Gibraltar Naval Docks

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History of the Naval Base and Dockyard at Gibraltar from its construction to its use during world war two. Many of these superb photographs have come from the Navy and Army Illustrated 1900.

1st postcard in a panorama of Gibraltar.  View of the harbour with the British, American and Russian fleets.  31st January 1909.

A reproduction of this original photo / photo-postcard size 10" x 7" approx available.  Order photograph here  ? Walker Archive. Order Code  PHX010

2nd postcard in the series.

A reproduction of this original photo / photo-postcard size 10" x 7" approx available.  Order photograph here  ? Walker Archive. Order Code  PHX011

3rd postcard in the series.

A reproduction of this original photo / photo-postcard size 10" x 7" approx available.  Order photograph here  ? Walker Archive. Order Code  PHX012

Another colour postcard of Gibraltar.drydocks

A reproduction of this original photo / photo-postcard size 10" x 7" approx available.  Order photograph here  ? Walker Archive. Order Code  PHX013

History of Gibraltar Dockyard Improvements c.1900 

Taken from the Navy & Army Illustrated Nov 3rd 1900.

In order to carry out the work the contractors - Messrs Topham, Jones, and Railton not only had to lay down the usual network of narrow gauge railways, but, in order to facilitate the carriage of stone from their quarries on the east side of the Rock, they drove a tunnel through it about ? of a mile in length. During the course of making this tunnel it was discovered that the Rock is made out of solid limestone with few faults with only some shale at the west end.

For inspection purposes the contractors provided an observation car, which was attached to one of the small but powerful engines used on the works. The best point from which to start an inspection of the works was at the west end of the tunnel, as the various processes were then followed in their proper order, from the quarrying of stone to its deposition in its final resting place.

Close to the eastern exit of the tunnel was one of the quarries from which stone was taken (see photograph on left), partly to make into concrete and partly to be used for reclamation and filling up in various places. From this point the line ran along the base of the east side of the Rock towards the north front, and a fine view was obtained of the surf which nearly always breaks on this side. Just south of Catalan Bay were the crushers in which the stone required for concrete was broken up. These worked as automatically as was possible at the time (c.1900). The waggons ran up an incline to the top of the machines, the stone was tipped into the crushers, which were driven by a small engine, and emerges again, crushed to the requisite degree of fineness, through a shoot into more waggons which would be waiting below. When sufficient of these were filled, they were coupled up into a train and drawn away to the concrete block making works, situated on the level ground at the north front. On the way to these works the line would pass by the quaint village of Catalan Bay (see photograph right), well known at the time to all visitors to the Rock.

The process of making the concrete blocks was interesting. On a high platform were heaps, constantly being replenished of their ingredients - Portland cement, sand and the stone which was crushed. At regular intervals were conical-shaped holes in which the workmen would place the correct proportion of each of the ingredients. When they were full  a workman below was signaled to open the bottom and the mixture would fall into a rotating box. Water was added and box revolved for a specific period of time in order to thoroughly mix the contents. The contents of the box is then tipped into a waggon waiting below. This waggon then ran off along one of the lines of rails (see photograph left), on each side of which were wooden moulds for making the concrete blocks. The contents of the waggon were then tipped into these moulds and firmly rammed down by a couple of men.

Once the moulds were filled they were left for the concrete to set thoroughly. The sides of the mould were then removed and the block hoisted out by one of the huge travelling cranes which traversed the whole of the ground, and the block stacked with others for three months to fully mature, before it was taken to its final destination. The blocks were then hoisted onto trucks and taken to the pier which had a Titan crane to place them in the barges that would convey them to the spot where they were required.

The whole arrangement was a triumph of organisation, consider the amount of anxious thought which must have been required for this smooth and almost automatic way in which work carried out. As a great part of the work had to be carried out under water, a very large staff of divers was required (see photograph on right). There were between fifty and sixty employed in the various underwater portions of the work, of which the great detached Mole (which closed the space between the New and Commercial Moles) was one of the most important, as well as one of the most difficult since it had to be built in an average depth of c. 70 ft of water in a very exposed position. The two enormous Titan cranes sited here, one at each end, had a lifting power of 40 tons at 30ft radius. The New Mole extension progressed rapidly from 1898 through 1900 when all the filling up was completed and construction of the superstructure was begun. As regards the dockyard itself much land was reclaimed from the sea outside the old Line Wall. On this land was built the new machine and other shops( see photograph left). Where the New Mole parade stood a large dry dock was made, two more docks were required and in order to provide space for them a dam was constructed across the east end of the harbour, the sea was pumped put and the docks excavated on the ground reclaimed. The progress of work on one of these docks can be seen in the photograph on the right. When the docks with their sea walls were completed the dam was removed. 

A special feature of the dockyard extension was that it was carried out entirely by Spanish labour, under the supervision of British engineers and foremen. More than 4,000 Spanish workmen were employed, many coming from the adjacent towns of La Linea and Algeciras every day and therefore, spending their wages in Spain. As can readily be understood, the existence of the docks was a great boon to the population of the country in the vicinity of Gibraltar (handed over to Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht).

Gibraltar.

A reproduction of this original photo / photo-postcard size 10" x 7" approx available.  Order photograph here  ? Walker Archive. Order Code  PH392

A view of the docks at Gibraltar with the following Royal Navy destroyers: HMS Blanche, HMS Beagle, HMS Brazen, HMS Brilliant, HMS Boadicea, HMS Bulldog and HMS Basilisk.  ?Tony Davies

A fleet of battleships and cruisers at Gibraltar

Thanks to Daniel Ferro who identified this port.

The Rock from the Queen of Spain's Chair

The Rock form Algeciras

The Rock from the North West

The Straits of Gibraltar

People of Gibraltar

Casemates Square

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Everything we obtain for this site is shown on the site, we do not have any more photos, crew lists or further information on any of the ships.

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