The People of Gibraltar
1920s - Ports of the World - The US Navy

Rear Admiral Niblack - Rear Admiral H. B. Wilson

In the early days of the 20th century, the U.S. Bureau of Navigation, Sixth Division, thought it would be a good idea that 'the officers and enlisted men of the U. S. Navy should have the latest available information on the ports of the world' and - with typical American thoroughness - went about preparing individual guidebooks on one hundred of these ports.

One of them was inevitably about the Rock and its environs. It included notes on Tangier, Malaga, Granada and Cadiz, but the bulk of the information was on Gibraltar. The quotes below  are a resume of some of the items which the Bureau thought it of interest to include. I have also included all the photos referring to Gibraltar although most are of poor quality.

Gibraltar is perhaps the greatest natural beacon of navigation. . . 

The US Navy and Gibraltar during the Great War
During the Great War Gibraltar was the base of 41 ships and 9 subchasers of the United States Navy. The U.S.S. Sacramento arrived in Gibraltar in 1917 followed by the Birmingham , Chester, Nashville, Castine, Machias, Marietta, and Paducah, 6 Coast Guard cutters, 9 yachts, and 5 destroyers. . . 

Rear Admiral Niblack, U.S.N., commanded the United States naval forces basing on Gibraltar from November, 1917, to January 10, 1919, relieving Rear Admiral H. B. Wilson, U. S. N., who had been in command since the early part of the war. 

The United States naval base was in the British seaplane shed on the waterfront, and the headquarters were in the Tower Building at His Majesty's Dockyard, where the inter-allied commanders met every morning to arrange the escort of convoys. The naval base hospital was at Glen Rocky, near the British military hospital. 

The Town
The streets are dark and narrow, but clean. The one business thoroughfare is Main Street, which runs the length of the town. This street includes three former streets — Waterport, Church, and Southport. 

The Market
On the 17th of April, 1876, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) laid the comer stone of the present market, which is commodious and well managed. (see LINK) Meat is imported from Galicia . . . . . 

The Alameda Gardens 
 . . are beautifully situated between the British and Spanish towns. Luxuriant and tropical vegetation produces a horticultural effect which would be hard to surpass. Geraniums 10 feet in height and heliotrope in profusion add beauty to the scene . . .  A rustic bridge, fantastic floral designs, and a whale jaw arch contribute to the landscape gardening. (See LINK

The population of Gibraltar is made up to a great extent of those attached to the military and naval service. The remainder consists of Spaniards and a few Orientals. English is spoken throughout the city and the environs. 

There are no other military excavations in the world that equal these "Galleries," which comprise two ranges or tiers — the upper or Windsor, and the lower or Union. (See LINK) These can be reached from Main Street by Bell Lane (opposite the post office), and by stairs to the artillery barracks. 

The Union Galleries are open to the public from Sunrise to sunset, but no more than two parties of fifteen each will be taken through the galleries at any time. Persons wishing to visit them must enter their names in the book kept by the Moorish Castle Guard. 

Moorish Castle
 . . the old harem and state apartments are among the most interesting bits of antiquity in this part of the world. (See LINK)

The Assembly Rooms
 . . . erected in 1884, contain a ballroom, a movable stage for theatrical performances and concerts, a restaurant with necessary offices and kitchen. A rain-water tank of 40,000 gallons capacity surmounts the building. The east wing contains the lodge rooms of the Freemasons of Gibraltar, by whom the enterprise was begun. 

The Monkeys
The monkeys and apes living in caves in the Rock are among the chief diversions of the place. These animals are carefully protected by law.

The three most important hotels in Gibraltar are the Hotel Bristol, Cathedral Square; Grand Hotel and the Hotel Cecil, Main Street. 

Restaurants and Coffee Houses
The most widely known restaurants are : Cafe Universal on Church Street, La Victoria on Main Street, the Assembly Rooms at the Alameda, and the Royal Bar, opposite the Exchange. 

The book is essentially a straight forward traveller's guide which probably failed to become anything close to a best seller either for the rank and file or their possibly sophisticated officers. No mention of women or where to find hard liquor for the first and hardly any culture for the second. The gypsy photograph was taken in Spain.

There are also several other important anomalies. The non-ex-pat residents  during the early part of the 20th century  ran to 19 000 souls. They formed the vast bulk of the local population.  They were not Spanish. There were however daily visit of around 10 000 very visible Spanish workers entering the colony every day which the writer may have confused for locals.

Nor is there any chance of titillation through a visit to the Moorish castle. As far as I know  there is no harem to be found there. Nor did the monkey's ever live in caves at sea level  preferring the heights of the Rock.

The map is also thoroughly unreliable and one would hope that none of the sailors were particularly religious as the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Church of England Cathedral, King's Chapel, St Andrews Church are all shown in the wrong place. Commercial Square and the Garrison library are also wrong.

That the US authorities actually bothered to try and instruct their men on the kind of places that they would be visiting is nevertheless well worthy of praise. It was something that the Royal Navy never did throughout its entire history - at least up to that point.