How did Gibraltarians contribute to the war effort?


Gibraltar Defence Force Cap Badge

As early as 1938, a number of Gibraltarian volunteers answering a call from the then Governor, General Sir Edmund Ironside, had formed a Territorial Artillery unit to help man the anti-aircraft guns defending Gibraltar. Initially, hundreds volunteered but only 50 were taken on due to a lack of instructors and equipment.

Gibraltarian members of the Gibraltar Defence Force.

However, with the outbreak of World War II, many more volunteers were required and these men now formed part of the 4th and 27th Coastal Batteries of the Royal Artillery as well as units of the Royal Signals, Royal Army Service Corps and Royal Army Medical Corps. From the outbreak of the war in September 1939, the GDF would serve side by side with the regular units of the Garrison. Other Gibraltarians joined other essential services such as the Police and Fire Brigade whilst the remainder continued to do vital work in the dockyard, repairing and refitting warships, which was essential for the overall war effort.

Gibraltarian volunteers for the Gibraltar Defence Force 1939.

The Heavy Anti Aircraft section was later attached to 19th AA Battery Royal Artillery and deployed with two 3 inch guns to defend the Admiralty oil tanks, on the east side of the Rock. They fired their first shots in anger on 7th July 1940 and from then on they were often in action against Vichy French and Italian planes, engaging German planes later in the war. They shot down their first enemy aircraft on the night of 20th August 1940.

GDF training at Europa Point.

Gibraltar Defence Force H.A.A. Battery - Sep. 1942.

It was not just the men who contributed to the war effort. The evacuees in London and other cities also played a vital role. Women for example, began working, in war or textile factories making parachutes, in essential services such as driving buses, manning telephone exchanges or joining volunteer sewing groups that made clothes for men fighting on the front lines. Other women joined organisations such as the Red Cross or the Women Voluntary Services. Men and young boys were trained as ARP Wardens, auxiliary fire fighters and other essential services or were employed in a number of trades. Most Gibraltarians who could contribute in any way towards the war effort did so.

Evacuees in the Womens Voluntary Services