Glossary


Artificer – A member of the British army which in 1813 became the Royal Sappers and Miners, which in 1856 evolved into the Royal Engineers. The corps was formed in Gibraltar in 1772 by Colonel Green.


Bastion – a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification. It allows the defenders of the fort to cover adjacent bastions and curtains with defensive fire.


Blockade runners – small but very fast vessels that evaded Spanish ships and brought food and other much needed supplies to the Garrison.


Breach –
a gap in a wall, barrier, or defence, especially one made by an attacking army.


Campamento – Campsite of the Franco-Spanish armies outside the range of the British guns. The town of Campamento is on the site of the old army camp.


Casemates – A fortified gun emplacement or armoured structure from which guns are fired. Originally the casemates were vaulted chambers in a fortress. The vaults were used as fortified barracks for the troops.


Convoy – A convoy is a group of vehicles (of any type, but usually motor vehicles or ships) travelling together for mutual support.


Counterguard– The counterguard protected the bastion as the enemy would have to capture the counterguard before taking on the bastion; and whilst attempting this, the enemy would come under the direct fire of the bastion. A third layer of protection was added by constructing a breakwater in front of the counterguard to deter amphibious assaults.


Couvreport Battery – Couvreport means to cover the door. This battery was shaped like a ravelin (triangular shaped) as it was intended to divide any invading army. It also protected Landport gates from enemy guns as it was hidden from view by the position of the battery walls.


Curtain wall – The outer wall of a castle or a defensive wall. These curtain walls were strongly defended by bastions on either side.


Enfilade – Firing at the enemy, along the line of troops, to achieve maximum casualties. A rank or line of advancing troops is enfiladed if fired on from the side (flank).


Floating batteries – Specially designed ships invented by the French engineer D’Arcon used for the purpose of breaching British defences on the seaward side.


Glacis – an artificial slope of earth in the front of works such as fortifications, so constructed as to keep any potential assailant under the fire of the defenders to the last possible moment.


Grape shot – A type of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannon. Instead of solid shot, a mass of loosely packed metal slugs is loaded into a canvas bag. When assembled, the balls resemble a cluster of grapes (hence the name). Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range.


Guard of Honour – A guard specially designated for welcoming or escorting distinguished guests or for accompanying a casket in a military funeral.


Hanoverian – Hanover is a province in what would later become Germany. In 1714 George Louis, a Hanoverian, became king of Great Britain, whereby Hanover and Britain were joined under a common regent (King). Hanoverian troops were used by Britain in both the American War of Independence and in the defence of Gibraltar.


HMS Victory – 104-gun first-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy built in 1759 and launched in 1765. She is most famous as Lord Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Hot potatoes – see red-hot shot.


Isthmus – a narrow strip of land that is bordered on two sides by water and connects two larger land masses.


Koehler’s depressing carriage –
a gun carriage invented in February of 1782 by Lieutenant Koehler. The height of the Rock coupled with the proximity of the Spanish lines to Gibraltar meant that a steep angle was needed to fire down on the enemy lines. It was simple enough to stop the cannon balls rolling out of the cannon barrels by using tight wadding. However, the conventional carriages could not withstand the power of the recoil from such a steep angle of discharge. Koehler’s carriage overcame this problem and became essential in the defence of Gibraltar in the final months of the Seige.


Lagoon or Inundation – A shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by sand or rocks. An artificial inundation was created by the British as part of their defensive positions. Today the present Laguna Estate is located on the site of the old inundation.


Landport Gates – From the French word ‘porte’ meaning door. Landport was the only entry point into Gibraltar by land and was heavily defended by the Grand Battery. Landport could only be accessed by bridge over a deep ditch.


La Linea de Contravalación – Name given to the Spanish lines that extended from Fort Felipe to the west to Fort Santa Barbara to the east. Today the town of La Linea de la Concepción stands on the site of the old Spanish lines.


Magazine – the name for an item or place within which ammunition is stored. It is taken from the Arabic word ‘makahazin’ meaning ‘warehouse’.


Notch – promontory on the North Face of the Rock known as the Notch. Elliot wanted to place a cannon piece on that notch in order to enfilade the Spanish-French forward lines of communications.


Quarantine – a strict isolation imposed on people or animals to prevent the spread of disease. This was usually for forty days.


Quartermaster – A regimental officer, usually commissioned from the ranks, responsible for administering barracks, laying out the camp, and looking after supplies.


Red-Hot shot – Heated cannon balls used to set wooden timbers, such as those on ships, alight. Although often referred to as an ‘idea’ of the Great Siege, there are records of use of red-hot shot in battle well before the siege circa 1500s. Even Eliott was known to have experimented with it in his own family estate as a younger officer.


Sally port – a door in a castle or city wall that allows troops to make sallies or sorties (meaning to get out) without compromising the defensive strength of the fortifications. The sally port directly beneath Landport Gates was used by the British Garrison to attack and destroy enemy fortifications in the isthmus during the famous sortie of 1781.


Sapper – see Artificer.


Scurvy – is a deficiency disease that results from insufficient intake of vitamin C. Scurvy was at one time common among sailors aboard ships out at sea longer than perishable fruits and vegetables could be stored and by soldiers who were similarly deprived of these foods for extended periods, especially during sieges.


Shrapnel – small metal pieces that scatter outwards from an exploding bomb, shell, or mine.


Smallpox – An acute infectious disease unique to humans, caused by a virus. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans each year during the 18th century, and was responsible for a third of all blindness. Between 20 and 60% of all those infected—and over 80% of infected children—died from the disease.


Soldier Artificer Company – see artificer.


Sortie – From the French word ‘sortir’ meaning to exit. It is a military term for deploying troops from a fort with the specific purpose to attack the enemy camp or siege works and return to the safety of the fortifications once the mission has been accomplished.


Spike – The phrase ‘to spike a cannon’ meant to disable it by driving a tapered wrought iron plug, or spike, down the fuse hole with a hammer until it was level and firmly embedded. This rendered the cannon useless as it could no longer fire.


Treaty of Utrecht – The Treaty of Utrecht that established the Peace of Utrecht, rather than a single document, comprised a series of individual peace treaties, signed in the Dutch city of Utrecht, in March and April 1713. The treaty helped end the War of the Spanish Succession. One of the provisions of this treaty was that Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain ‘in perpetuity’, which means forever.


Waterport Gate – Waterport Gate was the main entrance to Gibraltar in the early days of British occupation and accessible only by ship. In 1815 two gateways were opened in the wall at the Waterport, so that carriages could pass through in both directions at once. The new gates were renamed Grand Casemates Gates.