The First World War started 28 July 1914 and ended 11 November 1918. It is estimated that 18,000,000 people lost their lives during that War, a war which ranks among the deadliest in human history.
The names of a number of Gibraltarians who lost their lives whilst serving with the UK armed forces are displayed on a commemorative plaque in the lobby of the Gibraltar Parliament.
In July 2014 a Motion was adopted to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict.
The Government will commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War One with a number of events.
There will be an exhibition of relevant historical material and photographs which will be open to the public in November, the actual month of the anniversary.
‘There But Not There’ Charity
Gibraltar will also be taking part in the UK “There But Not There” charity campaign, a UK charity which aims to raise awareness of the 1918 Armistice that put an end to the conflict.
The charity’s objectives are to commemorate the Fallen by putting the names of the War’s casualties back into their communities, to educate all generations about these casualties’ sacrifice and to help heal veterans of other wars who are suffering from the hidden wounds resulting from their service.
Service veterans have manufactured silhouettes of World War One soldiers which are on sale to individuals and organisations in order to commemorate the Fallen. The Government has purchased a number of life-sized models which will be placed in different public buildings.
There will be a life-sized model placed in the lobby of No 6 Convent Place, another at the air terminal’s entrance to Gibraltar and a third model at the pedestrian entrance through the land frontier.
This campaign has already seen the projection of the silhouette of a World War One soldier, known as a “Tommy”, onto the north face of the Rock. The test projection last week made the headlines in the UK press and was warmly welcomed in the UK. The silhouette image will be projected once again during the week of Remembrance Sunday.
This year Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day coincide on the same day – Sunday 11 November.
Publication of a Book
The Government has also supported the publication of a book which focuses on the role that Gibraltar played during World War One. The book, “Putting cargoes through The US Navy at Gibraltar during the First World War 1917-1919” was written by Rear Admiral Albert Niblack and is the memoir of his time as the Commander of US Navy ships based in Gibraltar in that period. It carries an introduction by Professor John Hattendorf who is the Ernest J King Professor Emeritus of Maritime History at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island and who is a member of the Gibraltar-American Council.
Professor Hattendorf discovered the Admiral’s account of the US Navy at Gibraltar which had gone unnoticed for several decades and he put it forward for publication.
The book confirms that there were over forty US vessels and four thousand US sailors based at Gibraltar during World War One. Their role was to escort convoys in and out of the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Rear Admiral Niblack makes it clear that Gibraltar became the principal convoy port of the world, with over one-quarter of all allied tonnage assembling here in order to be organised into convoys to disperse in every direction. The American War Memorial in Line Wall Road was a Thank You gift from the United States of America precisely to mark the pivotal role that Gibraltar played.
Commenting on the plans, the Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said: “The First World War marked a fundamental change in the manner in which warfare was conducted and, as a result, millions of people lost their lives. The role that Gibraltar played in the conflict goes unnoticed, in comparison to our contribution to World War Two but, nonetheless, it was just as important.
It is fitting, given the role that Gibraltar played, that we should mark the centenary of the end of World War One. This was supposed to be the War to end all Wars – sadly that did not prove to be the case.”