The Gibraltar Government will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I this November, highlighting the Rock’s contributions to the war effort.
Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia yesterday announced a series of events that will take place in the run-up and on the anniversary date.
The First World War lasted four years, coming to a close on November 11, 1918, and in that time 18 million people died, some of whom were Gibraltarians serving with the UK armed forces.
Dr Garcia stressed that more needs to be done to commemorate those Gibraltarians who died in war to ensure that the local contribution is not forgotten.
Exhibitions will be hosted at the Garrison Library and the John Mackintosh Hall, with the second organised by the Gibraltar Archives. The exhibitions will take place during October and November in the run up to the anniversary date.
Further to this the Government is backing the ‘There But Not There’ campaign that supports veterans and those injured in war through the sale of ‘Tommy’ figures.
In support of the charity, Dr Garcia yesterday displayed the ‘Tommy’, a Perspex figure representing a soldier at war, at a press call held at No6 Convent Place.
Dr Garcia was also flanked by 6ft Tommy silhouettes and announced that the life-size figures will be positioned at various locations around the Rock, including the air terminal, frontier and other central sites, as a reminder to the public of the WWI anniversary.
There But Not There will donate the proceeds of sales from the Tommy to charities such as Help for Heroes, Walking with the Wounded, the Commonwealth War Graves Foundation. The figures can be purchased online on www.therebutnotthere.org.uk.
As part of the project a Tommy soldier was recently projected onto the north face of Rock.
“That image will also be projected during the week of Remembrance Sunday,” Dr Garcia told reporters.
He added the placing of the 6ft silhouettes “will be appreciated by the high number of British tourists who come to Gibraltar.”
“There is an element of propagating the message of There But Not There and also of encouraging people, organisations and businesses to purchase these items, which in turn is contributing to a very worthy cause,” Dr Garcia said.
The Government has also supported the publication of a book which focuses on the role that Gibraltar played during World War One.
The book, called ‘Putting cargoes through: The US Navy at Gibraltar during the First World War 1917-1919’, was written by Rear Admiral Albert Niblack and is his memoir of his time as the Commander of US Navy ships based in Gibraltar during that period.
Dr Garcia added that the book will be used as part of Gibraltar’s lobbying efforts in the United States.
“The history of Gibraltar’s involvement in WWII is very much known… but I think our role in WWI is less understood and less known,” Dr Garcia said.
“This book will fill an important vacuum in that knowledge from a historical perspective.”
The book carries an introduction by Professor John Hattendorf, who is the Ernest J King Professor Emeritus of Maritime History at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and who is a member of the Gibraltar-American Council.
Professor Hattendorf discovered the Admiral’s account of the US Navy at Gibraltar which had gone unnoticed for several decades and he put it forward for publication.
Dr Garcia added Professor Hattendorf plans to visit the Rock for the launch of the book, which will take place just prior to the Literary Festival.
The book confirms that there were over 40 US vessels and 4,000 US sailors based at Gibraltar during WWI. Their role was to escort convoys in and out of the Mediterranean and elsewhere.
Rear Admiral Niblack makes it clear that Gibraltar became the principal convoy port of the world, with over one quarter of all allied tonnage assembling here in order to be organised into convoys to disperse in every direction.
The American War Memorial in Line Wall Road was a ‘thank you’ gift from the United States of America precisely to mark the pivotal role that Gibraltar played.