Two officers with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment have been working with online portal, We Were There Too, which records and commemorates members of the Jewish Community throughout the war years, 1914-1918. Honorary Colonel of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, Colonel Francis Brancato, provided the historical information for the digital archive, which was then edited by Colonel Martin Newman, Colonel of The Gibraltar Cadet Force.
The digital platform, supported by the National Heritage Fund, was launched originally in London in 2016 but was expanded two years later to cover the North West of England. The project manager is Manchester based Rodney Ross. He explained: “We Were There Too will ensure that all stories of Jews from the regions we are covering, who served the country in disproportionately high numbers, are enshrined in history for future generations.
“As Gibraltar has so many connection with Manchester, through the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community and links with Bevis Marks Synagogue and Sephardi Community in London, we wanted to include the extraordinary contribution made by Gibraltarian Jews in our archive.”
The project relies on volunteers, individuals and groups from schools and informal educational organisations who work alongside a professional team to collect and record the material housed on the site. These volunteers are provided with training in research and handling historical material and the appropriate technology. The project is also supported by a range of religious and secular Jewish organisations and has drawn the interest of military historians throughout the UK.
Rodney Ross said: “We know many more Gibraltarians served either with The Gibraltar Volunteer Corps or British Units and we would welcome any information that families can provide so we can record their history on our platform. As the site continually develops by stealth and research we are looking for more information about Jews who served. It has been an attractive project for many school and youth groups.”
Colonel Newman, who is also a vice president of AJEX The Jewish Military Association UK has been involved with WWTT since the start. He concluded: “We Were There Too is about remembrance and education. With increasing incidents of anti-Semitism in the UK WWTT demonstrates the contribution by British Jewry in defence of and loyalty to our country. Gibraltar has a great story to tell and we are grateful to Colonel Francis who is presently documenting the history of Gibraltarians at war.”
In keeping with Jewish tradition, the platform will allow visitors to permanently memorialise their family members who served so their passing can be commemorated annually. Colonel Newman said: “As we approach a Remembrance Day with a difference and local services when being cancelled because of the pandemic, it is more important than ever to help to promote the message of Remembrance for all those, including a disproportionate number from our community, who fell fighting for this country. We must not forget them.”
If you have a family story from the First World War, especially with Gibraltar connections, WWTT would be pleased to hear from you. All material is archived and if documents or photographs are provided they are returned to the owner after documentation. Information should be sent to Rodney Ross, email [email protected]