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Royal Marines return to “The Rock”

members of 40 Commando RM,marching through Casemate Square in the rain, at the freedom of Gibraltar Parade
members of 40 Commando RM, outside Casemate Square, at the freedom of Gibraltar Parade
members of the Royal MArines Band and 40 Commando RM, marching through Main Street (Gibraltar) at the freedom of Gibraltar Parade

Royal Marines from Taunton-based 40 Commando have returned to Gibraltar, the scene of one their most famous and historic battles.

The Commandos conducted a ceremonial parade to exercise their freedom of Gibraltar. A monument bearing an inscription describing the Marines’ heroic actions will be unveiled on Sunday to cement their longstanding links with the territory.

The event commemorated the capture of “the Rock” in a daring amphibious assault on the 24th of July 1704 by British and Dutch Marines. They then withheld a prolonged siege from October 1704 to April 1705, achieving “immortal glory” according to commentators at the time. “Gibraltar” became the only one of many battle honours that Royal Marines include in their Globe and Laurel insignia when, in 1827, George IV ordered them to wear it with pride.

This is the first time the freedom of Gibraltar has been exercised since it was awarded in 1996. The streets were lined with local people and dignitaries. A public reception was then held by the Governor of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Sir Robert Fulton KBE, himself a Royal Marine. The Commandant General Royal Marines, Major General Garry Robison, will officially unveil the monument, sited at the point where the Marines came ashore in 1704.

Lieutenant Colonel Paul James, the Commanding Officer of 40 Commando, said:

“It is an immense privilege to be able to represent the Royal Marines at this Parade and provide a Guard of Honour. Gibraltar holds a hugely important position in our history and every Royal Marine is acutely aware of the events of the early eighteenth century and the traditions they helped engender.”

40 Commando’s Alpha Company and attached ranks have been practicing arms drill and marching for weeks in preparation for the parade. On the transit from the United Kingdom, on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Mounts Bay, the Company was even practicing on the flight deck of the ship.

Marine Andy Tipping, who is 22 and from Durham, said:

“We are all proud to be a part of this parade. All Royal Marines learn about the taking and holding of Gibraltar during our training and it’s a great honour to follow in the footsteps of our forebears.”

The Commandos are in Gibraltar as their first port of call on the Royal Navy’s Taurus 09 deployment, the largest in over a decade. They move next to Cyprus to undertake amphibious exercises as the Royal Navy demonstrates its ability to project a landing force from ship to shore using helicopters and landing craft, all based from the Amphibious Task Group.

Major Sean Brady, the Officer Commanding Alpha Company and also the Guard Commander for the Parade, said:

“The Marines of Alpha Company have worked exceptionally hard preparing for today but representing the Corps on such an occasion is a perfect opportunity to pay our respects to Royal Marines of the past and their exceptional achievements, which continue to inspire us all.”