Gibraltar marks centenary of World War One
Gibraltar’s contributions to the war effort is the focus of a new exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
The exhibition has been compiled by the National Archives, under the direction of Archivist Anthony Pitaluga it is being held at the John Mackintosh Hall and will remain open to the public until Armistice Day on November 1.
Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia launched the event and stressed that the exhibition serves to highlight the Rock’s contribution to the war effort.
“The role of Gibraltar in World War One is not as known as our role in World War II, and we hope that the exhibition held here today will serve to create a sense of awareness as to what our role was in that global conflict,” Dr Garcia said.
“Gibraltar served as a base where the wounded from theatres of war in other parts of Europe were transported.”
Dr Garcia described how hundreds of people were transported from Gallipoli in Turkey to Gibraltar.
He recounted Gibraltar’s efforts, adding he hoped the exhibition would help people further understand the role of the Rock during the war.
The progress of compiling this exhibition has seen Mr Pitaluga travel to London, Spain and even the Balkans as much of the information currently on show was not readily available at the Gibraltar National Archives.
Mr Pitaluga sourced some of the film footage on show from the UK National Archives and the Imperial War Museum.
At the exhibition there are over 200 artefacts on show and many images that have been digitised.
“The most important record that we show is over 500 individual service forms,” Mr Pitaluga said.
“The forms were filled in by the volunteers in their own handwriting and signed. Families can come to the exhibition and can find their great-grandfathers in that book.”
This book showing those who signed up for the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps can be found in the lower exhibition rooms at the John Mackintosh Hall.
Those in the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps never saw combat and were treated as a territorial army.
Mr Pitaluga stressed that the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps were instrumental in helped those injured arriving from Gallipoli and aided Gibraltar during storms that would cause landslides.
Personal stories can also be viewed at the exhibition, including the touching love story of Manuel Peralta.
“When you see in Hollywood that a soldier gets injured and goes to hospital, Hollywood didn’t invent that, that happened in real life,” Mr Pitaluga said.
“That is a great example of this. Manuel was injured towards the end of the First World War and he was sent to France and his wife had cared for him and they fell in love. Love stories happen in real life and not just the films.”
The exhibition is divided into several sections. The murder of Austrian Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and the Countess Sophie Chotek, which triggered the conflict, opens the exhibition.
The second section is specifically about Gibraltar and will cover both military and the civilian life.
This includes a Colonial Office list of Gibraltarians who served in HM Forces at various theatres of war.
The Colonial Office list is dated 19 October 1916 and includes the names of 76 Gibraltarians, with three men marked as killed in action.
World War One film footage is on display at the exhibition.
The four items include the exploits of a German submarine U35 which operated in the Mediterranean in 1917 and whose crew took footage of military action from the deck.
In response to enemy U-boat activity, the allies organised their shipping into convoys in order to protect merchant vessels.
Gibraltar became the most important port for the assembly of convoys in the World.
This led to a huge presence of the navies of allied powers, with some 40 US Navy ships and 4000 personnel based in Gibraltar under the command of a Rear Admiral. There is a section of the exhibition devoted to the military presence of the United States.
This article first appeared in the October 27 print and e-edition.