When I think of the very close emotional connection I have to Gibraltar it would be natural to think that (since I was based at HMS Rooke) I had a keen interest in the history of the establishment. To be really honest I didn’t back then but I do now (since writing these memoirs) and that’s largely due to a reader (William Serfaty) sharing his amazing historical knowledge with me.
Even up until quite recently I had forgotten how extensive HMS Rooke and the Naval dockyard was in 1976 and it wasn’t until I googled a few photos (below) that I remembered about the size of the warehouse complex within the Base. Having said that since it was our responsibility at HMS Rooke to ensure warships passing through had everything they needed it’s not surprising the storage facilities were massive particularly when a ship like HMS Hermes docked as she did in 1976.
One thing I love – and that is really cool for me – (in writing these memoirs) is having readers message me with ‘their’ Gibraltar stories especially when they are from the same time I was there (1976/77). As mentioned William (Serfaty) did that and his recollections were so historically interesting and relevant to my ramblings I wanted to share them here:
“I was also busy bringing up a family in Gib in 1976. I had a building company which was in joint venture with a Glasgow builder. Our main cooperation was on building HMS Rooke which we were completing around then.
Rooke was started early in 1969 at the junior ratings end (NORTH). On Saturday June the 9th the labour force was withdrawn. The frontier closed. It took more than a year to prepare accommodation to find a new labour force and another to bring in the necessary 5,000 people to Gib to get working again.
Consequently Rooke was quite recently completed when you arrived in the mid -70’s.
The demolition of the Old HMS Rooke was still in progress at June 69.
Built by Whatlings (Overseas) Ltd. in Joint venture with Constructors Ltd.
Whatlings was a Glasgow civil engineering firm later taken over by MacAlpine’s. It has been taken over by the Government. The plan was to move the Essential Services and Police and Fire Station there”.
I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to William for sharing his story which (for me) really compliments these memoirs and which I hope readers also enjoyed reading. Perhaps to finish this (more historical) post I thought I’d include some data from Wikipedia:
“HMS Rooke was the naval base at Gibraltar. It was commissioned in 1946, succeeding HMS Cormorant, and operating until becoming a Joint Service Base in 1990. The Royal Navy closed the base and paid it off in 1996 and it is now headquarters for the Gibraltar Defence Police. The base is named after Admiral George Rooke who led the Anglo-Dutch Capture of Gibraltar in 1704.
Since publishing this post reader Sandra Capano updated me (see comments on this post) to say Rooke was currently closed? When I asked my Twitter friends if anyone knew what was going on I had an update from a follower/friend Jess on Twitter who updated me that Rooke is being handed over to @GibraltarGov to be used for Essential Services.