Thursday, May 19, 2005

RAF role in Gibraltar gains recognition

Three generations of maritime airmen presented a newly published book on Gibraltar and the RAF yesterday.

Together, their experience spans nearly 60 years and includes wartime roles in battles from World War II through to the Falkland Islands and the Iraq wars.

It made for a fascinating presentation filled with nostalgia, camaraderie and colourful anecdotes.

Present were retired Air Chief Marshals Sir John Barraclough and Sir Peter Squire, vice president and president respectively of the The Maritime Air Trust, alongside Group Captain Chris Birks, station commander at RAF Kinloss, and Air Commodore Henry Probert, the book’s author.

‘The Rock and the Royal Air Force’ recounts the largely untold story of Gibraltar’s links to the RAF, from the very first balloon flights from the top of the Rock, to the sophisticated systems of the present day airfield. It explores the vital military role that Gibraltar’s airfield has played over the past century through to this day.

“I don’t think I had appreciated, until I came to study it, how significant that role was,” Air Commodore Probert said yesterday.

Much of the RAF’s activity in Gibraltar has focused on maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare, hence the close involvement of the Maritime Air Trust in the project.

At a reception last night both Chief Minister Peter Caruana, and the Governor Sir Francis Richards were presented with dedicated copies.

Sir Francis noted that Gibraltar has long annually celebrated the role of the army with the sortie and the navy with Trafalgar but this book now was filling the gap by giving long overdue recognition to the role played by the RAF.

Mr Caruana stressed the appreciation that Gibraltarians have for the military role in our history and in making Gibraltar and its people what they are today. But the airport in its civilian function had been crucial in keeping Gibraltar going during ‘recent dark period (a reference to the closed border years) as a life line. “We would not have survived without the airstrip,” he said recognising the overall military contribution to the Rock’s life and infrastructure today.

The author will be signing copies of the book this morning at the Gibraltar Bookshop, 300 Main Street, between 10 and 11 am.

Related Article:

New Book examines Gibraltar - RAF Links

More Books by Air Commodore Henry Probert

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