British under the Mediterranean sun.
The Rock of Gibraltar
‘…the very image of an enormous lion,
crouched between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean’.
William Makepeace Thackeray
‘Forget red phone boxes and fish-and-chip shops – the modern urban landscape of Gibraltar is a unique blend of Moorish, Genoese, Spanish, Portuguese and British styles developed by settlers over centuries. British military tropes have fused with diverse culture and regional styles to create a unique vernacular. Gibraltar’s Architecture makes it a place like no other on earth.’
From The New Statesman
‘One genre where Gibraltar is particularly in evidence is crime fiction. Arguably Britain’s greatest living crime writer (some might drop the ‘crime’ prefix), John Le Carré, set part of his latest novel, A Delicate Truth, in Gib and Stieg Larson did the same in the last book of his bestselling Millennium Trilogy. Robert Daws, a well known actor, has launched a crime series set on the Rock featuring a Scotland yard officer, Tamara Sullivan, and a grizzled Royal Gibraltar police Chief Inspector, Gus Broderick, which is proving hugely popular.’
So what’s behind the boom?
One aspect is Gibraltar’s variety of life. A crime hero tends to move between different strata of society over the course of an investigation. Gibraltar’s unique blend of nationalities, religions and heritage is all crammed into a small space. Rich and poor, party animal and traditionalist – all walks of life are to be found there.
Another draw is history. There are so many tales of bloody goings-on in Gibraltar – from Herculean feats, to Moorish invaders, Anglo Dutch-Invaders, World War 2 spy intrigues…the list, as anyone who lives in Gibraltar knows, goes on and on. And each has the potential for a fascinating plot line.
Crime heroes need to be tough, resilient and adaptable. Given the background of many Gibraltarians, these attributes come fitted as standard.’
From The Gibraltar Chronicle – Thomas Mogford, author of the Gib based ‘Spike Sanquinetti’ novels.
The Royal Gibraltar Police Force
Law and order on the Rock are served by the Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP). Outside of the United Kingdom, the RGP is the oldest police force in the Commonwealth of Nations, formed shortly after the creation of London’s Metropolitan Police in 1829.
The Gibraltar force follows the British model in dress, operational structure and procedures. The vehicles also appear virtually identical to typical UK police vehicles, with the exception of the drive side.
The force currently numbers 270 officers divided into a number of units. These include CID, Drug Squad, Special Branch, Firearms and Scene of Crime Examiners, The role of the RGP Marine Section is to enforce the law in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters. It plays a vital role in anti-drug and people smuggling activities and works in close co-operation with other international agencies.
The Modern Day Rock
Arriving in Gibraltar visitors are immediately awestruck by the sheer majesty of the Jurassic limestone Rock that dominates the horizon. The Rock has attracted visitors throughout the centuries, all drawn to its unique charm and character.
Strategically situated on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, the British Overseas Territory is almost entirely surrounded by water other than the narrow isthmus which links it to mainland Spain. Gibraltar is only seven kilometres in circumference on the outside, but inside lies a myriad of caves and tunnels that stretch for almost fifty kilometres. Herein lie some of Gibraltar’s biggest mysteries and secrets.
The Rock is rich in beauty, natural heritage, architecture and wildlife. Its history of Moorish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and British influences, together with its strategic importance at the gateway to the Mediterranean and its closeness to Africa, makes Gibraltar utterly unique.
Today, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory whose citizens have full British citizenship. It has almost complete internal democratic self-government through an elected parliament, whilst its head of state is Queen Elizabeth the Second, who is represented by the Governor of Gibraltar.
The British military once dominated Gibraltar’s economy, with the naval dockyard providing the bulk of economic activity. This, however, has diminished over the last twenty years from 60% to just 7% of the local economy. Today, Gibraltar’s economy is dominated by four main sectors: financial services, internet gaming, shipping and tourism. Its growing reputation as one of the world’s leading banking and financial service centres has brought a huge increase in multi-million pound business and investment to the Rock.
Tourism also brings nearly ten million visitors to the Rock each year, attracted to the Rock’s beauty, history, climate and VAT free shopping. Many visitors enjoy shopping in Main Street, one of the most famous streets in Europe, upon which they can find Marks and Spencers, Mothercare and British Home Stores. Add some typical English pubs, tax free shops and local cafes, together with some of Gib’s finest squares and cathedrals and you have a bustling and colourful Mediterranean scene with a very British twist. Visitors are also thrilled to see the Brunswick Star on Royal Gibraltar Police Force helmets – the traditional badge of the British ‘bobby on the beat’ – as well as the familiar sight of red phone boxes. It is not for nothing that Gibraltar is often described as ‘Britain in the Sun’. With over three hundred days of sunshine each year and the renowned warmth and generosity of the Gibraltar people themselves, that comes as no surprise.
Gibraltar is also the number one destination in the Mediterranean for cruise ships and a major port for container ships of all sizes. It is a maritime centre of excellence which continues to grow in size and importance.
Present day Gibraltar is an exciting and growing hub of the Mediterranean. There is continued land reclamation of the Bay of Gibraltar and the luxury apartments, international business centres, restaurants and shopping centres that have sprung up in recent years are a testament to the strong and wealthy economy that Gibraltar enjoys.
The serious problems the sovereign state must deal with include those of drug smuggling, money laundering, fraud, murder, international crime syndicates, terrorism and a myriad of other illegal activities generated both online and off. At the forefront of the fight against crime is the RGP and the Gibraltar Justice system – linked to the UK’s in every detail.
Politically, Gibraltar has held firm against Spanish demands for an end to the Rock’s British sovereignty. The people of modern day Gibraltar have a heritage drawn from many countries and religions. Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Maltese, Moroccan and British to name but a few. Muslims, Catholics, Jews and Anglicans worship side by side in perfect harmony on the Rock. Gibraltar is determined to remain a British Overseas Territory and with over ninety percent of its citizens voting do so at the last referendum, it is a position that is very unlikely to change.
For the past three hundred years Gibraltar has had many incarnations – as the greatest fortress in the world, as a place of refuge for the oppressed, as a staging post of Empire, trade and travel.
Today Gibraltar is a proud home for a rich fusion of faiths and cultures – a great city state, which provides employment and support for both its own people, as well as those from a wide surrounding hinterland and millions of yearly visitors.
Gibraltar’s unique position, at the crossroads of Europe and Africa, makes it one of the most interesting and culturally diverse places in the world. A short ferry ride takes you to Morocco with its exotic souks, and the neighbouring coastline of Spain offers access to some of the worlds most beautiful sights in the ‘white towns’ and majestic countryside of Andalusia.
For many years the Rock was ‘stuck in time’. Those days have mostly vanished, to be replaced by a fast moving and very modern city state and port. Its modern, highly professional and growing police force is one of the essential building blocks upon which it grows and prospers.