- Contributed by
- Researcher 241611
- People in story:
- Gibraltarian Evacuation
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 05 April 2004
Gibraltar has through the ages suffered sieges and difficulties but according to the local population the one that caused the greatest anxiety was the evacuation of the civilian population of Gibraltar during WWII for reasons of defence.
Here was this closely-knit community, ready to face war from their own homes, being suddenly told that they were to be uprooted ( women, children, the old and the infirmed) from Gibraltar for the requirements of war. The male population, my father among them, were to remain in Gibraltar. Originally these evacuees were sent to Morocco but within a few months they were literally thrown out of Northern Africa because the French troops withdrew from Metropolitan France and took refuge in Morocco.
The first days of July 1940 witnessed further dramatic developments which would have a very profound effect upon the Gibraltar evacuees. The French no longer wanted them in Morocco, the Governor of Gibraltar refused to have them back for safety reason and London was against their being sent to the United Kindgom. They had become the "Unwanted Evacuees".
Finally by the end of July, and afer much discussion the stage was set for the re-evacuation of the civilian population of Gibraltar. They were on their way, the young, the old, the infirmed, pregnant women, women and children of every age and mentality. They boarded ships that were to take them to Jamaica, Madeira and the United Kingdom. My mother, grandmother and all the female members of my family were sent to England. My cousins were very young at the time, one of them celebrated his first birthday on board ship!!!!
It was a precarious journey for all of these evacuees. Escorts were scarce as they were needed for convoys more vital to the prosecution of the war. There were no doctors in any of the ships.
But the Gibraltarians survived and reached their destinations.
Meanwhile bombing raids were carried out on Gibraltar.
My mother and rest of my family were billeted in the Kensington area, in Kensington Palace Mansions, to be exact. Later on they were moved to Putney.
My mother-in-law, very heavily pregnant at this time was evacuated to Madeira along with most of her family. My husband was born in Madeira in 1940.
Life in war-torn London was not easy for these Gibraltarians, their hearts and minds and all they held sacred were in Gibraltar.
My young cousins were enrolled at school, whilst my mother and many many other young Gibraltarian women helped in the War Effort.
Air raids continued and alarms and rushes to the shelters were part and parcel of life for the Gibraltarian evacuees in London. On the whole they were lucky and suffered no great casualties.
Gradually the Gibraltarians settled down to some sort of routine and made the best of their situation. However, food posed a problem for them and rationing was very difficult for them to adapt to. But they survived!!!!
Many of the men, who had stayed behind in Gibraltar,were given leave to go to England and visit their families.
My father and two of my uncles sailed on board "S.S.Lancashire" in October 1943. They stayed in England until December 1943.
As war seemed to go on for ever my parents decided to get married during my father's stay. They were married in St. Joseph's Church, Roehampton, on 30th October 1943. Then my father returned to Gibraltar.
I was born in Gibraltar, after the war, in 1945, a Victory Baby!!!!!
Incidentally the last contingent of Gibraltarian evacuees returned to the Rock as late as 1952.
The Evacuation had the effect of bringing the Gibraltarians closer together as a community, indeed almost as a nation. Our Gibraltarian identity has undoubtedly been strengthened.
The Gibraltarians had suffered displacement from their homes and separation from their families, they had endured years of hardship in war-torn London, waiting for the time when they could return to their beloved Rock.
It saddens me that so little is written about them and that is why I have taken it upon myself to write this story and let you all know that the Gibraltarians played a great part in WWII.
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