Who were the winners and losers of the Great Siege?


Even before the start of the hostilities Britain, France and Spain had all been busy negotiating for peace. Spain hoped to have conquered Gibraltar before any treaty had been signed but Eliott’s brilliant defence of the Rock, upset their plans. Britain lost her American colonies but France and Spain were economically ruined and were no longer able to carry on the fight. It was not until the 17th December that Eliott was informed of the peace negotiations, but he had to wait until the 2nd February 1784, before De Crillon sent a flag of truce to tell Eliott that the hostilities were indeed over.



For his resolute leadership and famous victory, Eliott was invested with the Order of the Bath, appropriately, at King’s Bastion. On his return to Britain, Eliott was made a peer, Baron Heathfield of Gibraltar.
The siege had lasted three years, seven months and twelve days. The city of Gibraltar lay in ruins but its walls remained intact. The garrison’s casualties during the siege had been:

Killed or died of wounds 333
Died of sickness 536
Disabled by wounds 138
Disabled by sickness 181
Deserted 43
Total 1.231


Fig.40. A post Great Siege image of Sir James Saumarez’s squadron preparing to leave Gibraltar to re-engage the Franco-Spanish combined fleet on 12th July 1801. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.


Spain and France losses were about 5,000 killed, wounded, captured, and missing. Almost half of those men lost were on board the floating batteries.
Spain lost out on Gibraltar and was now economically bankrupt as a result of war whilst British military pride was restored after the loss of Yorktown and the American colonies thanks to Eliott’s heroic defence of the Rock. The retention of Gibraltar also ensured that Britain would continue to dominate the Mediterranean Sea from this strategic military base and this helped to further expand the British Empire both towards the Eastern Mediterranean and into Africa.


Medal issued for the defence of Gibraltar in 1782. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.