The People of Gibraltar
1827 - Staunton St. Clair - French Soldiers in Gibraltar

Lieutenant-colonel Staunton St. Clair was stationed in Gibraltar between 1826 and 1832 and is mainly known to me as an amateur water-colourist who produced what seems to have been an endless series of pictures of my home town - all of them of historical interest.  If you want to view a collection of these - as well as know a bit more about him - please browse my article on him. (See LINK)

The Rock around the 1830s and as it might have looked like during Stauntons stay
( 1830 Vilhelm Melbye - Shipping off Gibraltar)  (See LINK)

Although I have never been able to find out whether he ever actually wrote anything about his experiences during his six years on the Rock, there are one or two paragraphs which he saw fit to include more or less as asides in his two volume book - A Soldiers Recollections of the West Indies and America - which was published in 1834. 

Frontispiece for Volume 1 on the left and for Volume 2 on the right - Not mentioned in the book but I presume that both are engravings by Staunton - Nor have I any idea why the author’s name appears twice on one of them

Although there is little about Gibraltar in either volume, they do offer something of an insight into the mentality and the kind of life led by senior British officers stationed in Gibraltar during the early 19th century.

The above engraving appears in his book on the West Indies with the following note: 
The view of my birth-place . . . exhibits the appearance of Gibraltar from the Straits. The nearest object is Europa Point, above which is Windmill Hill Barracks, and on the pinnacle of the rock, O'Hara's Tower. (See LINK) The Signal-post stands at the same level. Descending the rock, on the left are the South Barracks, and the New Mole (See LINK) is seen jutting out into the sea. The view, taken in 1827, represents the 'Asia', 74, Admiral Sir Edward Codrington, saluting the garrison on her arrival from England; while the Dryad frigate, commanded by the Honourable Captain Crofton, is proceeding up the Straits into the Mediterranean
In the summer of 1827, being quartered in the garrison of Gibraltar, I was one morning engaged as senior field-officer, in marching off the guards to their respective posts, which is there performed with all the military etiquette laid down for this purpose, when I observed an assemblage of five French officers, who had arrived the preceding evening from Cadiz, where still lingered a garrison detached from that army which had been led thither a few years before by the Duc d'Angouleme, to deliver the valorous Ferdinand from the constitutionalists. 
Perhaps a bit of Spanish history might explain what these French soldiers from Cadiz were doing in Gibraltar. By 1814 with a little bit of help from Wellesley - later the Duke of Wellington - the Spaniards had managed to throw the French out of their country. The Peninsular War had ended - but not its political consequences. Ferdinand VII may have been restored to the throne but the juntas that had been mainly responsible for getting rid of the French were in favour of the Liberal Constitution of 1812. 

After several tumultuous years the Liberals were back in power and in 1820 Ferdinand VII was imprisoned in Cadiz. With the approval of other European powers - including Britain - French forces intervened, released Ferdinand and suppressed the Liberals right up to the middle of the 19th century. 

The Duc d'Angouleme, delivering the “valorous Ferdinand” from the constitutionalists - He bravely led an army of 30 000 men against a mere 1700 soldiers attempting to defend the Constitutionalist - It is easy to guess on which side Staunton’s sympathies lay. 
When the duty of the morning was ended, I rode up to the strangers, and, addressing myself generally to them, said in French, "I hope the appearance of our troops pleases you." "Ah! oui, Monsieur, ils sont superbes," they all replied at the same time. Pleased with their politeness, I gave them an invitation to my quarters, to breakfast with me, which they accepted with warm acknowledgments; and, riding on before to my beautiful little cottage in front of the South Barracks, to prepare my wife for their reception, I sent off my double-bodied phaeton to bring them up. 

“The Devil’s Bowling Green” - or the area just behind the dark rocks in the foreground on the right - is the only painting by Staunton which shows South Barracks - albeit in the middle distance
A double-bodied phaeton, probably quite an expensive item in Gibraltar - if it hadn’t been double bodied it would have been too small to cope with all of them - great for the more spacious roads of the south but a nightmare to take anywhere into town. 
They arrived, and, when seated at table, I never in my life saw five starved mountaineers eat more voraciously. They commenced with beef-steaks and wine, eating every morsel of meat which our cook had that morning provided for the dinner of my wife, myself, and four servants, for two days; at the same time washing it down with five bottles of their own country claret, which they proclaimed vin excellent; and, afterwards swallowing a comfortable proportion of coffee, eggs, and bread and butter, they finished their meal with tea and toast.  
Only one of them, Captain Pont du Gard, was in manners and appearance a gentleman. The other four were complete soldats de la revolution, exceedingly brusque and unpleasant in their manners. During breakfast we conversed upon the two armies, French and English. Of course, in their opinion, their own was the most efficient, and they pointed out one or two things in which, they said, they beat us hollow. 

Soldat de la revolution
The first was the exercise of the firelock, which was done quicker by them. To this I assented. “But," I replied, "of what advantage is it to you? Your troops certainly make more noise than ours do, but, in all the actions between the two armies, at which I have been present, the result has been in favour of the English; your side losing the greater number in killed and wounded." 
"Sacre nom de Dieu!" exclaimed an old weather-beaten captain, seizing his grey hair with both his hands, while his eyes flashed, "what a fire you opened upon us at Vittoria! Every ball brought down its man. Mon Dieu! How we did run! "Changing the conversation, a few moments afterwards he exclaimed:  "It is a great consolation for France to know that her braves soldats have never been beaten but through treachery."

( 1813 - George Cruickshanks )
Of course I did not attempt to argue with him on this point, and only observed that, if they read history, they would observe that in all our wars with France they had invariably come off worst whenever the two contending forces had been nearly equal. Upon uttering these words, I thought the little grey-headed captain would have jumped down my throat.  
Captain Pont du Gard called him to order, and apologized for the want of good manners in his friend; to which I replied : "I am not in the least annoyed at his conduct, but admire him for his feelings; at the same time, as this conversation may lead to unpleasant results, as vous Stes braves, et nous sommes braves aussi, I think it better to avoid any irritating conversation, and, if you will accompany me, I shall have great pleasure in showing you all I can relating to our military system in this garrison." 
The last sentence is curious. It would have taken Staunton more than a few months to view the Garrison’s entire “military system” made up of endless batteries, bastions, curtains and cave-like galleries. (See LINK) Not only that but as a senior officer he must have been aware that showing such place to foreigners - however friendly - was thoroughly frowned upon by the British authorities.

Plan showing Gibraltar’s fortifications in 1859 - They would not have changed all that much from the situation in Staunton’s day  
We reached the South Barracks just as the drums were beating for the men's dinner, and entered the front door in time to see them seat themselves at table. They admired the regularity and comfort which they saw in every room, and certainly I will not yield precedence in this point to any army in the world.  
After tasting and approving of the excellent food, which was, for that day, a stew of potatoes and meat, with an allowance of wine to each soldier, we next entered the mess-room of the non-commissioned officers, in which we found them all employed on a hearty meal of roast beef and plum-pudding. "Oh! c'est charmant!“ exclaimed my companions, on smelling their good fare. 

The two Officers’ Pavilions and part of the main South Barracks building as depicted about 20 years later by a fellow officer artist     ( 1834 - J.M. Carter )   (See LINK)

If true, the soldiers and their non-commissioned officers certainly ate well - almost certainly infinitely better than the mass of civilian population. The drinking of wine rather than beer or spirits is also surprising. That South Barracks was as good as Staunton thought it was is open to question. It was not all that new having been built around 70 years previously by James Montressor, chief engineer of the day. (See LINK)  It had been meant to house 1200 men and was immediately criticised as being far too small to cater for such a large number of men.
From the South Barracks we proceeded to the Naval Hospital, which, in these times of peace, is made over to the military, as a garrison or general hospital, each corps having rooms for its surgeons and assistants, with abundance of excellent accommodation for the sick of their regiments.  
The building is exactly in the form of a large convent, two stories in height; the centre being a large square, surrounded with arcades or galleries, where the convalescents have a sheltered and covered walk to protect them from the heat of the sun, which in summer is intense on this rock. 
Their admiration of the care that was taken of the sick exceeded all bounds; and, after walking over the hospital and observing the comfort and cleanliness which pervaded it, and the attention with which the inmates were treated, " En verite," exclaimed the old grey-headed soldier, "if we had such an establishment in France, it would be impossible to keep our men out of it." 
The Naval Hospital had also been built more or less at the same time as South Barracks and also by Montressor. Taking early 20th century postcards as a guide it seems to have been well described by Staunton.

The Naval Hospital  ( Early 20th Century )
"I am happy," I replied, "in having it in my power to shew the care which our government takes of us; and I wish you to see the com fort and good fellowship which exist among our officers: I hope you will therefore do me the honour of dining with us at six o'clock." They assented with beaucoup de remercimens, and at a quarter before six I went up to the mess-house to receive them.  
They soon arrived ; after they had been introduced to my brother-officers, dinner was announced, and I ushered them into the dining-room, where, taking the president's chair at the head of the table, I begged my grey-headed friend, as being the senior officer among the five, to seat himself on my right hand, and Captain Pont du Gard on my left. 
The table was handsomely set out, and I made them remark our commanding-officer, Lieutenant- Colonel Paty, seated between two of the youngest ensigns. During dinner I endeavoured to explain to them some of the rules of the mess, which appeared to strike them with astonishment; nor could they help expressing their surprise, at observing the terms of familiarity and friendship upon which we all appeared to be. 
When the Governor of Gibraltar, George Don (see LINK) died in 1832 he was interred in Gibraltar. Lieutenants-Colonel Paty was one of the pall-bearers. It is, I am sad to say, just about all I know about this officer. 

General George Don   (1830 - Unknown )
An excellent dinner having been now demolished, bottles, glasses, and a good dessert, were placed on the festive board. I filled a bumper, and called on the vice-president to do the same, to the health of our king. The wine passed freely round; toast after toast was drunk, and among them the health of our new acquaintances and their regiment, the 34th French infantry. When I thought that a sufficient quantity of wine had been taken, being apprehensive of the effects of too much upon my new friends, I proposed to the whole table to retire to my quarters and smoke a cigar.  
Down we went; and, after passing a pleasant evening, I was happy to find my grey-headed ami so pleased with us all, that his temper brought him into no scrape, and wishing us a bien bon soir they retired to an inn in the town. . . . .

The King’s Head - which may possibly have been called Griffith’s Hotel in  1826 - may have been where the Frenchmen were staying    (1844 - Anonymous ) (See LINK)

And that is the last we hear of the French soldiers in Gibraltar. Elsewhere, however,  Staunton describes the following:
Dr. Shaw, in his ' Travels through Barbary,' says, that a belief that venomous serpents might be rendered innoxious by songs or muttered words, or by written sentences or combinations of numbers upon scrolls of paper, prevailed through all those parts of the country which he visited; and I have myself seen, in Gibraltar, a Moor exhibiting his tame serpents, with another man playing on an instrument, whilst the snakes were sporting and twisting themselves round his naked limbs and throat.
The above is the only time I have ever come across anybody mentioning this kind of activity in Gibraltar.

Finally it is perhaps worth noting that when Staunton was sent to the West Indies in 1805 he did so in possession of a glowing letter of recommendation from his Colonel - who happened to be the Duke of Kent (See LINK) to the Commander in Chief of the “Carribee and the Wndward Islands” Sir William Myers.

The Duke of Kent as Governor of Gibraltar - The artist has plonked him in Spanish territory with a nicely painted Rock across the Bay in the background    (1802 - Henry Edridge )
Dear Sir William - The bearer of this letter, Lieut. Thomas St. Clair, of my first battalion, is a young man in whose welfare I am most particularly and warmly interested, from the friendship I bear his parents, from whom I received every mark of kindness and attention when first I commenced my services with the British troops at Gibraltar, sixteen years ago, at a time when I landed in that garrison, a stranger to every individual in it, and unaccompanied by any one person on whom I had ever set eyes before I embarked . . .  
. . . . for some years past my young protégé has been in a very deplorable state of health, from which, even at this present moment, I can hardly consider him thoroughly recovered . . . . .  it is . . . to be hoped . . . that he will not suffer from the change of climate while the cool season continues, he may feel some return of his complaint, which has been a pectoral one, when the hot weather sets in, in the month of June next. 
Should my fears . . . . be realised, my request to you is, that you would then grant him immediate leave to come home, in order to escape the unhealthy season, and I will in return . . . pledge myself that in October he shall, if his health be re-established, go back to his duty. 
From what I have said, you will easily understand that I have the case of this young man much at heart, and I am certain I need add no more to ensure your kind attention to him, than that I shall ever most gratefully acknowledge any and every act of kindness done by you to him.
To give Staunton his due I don’t think he ever took up the offer of buggering back to Blighty at the very first sign of West Indian bad weather - at least he never mentions it in his book.