“Welcome to the Rock.” D Squadron have recently been conducting dismounted training in the tunnels of the Rock of Gibraltar.
British and Hanoverian forces held Gibraltar against a Spanish and then Franco-Spanish army from 24 June 1779 - 7 Feb 1783; a staggering 3 years, 7 months and 2 weeks - the longest continuous siege in history.
A ‘Grand Assault’, launched in 1782, involved some 60,000 attackers, a grand fleet and specially designed floating batteries. Defending were around 5,000 British and Hanoverian soldiers. But the formidable defences of the Rock and the tenacity of its defenders were too much.
The length of the siege meant that rations became scarce, scurvy was rife and disease rampant. The defenders had no fuel to keep warm during the winters and they were forced to break up vessels in the harbour for wood.
The key to the successful defence of the Rock was ultimately down to the repeated resupply by the Royal Navy. The last of which sidestepped the Franco-Spanish Fleet to deliver 31 transport ships, ammunition, rations and three fresh British Regiments to Gibraltar. The besiegers now realised the game was up. Thus ended the last major engagement of the American Revolutionary War.
While the regiments of the Household Cavalry were not involved in this 18th century siege, it has formed an important chapter in British military history; one that continues to impact serving soldiers, sailors and marines today.