On Wednesday Gibraltar celebrated its birthday with a public holiday
to commemorate the tercentenary
In 1704 the territory was captured by Admiral Rooke as part of a war which lasted thirteen years and was a reflection of the challenge to the military power of France at the start of the eighteenth century.
As an affirmation that today the territory belongs to the people of Gibraltar, the Gibraltarians dressed in appropriate colours linked hands around the rock in a show of unity and to exercise physically the claim to their homeland.
The possession of Gibraltar gave the Royal Navy an advantage that helped England eventually displace France as the dominant European power.
Geoff Hoon, the British defence minister, arrived despite strong protests and fury from the Spanish Government. Also attending was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West, the leader of the British opposition party Michael Howard and his deputy and shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram.
Celebrations of the Tercentenary of British Gibraltar culminated
with the award of the Freedom of the city to the Royal Navy, which
was responsible for the capture of the Rock from Spain on 4 August 1704.
HMS Grafton paid a visit, and the crew took part in the ceremony. HMS Grafton, the 12th Type 23 Frigate to enter service in the Royal Navy, was built by Yarrows Shipbuilders, now part of BAE Marine, on the River Clyde in Scotland and was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 5 November 1994. She formally entered service in 1996 as the eighth ship to bear the name. She belongs to the Portsmouth Flotilla and is based at Portsmouth Naval Base on the south coast of England.
On the evening of Wednesday 4th August 2004, the Royal Navy, represented by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West, was awarded the Freedom of the City of Gibraltar in a ceremony at Grand Parade.
As his last official act as Mayor, Judge John Alcantara signed the Freedom Scroll and presented the casket containing the scroll to Sir Alan. Present at the ceremony were Armed Forces Minister Geoff Hoon, Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Governor Sir Francis Richards and the previous governors visiting Gibraltar, past and present Members of the House of Assembly.
The 'freedom' has been conferred on the Royal Navy "in recognition of its close association with Gibraltar over the past 300 years, as an expression of the regard, esteem and friendship in which the Royal Navy is held by the people of Gibraltar and in commemoration of the role that the Royal Navy has played in the social and economic development of Gibraltar and its people,"
After the ceremony some 300 servicemen marched through Gibraltar's Main Street, with bayonets fixed, bands playing, and swords drawn as provided for under the honour.
Chief Minister, Peter Caruana commented "The relationship between Britain and Gibraltar has thus been beneficial to both in manner that we form an important part of each other’s heritage. It is no coincidence that, to this day, the Royal Marines cite just one battle honour on their colours, the single word "Gibraltar". Nor is it a coincidence that the Royal Engineers were born in Gibraltar.
For the Royal Navy, for the Army and (more recently) for the Royal Airforce, Gibraltar has been a “home from home” base for centuries, resulting in the building of the famous dockyards and airfield, and miles upon miles of ramparts, bastions and tunnels, all of which now form such an important part of our heritage."
A good day was had by all those who participated.