Middle East 1930 - 1947:
Gibraltar 1930 - 47
Gibraltar (otherwise known to many servicemen as ‘The Rock’) was, and still is, a British overseas territory at the southern coast of Spain at the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar, the gateway to the Mediterranean Sea. It was captured by the Royal Marines in 1704, and then ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Due to its strategic position on the sea lanes in and out of the Mediterranean, it was the home to a Royal Navy Dockyard and naval base. There was also a small army garrison based in Gibraltar. The territory has a Governor who in this period was usually a senior army officer (usually of General or Lieutenant General rank), who also acted as the Commander-in-Chief. The senior army officer was a Colonel who held the post of Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General in charge of Administration. The Commander Royal Artillery and Deputy Director of Medical Services were also Colonel’s appointments.
In 1930, there was only one British infantry battalion stationed in Gibraltar. By 1937, this had risen to two infantry battalions, and at the outbreak of war, there were three battalions stationed on The Rock. There were also units from supporting arms and services based in Gibraltar.
With the declaration of war in September 1939, a threat existed of Gibraltar being invaded by German troops possibly operating in Spain, or a seaborne attack. By this time, it had built up to become a major base for the Royal Navy and its operations in both the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic. The 1 Gibraltar Brigade was formed on 13 March 1941 in Gibraltar for the defence of the colony. The two battalions and the independent company all came under command on the same day. The brigade was under command of the Fortress Headquarters. It remained stationed in Gibraltar throughout the war, albeit with a change of units. On 22 July 1944, two Category B infantry battalions, the 31 Bn. The Suffolk Regiment and 30 Bn. The Dorsetshire Regiment came under command until the end of the war.
The 2 Gibraltar Brigade was formed on 24 April 1941 on Gibraltar for its defence with two battalions under command. On 1 December 1943, it was redesignated as the 28 Infantry Brigade and converted from a static to an operational role. It left Gibraltar on 15 December 1943 to move to Egypt to join the 4 Infantry Division with a change in units. It served with that division in Italy and Greece.
As the threat to Gibraltar receded during 1944, the military presence on The Rock was downscaled considerably, so by the end of the war, it was garrisoned by two Category ‘B’ battalions.