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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Chris Gomez · Photos: Joe Gingell’s Collection

A unique collection of Memorabilia from the Evacuation of Gibraltar by Joe Gingell: ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’

“This book is a collection of stories from Gibraltarian families that should be recorded for future generations.”

Gibraltarian history is many centuries old, and it could be said “never a dull moment”.

However, one of the most traumatic episodes was the evacuation of women, children and men who were not of military age during the Second World War to make room for a massive military deployment in the war against Hitler.

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Gibraltarian history enthusiast Joe Gingell has published part II of his widely successful book, titled ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ – a huge compilation of photos, letters, journals and other memorabilia painstakingly gathered from families of the 1940’s evacuation that may have otherwise been lost to future generations.

Joe Gingell told us: “I spent 15 years gathering this information by going around many different houses, talking to families, collecting photos, interviewing people and compiling lists of names using official documentation, such as newspapers, to help me create this book.”

Gibraltar, which for a time was under the direct military command of the US General (later president) Dwight D. Eisenhower, was the base used by the Allies for the invasion of North Africa, and later Italy.

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Up to 40,000 troops were at one time stationed at the Rock.

Whilst Gibraltarians who were capable of active service remained on the Rock, the journey out of Gibraltar of their women, children and the elderly on board ships was itself a harrowing and dangerous voyage.

Initially these Gibraltarians were transported to French Morocco, but things became very complicated when Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who was afraid that the French navy would side with Hitler after the capitulation of France in July 1940, ordered the Royal Navy to attack and sink the French Mediterranean fleet at the port of Mers-el- Kébir in French Algeria killing 1,297 French sailors and soldiers.

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The French outrage threatened to be unleashed on the Gibraltarians in Casablanca who had to leave in a desperate rush up the Atlantic within the range of ‘Wolfpack’ German U-boats, who were on the lookout to sink British shipping.

“The British government didn’t want these citizens back in Gibraltar where it could have been very unsafe, so they were stuck for a while at sea … the problem was, where could they take them?”

Fortunately, none of these ships carrying Gibraltarians was sunk, and they eventually made their way to London (in the middle of the Blitz), the British colony of Jamaica, the Portuguese island of Madeira and Northern Ireland.

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There they remained for the rest of the war, and the delays in returning them to Gibraltar on the cessation of hostilities caused anger among the menfolk left behind and this sense of grievance was one of the triggers for the politicization of the Gibraltarians in the 1940’s and the creation of one of the first political parties – the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (“AACR”) which governed Gibraltar on and off until 1988.

Modern day Gibraltar cannot be understood without reference to ‘the Evacuation’, which still marks the Gibraltarian psyche, as it does all the other peoples who were affected by the horrors of WWII.

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Joe Gingell is currently selling these books, of which only a thousand copies have been printed for now, the proceeds of which will go entirely to two charities close to his heart; the Gibraltar Alzheimer’s and Dementia Society and the Gibraltar Mental Welfare Society.

To buy a copy of his latest book, you can contact Joe on [email protected]

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