National Geographic : 1966 Jul
Gibraltar-Rock of Contention force of 40,000 Spanish and French besiegers. In that four-year artillery battle-one of the most awesome in history-opposing batteries fired almost half a million shots. In the end, the Spanish and French at tacked by sea. Ten French-designedflottantes -"incombustible and insubmersible" vessels with sides reinforced by seven feet of wet sand, cork, and green timber-sailed awk wardly out to bombard Gibraltar at close range. Early on the morning of September 13, 1782, they struggled into line and opened fire. Eliott, the "Cock of the Rock," responded with a deafening cannonade, which included balls preheated red-hot to set fires. As night came on, one of the bigger flottantes began to blaze; the discouraged attackers scuttled the others. Eliott had saved Gibraltar for Britain and had given the world a new sym bol for permanence. Every age tends to discount the strategic value of the Rock. Our own is no exception. Yet, in World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisen hower established his headquarters at Gibral- tar, for the launching of "Operation Torch." Later he wrote: "In November, 1942, the Allied nations possessed, except for the Gi braltar Fortress, not a single spot of ground in all the region of Western Europe.... Gi braltar made possible the invasion of north west Africa." Today Gibraltar is headquarters of two NATO commands, a vital base in the defense of the West. And history has stamped the town with a military imprint; place names near Main Street-Bomb House Lane, West Place of Arms-ring with the echo of battle. Both Sides Feel Blockade Effects Not long after my visit to San Roque, I called upon the other and more widely recog nized Mayor of Gibraltar, Sir Joshua Hassan (page 117). Sir Joshua-short, ebullient, learned-has been in the forefront of Gibral tarian politics since World War II. I had al ready met him in his role of Chief Minister of the Crown Colony. "Although we number only 19,000 people,"