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Top Secret papers reveal details of Doves incident

New documents covering one of the most controversial periods of Gibraltar’s history have been partially released to the public following a protracted campaign by the Gibraltar Chronicle.

The police Special Branch reports reveal that the Commonwealth Office in London – the precursor to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office - became aware of the approach made to Spain by a group of Gibraltarians dubbed ‘The Doves’ a few months before they broke cover by publishing a letter in the Chronicle.

And although Whitehall officials treated the reports with suspicion, they nonetheless sparked a debate in London over whether such contacts should be “encouraged or discouraged”.

After receiving Top Secret Special Branch reports detailing the extent of contacts between Gibraltarian ‘Doves’ and the Spanish Foreign Ministry in January 1968, John Bennett, Head of the Gibraltar and South Atlantic Department, wrote: “My own view is that nothing is lost, and much may be gained, by smiling on the process.”

However, he added: “I should like to see it brought out into the open rather than regarded as a reprehensible underground activity.”

The Doves, a group of local businessmen and lawyers, first published a letter in the Gibraltar Chronicle advocating a settlement with Spain on April 1, 1968.

Later that same month they produced a second letter with details of specific proposals they claimed were acceptable to Spain, including the symbolic flying of the Spanish flag alongside the Union Jack over the Rock.

However the revelation that the group had been holding private talks in Madrid provoked widespread anger and led to one of Gibraltar’s worst days of civil disorder on April 6, 1968.


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