Royal Engineers – Freedom of Gibraltar


The Corps of Royal Engineers celebrated their freedom of Gibraltar at the weekend.

On Saturday they assembled in Casemates Square, with the Band of the Corps of Royal Engineers and the former serving members of the Royal Engineers who are now in the Royal British Legion, Gibraltar branch.

The band had performed a concert the previous night in St Michael’s Caves. After listening to them in Casemates I regretted not having made the effort to go to the concert.

I used to like military bands, but as I grew up and associated the music with war, I distanced myself from it.

But they were very good and played a great range of music in Casemates – for free – while the Chief Engineer inspected current serving REs and RBL members.


The Royal Engineers were granted the Freedom of Gibraltar in 1972. They have a long history of involvement with Gibraltar, from raising the first corps in 1772 to digging out many of the 30 miles of tunnels within the Rock.

They celebrate their freedom every two years. This year they were inspected by Chief Royal Engineer, General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue.

After the inspection finished, the band marched up Main Street, followed by the Corps of Royal Engineers, and then the Royal British Legion, who were applauded as they marched around the corner to the final destination in Cathedral Square.

Partner spoke to one of the RBL members in the pub on Sunday. We were surprised he had been in the parade as he is in his late 70s. He admitted he was finding the marching a bit hard as he got older. So very well done to him and all his colleagues who turned out for the parade. You all deserve our respect.

And here are two vids. In the first one the police officer half way through is saying “Avoid them”. To me. I was so busy trying to get the rest of the band going round the corner I didn’t realise the Royal Engineers complete with bayonets were rapidly bearing down on me.

Finally, the Royal British Legion finishing the parade in Cathedral Square to well-deserved applause from all the bystanders.

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63 comments on “Royal Engineers – Freedom of Gibraltar

  1. Thank you for taking the videos and showing us. (was a bit worried when the camera went shaky – thought you were being mown down by oncoming marching band!)That was very interesting.K C

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    • Hi all I was just wondering if you remember my dad nick tillstone he had ginger hair and played the flute thanks for any info chris

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  2. Just caught up with this. Thanks for posting the pics. I was on the original parade on 6 March 1972.I had been posted to 1st Fortress Sqn the previous year. Other RE units with detachments on parade were 60 Field Sqn from Maidstone, and I think 52 Construction Sqn from Waterbeach, who were principally involved in building the Europa by-pass, with a bit of help from the Fortress Sqn of course.We all received bronze commemorative medals from the Gibraltar Government.Terry Reeves

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    • Hi Anonymous,
      You mentioned you were in Gib in 1972. I Was born there in 1972 as my father was posted there for 2 years. He recently passed away and I’m trying to find anyone who knew him. His name was Colin Jones, Pte, Serving with 1 RRF. Worked on the top of the rock. Also looking for others by the name of Townson as they became my god parents. Do these names mean anything?

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  3. I was also on the original parade though normally a shift engr in Calpe Hole Power Stn. The stn was "mothballed" before I left Gib in Aug 72. I now live in Spain & usually visit Gib once a week. I have revisited the stn in the Gt North Rd and its now in a very sad state. Still, fond memories remain.

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  4. Thanks for your interest Joseph. When you visit Gib, do you ever get to the Angry Friar as there a few ex Royal Engineers who go in there regularly? My partner goes in there and chats to them at least once or twice a week.I am very saddened with the state of the military heritage, there is so much, but so little that is well preserved. Perhaps one day.It would be good to bump into you.

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  5. I to was on the original parade in 72, Terry,who was a diver if I recall should remember me. Had two enjoyable years in Gib, been back once in 2002 I think it was, Governors Cottage camp was still there then, doubt if it is now, wonder if the old 1772 club is still there?

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    • Hi I’ve just read your comment regarding governor cottage and you being a diver my dad would mention the same place and I remember him going diving his name was Nicholas tillstone

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  6. hallo terry,its rocky hudson here,remember our whaler pulling days,in the bay,? i have some pics with you recieving a trophy,ill get around to scanning them when i get time,im busy on the PMC circuit at the moment,happy days!

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    • Hi
      You mentioned you were in Gib in 71-73. I Was born there in 1972 as my father was posted there for 2 years. He recently passed away and I’m trying to find anyone who knew him. His name was Colin Jones, Pte, Serving with 1 RRF. Worked on the top of the rock. Also looking for others by the name of Townson as they became my god parents. Do these names mean anything?

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  7. Alan and Paul, thanks for your comments. Hope you and everyone else have enjoyed reading about the REs parade a few years ago. I'll try and take some photos of the parade next year for an update.Terry, hope you had a good few days when you visited gib in July.

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  8. Alan good to hear from you. The whaler racing was good fun and I think we saw of the opposition is some style.Paul Leherle, good to hear from you after all this time. The cookhouse is long gone I'm afraid, along with most of the rest of Governors Cottage.Keep in touch all please through treeves@btinternet.com

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    • I was in Gibraltar last year for short visit, shame about the condition of Calpe Hole power station. Number 2 generators engine has just been left as it was when I stripped it down in 1971 to find a broken crankshaft. Terry is the only ex fortress Sapper I have been in contact with. Hoping to visit Gib again while I can still manage it.

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      • As I said above, a shame about much of our military heritage here, although sometime it does get the odd facelick, but I would like to see it higher on the priority list. It’s an integral part of Gib’s history.

        Thank you for your virtual visit to the blog, Jim, and hoping you get back here for another visit soon. Whatever the flaws, it’s still a great place.

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      • Jim Hyslop.Your name sounds really familiar.Im John Lewis.Used to be in 1st Fortress and was a shift engineer at Calpe Powe Staion.Stil here in Gibraltar.
        Regards,hope to hear from you.

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      • I was in Gib at that time but missed the parade as I was on compassionate leave. i remember Jim and helped strip the engine down. had good times and remember the “Spinning Wheel”
        Bob Matthews

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  9. 40 years and still miss the rock ! not the pub in the square ,I was a plant opp, building the europa rd in 72 from using blast mats to being on the crusher all day, ,Great time Great set of lads .Also the times we had in the 1772 club Magic !

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    • Thanks for the comment paul (I take it you are from Newcastle? – lived there for ten years or so). It’s funny how many people in the REs have actually moved here or retired here.

      Which pub? Which square?

      Didn’t realise Europa Road was so new. A mere 40 years old!! Looks like it has been there for ever.

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      • Good to see Paul I still around. The pub in he square he refers to was The Old Rock. Works section did a lot of work on the Europa by pass and I agree, the 1772 Club was a cracking place.

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        • Thanks for your visit and comment. Amazing how Gib has changed over the last ten or twenty years. Even when I first visited some twenty years ago it was a different place.

          Must ask some of our older colleagues about The Old Rock and the 1772.

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        • Hi ya I was just reading your post and wonder if you new my dad Nike tillstone he had ginger hair and was married to a lady called dot.thanks if you can help

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  10. my farther robert john janes. who has now passed away last year. was at gibraltar in 1972 for freedom of the city .he was in the R.E band he played the saxaphone. i still have a bronze medal or commemorative medallion number 61 out of 200 in a red spinks box. also some first day cover stamps and a booklet.

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    • Thanks for your visit and comment Iain. Quite a few ex REs seem to find this page, so always happy for people to use it to catch up with each other and if you, or anyone else want to post any photos, happy to add those too.

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  11. It’s a while since I posted on here, but since the last time I have talked to Jim Hyslop a couple of times. Good to hear that Paul Lynn is still around but who is anonymous of Works Section? It was Works section who built the retaining wall on the Europa by-pass. Other members of Works section were Colin Brewer, Pete Moran, Tiny Cummings, Brian King Mick Ratcliffe and Phil “lungs” Crook amongst others, as well as Rocky Hudson who has posted previously.

    I will be on the Rock from 16th October 2014 for a week. If anybody happens to be around, let me know, you probably owe me a few beers.

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    • Names from the past. all of them on the works section although I was a shift engineer at the time..71-73, Alan Hodge although moved down to the dockyard when they closed Calpe on me and I remember Jim Hyslop and John Lewis.

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      • Alan,your name rings a bell but I cannot place your face.I was 1st Fortress-Power Station Troop from 1969-1972.Lets see if we can reminisce a bit and maybe send some photos etc.
        Regards,

        John Lewis.

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        • I’m really pleased that REs have found this post and been able to share and remember time in Gib. My dad enjoyed his time here (RN). If any of you want me to put up a post using photos (all credited and copyrighted to you or the original photographer) and any specific memories, I’m happy to make a post out of it.

          Thanks to you all for your continued visits and comments.

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  12. My name is Philip Meigh and I was a Cpl clerk 1976/77 in 1st Fortress Squadron based at Governors Cottage Camp. I was looking at this site purely to see if the 1772 Club still exists but no joy so far. It was a brilliant Club and was cared for by the Squadron at that time. I went back to Gibraltar in 2011 and saw Rosia Bay swimming pool built by the Royal Engineers but did not get near the 1772 Club. I would be grateful for any information or contact by anyone who was in the Squadron at that time.

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    • I certainly remember John Lewis. When I arrived in August 1972, I was given a bed opposite him on the ground floor of the pent house. I seem to remember john was a bit of space fanatic and had built a model of the moon lander which he on his bedside locker. Why does such trivia stick? grins.

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  13. I’m trying to find out a bit about REs in Gibraltar in about 1870. Can anyone tell me if an RE’s girlfriend or finacée would have been allowed to visit in those days, or was it only wives who would have been given a ship’s passage? Were there work prospects for young English women in Gibraltar in 1870? Or might a young English woman have been sent to Gibraltar as a convict? A female relative of mine went to Gibraltar about 1870, married an RE in 1871 and had a baby girl there in 1873, and I’d love to find out what took her there – is it likely she already knew him or more likely she met him out there? Are there any ships’ passenger lists I could check, or Gibraltar immigration records? And finally, which RE regiments were in Gibraltar in 1871? Any help very gratefully received!

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    • A fascinating new section of your biog, for me, Kate. Your regular biog email has twice now disappeared in to a ” Page not Found” heading and I clicked around till I came upon your review of the RE Freedom March and then a good browse through spotting all of the EX REs. but none from my time there ’60- ’63….

      So to any and all interested ex REs ., let it be known that I was present at the disbandment of the 1st Fortress REGIMENT in late 1960 and the original formation of 1st Fortress SQUADRON, after a move up Hospital Hill from South Barracks to Buena Vista Barracks, in early January 1961**
      At the time the barracks were built of thick stone walled ‘bungalow’ type buildings running along and perpendicular to the access road to the main square, situated on the top of a 200′ cliff edge, directly above the Little Bay works site. The imposing façade of the old Buena Vista (The most aptly named ever as it had the greatest of ” Good Views” ) Barracks Block which housed the lads of the Gibraltar Regiment stood four square and solid along the Southern Edge of the Square

      **The asterisks were inserted to remind me of that fateful day, Jan.3rd 1961 when I lost my best mate in a tragic drowning accident off the works site at Little Bay.. He was Spr. Mike Ward, aged just 19 and his remains rest today in North Front Cemetery . I saw, a few years ago, a cutting from the Gibraltar Chronicle of 3 or 4 of the original Squadron Members, still residing on the Rock, (Charlie Head, Jock Snaddon ) amongst others who had taken pity upon the rather forlorn brass plaque memorial attached to the newly laid concrete wall and had replaced it with a much larger one to mark the spot off from where Mike had died.

      Happier memories abound, meeting,” courting” and eventually marrying my first wife and our first few carefree months together, in the warm Gibraltar Sunshine. Sadly though,this was not to last but as they say, that’s life.
      So , gentlemen, and ladies, if any one wants to swap a few memories of days gone by, we can pull up the metaphorical sandbag, swing that Tilley lamp, and swap a few “Warry” Stories !!

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    • Hi Kate. I hope that you and your Partner (and the dogs) are well.
      I don’t have your email address so I hope that this will reach you via your blog.
      Marjorie and I intend to visit the Rock for the R E Freedom March this year. We’ll stay at the O’ Callaghan / Elliot from the 20th to the 25th April and would love to meet you both ( and the dogs of course!) at some time when I’m not parading up Main Street!😃 If that is convenient, leave a message at the Hotel Reception Desk for
      ” Cunningham” or drop an email to the address below,and we’ll take it from there.
      Best Regards from us both

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      • Hi Eddie
        Great you are returning to Gib. How about meeting you up at the newly refurbed Wellington Front some morning? Say Sat or Sun cos it’s quieter, although I’m guessing the march is on one of those days :D But yes, I’ll leave a message. Anything else, you can use the contact form on my about me page which comes to my email. Hasta abril.

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        • Hi Kate! That would be great, but as you guessed Saturday I’m Staggering up Main Street, trying hard to recall which foot is “Left” and which one is Right! It’ll be alright on the night! :-) Sunday after noon sounds more likely as in the morning there’s a Church Parade at 10.30 – 11.30 Followed by tea and biccies with the Padre. Chucking out time after that bunfight is around midday .so by then we’ll be gagging for a for a decent drink and a chat to you two “ordinary’ people ( i.e. Non -Military!) Please remind me where Wellington Front is as the old Memory is down to its last couple of cells and they’re dying of loneliness! :-)

          Saludos a los perros

          Eddie and Marjorie

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  14. I was part of the parade in 2008 and was wondering if i could acquire any picture or videos that you might have taken for the event, I lost my laptop a while ago with all my memories from that period. I would be very grateful if you could assist.

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    • simbarashe… You should be able to ask the Gibraltar Chronicle if they can help you as their photographer was very busy on the day at the parade ground. I managed to get a free DVD of the whole event made and provided by an RAF Corporal in his rôle of Official Photographer. I’ll try to look it out and If I find it will send it to you. I’ll reply to you in here if Kate doesn’t mind and we can PM each other if I need to.

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  15. Mick norfield
    I was the troop SSGT of 1st fortress from jan 85 to April 87. Just had some great times in the 1772 club. Looking on Google earth it has changed so much and not all for the good.

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    • Hi Mick, thanks for visiting and commenting. First time we came was 1989 so just after you, but yeah it has changed. If you want to catch up with anyone do ask on here as people do use this post for getting in touch and I’m happy with that.

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