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10th May, 2013



After rather dull weather since departing from Coruna it was a delight to see the sun as we passed Cape St. Vincent and the sunset that evening was quite something, a wonderful display of high cumulus and mare’s tails all in a rosy glow against a deepening blue sky.

By breakfast we were well into the thick of traffic all funnelling down towards the Straits and, with a strong tide, we picked up time and crossed over the traffic separation scheme and into the Bay only to be greeted by Martin Breen, an ex-Master with Saga who has settled in Gibraltar as a pilot. We spent a little time ‘catching up’ at the same time as threading our way through the anchored ships.

Barbary Ape

I have not been on a tour in Gibraltar for over thirty years and so, with some time to spare, we joined the one that took in the unique history of the Rock during the Second World War. The driver of our minibus, Cliff, gave an amusing informative commentary as he drove, first across the airports runway, twice, then around the narrow streets passing solid walls with only inches to spare, then stopping so that we could take in the views from Europa Point, and high up into the nature reserve where we came across the odd Barbary Ape or two. He drove on around the northern edge and finally left us at the entrance to ‘Hays Level’, the entry point to the labyrinth of tunnels carved out over a three year period from 1940.

Cable car

Our guide through this strange cool underground world was an ex-army Corporal who had some delightfully colourful language to explain how it had all worked deep inside the Rock where thousands of men, and just a few ladies, toiled away inside for six days a week before being allowed back out into the sunshine to refresh on Vitamin D. There are over thirty miles of tunnels that include storerooms, living quarters, a hospital, ammunition stores, galleys, etc. The 1% that we covered was at least illuminated, the remainder are still apparently used to train Special Forces and the like. This subterranean world was an experience, but there seemed to be an audible sigh of relief when we came around a corner and back out into the daylight at ‘Jock’s balcony’, a fine vantage point from which to observe the ‘foreigners’.    

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