The People of Gibraltar
1946 - The US Navy Comes to Town - Any Gum Chum?

The USS Randolph in Admiralty waters just outside the harbour   (1954 )

The regatta was the following week and we were well behind in our training. The boat we were on was a coxed four sliding-seat yola, an Italian job with an English name - the "Swift".  That morning it was anything but - it felt as if it had been made out of solid lead as we struggled to row through water that could have been made of treacle.  On calm and oily levanter days like this one it always felt that no matter how much effort you put into your oar the boat always seemed to be standing still. 

The harbour was surprisingly empty that day but just outside in Admiralty waters we could make out the bulk of a huge American aircraft carrier. Anchored a good half mile from where we were we could nevertheless hear their PA system shouting out orders to those poor sods that had for one reason or the other missed out on liberty leave that day - "Now hear this, now hear this".

"Now hear this, now hear this" . . . although usually they used their powerful PA systems rather than loud speakers

Watching warships in the harbour either from it as we were doing or from somewhere on dry land was a two a penny experience to most Gibraltarians, some of which would make it a point of honour to be able to recognise and name every ship that had ever visited the Rock. The Royal and the US Navies were of course major contributors to their long lists.

During a decade or so after the war, units of the British Home and Mediterranean fleets as well as the American 6th, were frequent visitors. Although I am unaware of the actual politics involved it seems to me that ever since 1909 when President Theodore Roosevelt sent a fleet to circumnavigate the globe to demonstrate American's growing military power that at least during a few decades after WWII the US Navy continued with this tradition of showing off her capital ships in foreign ports of call. 

The Great White Fleet   (1909 )

The 1909 show of force was known as the American Great White Fleet (See LINK). The later versions were very often simply individual - but immensely impressive capital ships - that happened to include Gibraltar in their itinerary. Ships touring the East, Middle East, the Mediterranean or even circumnavigating the globe - almost invariable called at Gibraltar.

The USS Saratoga ( 1958 )

Something that very few of us knew at the time that was that there was invariably some enterprising sailor on board who took snapshots of all the ports of call involved in the tour. The following - in chronological order and since the end of WWII - are some of the photos of Gibraltar taken during these visits.

1946 - The visit of the USS Philippine Sea

The Rock - possibly taken from the ship at anchor outside the harbour

The North face from close to the Spanish "aduana"

A rather empty Main Street - I suspect that although published in 1946, this photograph reflects Gibraltar in 1945 as by 1946 most evacuees other than those in Northern Ireland - had by then been repatriated

1947 - The visit of the USS Midway

The USS Midway on its way into port

A view of the old town from Waterport wharf

King Street - West of the Catholic Cathedral - To the right of the lady with the white skirt there was a bycicle shop called The Penny Farthing where I bought my first bicycle. It was run by a certain Mr. Payas

A local bobby


Main Street

This photo was taken very close to 256 Main Street which was where I lived.

Local talent at Casemates Square

Main Street  - This "antique" shop was just beside the "Trocadero" a favourite watering hole for visiting sailors

Local entertainment

The war memorial at the Buleva de las Palmeras

A rather shabby looking HMS Cormorant, a recieving ship which was later known as HMS Rooke and finally scrapped in 1949

The visit of the 1948 - USS Tarawa

Main Street - A similar view to one shown above

Main Street - The bar "El  Gallo" was a favourite with the locals at the time

A bargain. . .  perhaps

A local policeman

Watching football from the Buleva de las Palmeras - the huge coal cranes in the port background were known in Llanito - the local patois - as "manchina" (See LINK

1948 - Visit of the Valley Forge

The Rock from the air showing the large expanse of the Neutral Ground 

US Navy Curtiss SB2C Helldiver carrier-based dive bomber just passing by
 over Gibraltar

Airview of the town

Main Street - John Macintosh Square just to the left

Gibraltar's sister Spanish town - La Línea de la Concepción

1949 - The visit of the USS Fargo

Exquisite entertainment at the Royal Hotel Bar

1949 - The visit of the USS Tarawa

Catalan Bay

1950 - The visit of the USS Midway

Town and harbour

Shore Leave

A traditional local gharry

An acute and persistent lack of housing for repatriated refugees led to many families having to live in Nissen huts - These were built near a lagoon which the locals called the Inundation - It was known as the Glacis Estate

1950 - The visit of USS Midway

Liberty men going ashore

Main Street

The frontier on the British side - an ironic comment as at the time of writing it was anything but pleasant to cross the frontier

The road to Spain just north of the airstrip - the bus took one across the stretch of the Neutral Ground

Catalan Bay in bad weather  (See LINK

Main altar of the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned

The lighthouse

1951 - The visit of USS Greenwich Bay

The port

Convent Place - In fron of the Convent, the Governor's official residence 

A British submarine

1953 - The visit of USS Midway

Liberty men coming ashore

Main Street

1953 - The visit of the USS Randolph

Main Street - The building on the left was once the Exchange and Commercial Library - The sign  for the "Emporium" identified a very popular general store.

A rather unrealistic sketch of sailors walking towards the Spanish frontier

1953 - The visit of the USS Tarawa

The road to Spain 

Main Street and a well known local shop called Bata

1954 - The visit of the USS Bennington

Main Street - Sacconne and Speed on the left were a major supplier of spirits to the Royal Navy generally and to Gibraltar in particular

Prince Edward's Gate

1954 - The visit of the USS Midway

S.M. Serruya - just off Main Street - and PC 132 - Ernesto Cruz - being helpful

Another local bobby

Cliff-dwellers . . . . . . . . . ?

Sout Port Gates

The Buleva Hebreo 

The Bull and Bush

The Rock from the War Memorial area

1954 - The visit of the USS Coral Sea

Three US Navy aircraft carriers in Admiralty waters 

Main Street - Beanland Malin was one of the biggest producers of postcards on the Rock  (See LINK)

1956 - USS Randolph

The ship outside the harbour

Scottish dancing competition outside the barracks at Casemates

Main Street - the Star of India doing a brisk trade and an unknown gentleman

1956 - The visit of the USS Ticonderoga


Shore leave

The northern end of Main Street - the shop selling fishing tackle belonged to tghe father of a good friend of mine - Tito Torres - this area was a junction for several other streets and was known locally as "Cuatro Cantos " - the road behind the gharries was Crutchett's Ramp where my brother's family had a house - the other was Lynch's Lane

Southern area - Scud Hill on the left joining up with Cumberland Road on the right

Library Street leading from Governor's Parade to Main Street - The large palm tree is in the garden of the Garrison Library (See LINK

The Upper Rock

1957 - The visit of the USS Forrestal

Local traffic policeman

1958 - The visit of the USS Saratoga

North Front - The tall radio mast was known locally as the Eiffel Tower

Main Street and the ice-cream man

Main Street - and another view of the Bata shop and the Wine Merchants Saccone and Speed

Main Street - An Indian Bazaar and Hayward - a local favourite for foorware

The old town and Castle above Casemates

1958 - The vivit of the USS Wasp

The Rock from the Neutral Ground

1959 - The visit of the USS Intrepid

What can one say

1960 - The visit of the USS Essex

Main Street - Dialdas, an Indian Bazaar

The war monument in the Buleva de las Palmeras

1960 - The vivit of the USS Intrepid

Difficult to say what this was all about

1961 - The visit of the USS Saratoga

USS Saratoga

1961 - USS Saratoga

The North Front with airstrop in the foreground 

1962 - USS Independence

View from a window of the Moorish Castle looking towards the south along Willis Road - The moorish looking arch in the center is the entrance to waterworks found in this area

1977 - USS Nimitz

The Banque De L'indochine et de Suez  - Main Street opposite the Cathedral

Meanwhile, totally unaware that all this photographic activity had been going on all these years, we finished off our training and went back home to the Calpe Rowing Club. It took some serious coxing skill to get our boat inside our boat house but as we had done so many times before we managed it without hitting anything.

Then it was a question of shower, a quick beer and a few tapas and off home before Main Street became too overcrowded with liberty men. Young locals who should have known better took to trailling them at a discreet distance in order to pester them for chewing gum sticks which were as yet unknown at the time in Gibraltar. The request invariably used the same formula - "Any gum chum? Please sailor have you any gum chum?"

"Any gum chum?"  - This watercolour is a good representation of Lynch's Lane  (Unknown )

Two weeks later and very much against the odds, we won our maiden regatta. 

An international regatta in Gibraltar (1952 )