiña, top row second on the left ( 1940 )
The re-evacuation of 14 999 Gibraltarians ended a year later on the 4th of July 1941 the start of what would prove to be several difficult years. Those who were sent to the UK suffered the effects of the war. Those who went to Jamaica also underwent other kind of hardship. None of them were able to escape the pain of being away from the Rock separated from those who had been left behind.
Rogelio and Mary and their son Poly ( 1942 - London )
Mary and her son Poly ( 1942 - London )
Rolly Bellotti Padiña
The slow return back home began in April 1944. Nearly four years of military life in Gibraltar meant that there were not enough houses to go round for everybody and it was necessary to construct temporary accommodation for the new arrivals. The final lot of evacuees returned home six years after the War had ended.
This article which is simply a short summary of the way in which the Gibraltarians were displaced from their homes by their colonial masters, explains the sense of autonomy and nationalism which is felt by so many of them. They are a mixture of English and Spanish nationalities but they are neither English nor Spanish.
They distrust not only their Spanish neighbour but also the British. It would perhaps be useful for us to learn more about their history before we give vent to opinions about things which we know little about.
Monument to Gibraltar Evacuees (Gibraltar)
Víctor Manuel Patricio Amo ( Madrid - April 2017 )