75th Anniversary of D-Day landings

by Joe Brugada GA,


In my research for the erection of our Gibraltar Arboretum War Memorial in 2014/15 I was fortunate to be granted access to the research of the late Eric Canessa’s book “THEY WENT TO WAR”. 

As the Family of British Nations in our Commonwealth commemorates the 75th Anniversary of the Normandy D-Day landings, yet again the trials and tribulations that befell the people of Gibraltar flash up vividly. It is to those Gibraltarians who were killed in action during Wold War II, their British, Commonwealth and US brothers-in-Arms that we pay this tribute.


With the greatest admiration and respect I commence this article by quoting the Preface in Eric Canessa’s book, it presents an eloquently clear picture of the extent of the contribution, and sacrifice made by Gibraltarians in the fight against Nazism and Fascism. The names of those killed in action are etched in stone on the Rock of Gibraltar (Limestone and Marble) War Memorial erected 15th October 2015 at UK’s National Centre of Remembrance, at The Arboretum, Alrewas, Lichfield in Staffordshire; also on the Reclamation steps WWII Memorial and some on the Memorial plaque in our Parliament lobby.

But today my attention is to those who were involved pre, during and in support of D-Day, and hope our younger generations are, or can be made aware of, the huge sacrifice made by their forefathers.

Eric Canessa’s book, “was conceived to place on record the service rendered to the British Crown during World War II by Gibraltarians away from their homeland. It is a narrative of the experiences of Gibraltarians who served in Her Majesty’s Forces in World War II.

They served in every branch of the Forces: in the Navy, the Army, the Air Force; in the Fleet Air Arm, the Submarine Service, in Bomber Command, Coastal Command, the Airborne Divisions, the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Army Dental Corps, the Pioneer Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, the Royal West African Frontier Force and the Persia and Iraq Force (PAIForce).

They served in every theatre of War except Russia - in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans, the Mediterranean, North and Irish seas; in East Africa, North Africa, France, Germany, Italy and Iceland, West Africa and Asia. And of course in defence of the Rock itself in the form of the Gibraltar Volunteer Corps (GVC), later Gibraltar Defence Force (GDF) and today’s Royal Gibraltar Regimen (RG).


It is of interest to note that for the compilation of Eric Canessa’s book, “the term Gibraltarian is taken to apply to not just one born in Gibraltar but to anyone of Gibraltarian parents, who was brought up in Gibraltar and considered a Gibraltarian by other Gibraltarians.”

OPERATION OVERLORD: (and related actions...)

Lieutenant JOHN PATRON - 45 Commando Royal Marines. John took part in the Normandy landings with Lord Lovat’s Brigade. After the landings he was involved in the longest 65 day period of non-stop fighting as a ‘Captain of Snipers’ through Holland and across the Rhine. At one point John and his men witnessed the incident of German SS troops masquerading as Allied MPs.

Corporal EDWARD BALLESTER - Wireless Operator, Fighter Command RAF.

Cpl Ballester was landed on the continent on D-Day +2 as NCO in charge of a Mobile Signals Unit to co-ordinate air strikes called for by the invading troops via their RAF signals personnel on the ground.

Flight Sergeant VINCENT BORGE DFM - RAF Tail-end-Charlie (Rear Gunner) in a Lancaster Bomber took a special kind of courage, that of climbing back into what became a death trap for many, the tail gun turret. Vincent took part in Bomber Command and United States Army Air Force (USAAF) ‘softening’ bombing raids over German industrial and military targets.

Sergeant JAMES VIÑALES - Royal Horse Artillery. Evacuated to UK in 1940 Jimmy worked with a sub-contractor to Vickers Armstrong making parts for Wellington Bombers. On his 19th birthday in 1943 he joined the RA Training Regiment on 25-pounder guns emerging in June 1944 as a qualified gun layer. Within weeks he was posted to 3rd Regiment of the Royal Horse Artillery and on his way to Normandy with reinforcements for the original D-Day attacking forces.

Sergeant LEWIS STAGNETTO - Intelligence Corps 2nd Parachute Rent, landed in Normandy behind enemy lines with 2nd Para Brigade, 6th Airborne Division 10 days ahead of D-Day. Due to the secretive nature of the work Little is known of their activities at the time.'

All survived the war.


Lt Colonels (3), Majors (4), Captains (12), Lt Commanders (2), Squadron Leaders (3), Flying Officer (2), Flight Sergeants (13), Sgt Air Gunners (11) and a score more Lieutenants, Chief Petty Officers and Petty officers. Remember the population at the time was around twelve thousand, just over a halve of today’s indigenous population.

Military decorations awarded to Gibraltarians who served and those killed in action during World War II in every branch of Her Majesty’s Forces are many. No Gibraltarian was conscripted, they were all volunteers.

DFCs, DFM, DCM and MC. There are several Commendations and Mentions In Despatches..

Some, Post War, were awarded CBEs and OBEs by HM the Queen.

In the Foreword to Eric Canessa’s book, Field Marshal Sir John Chappell GCB CBE DL, Governor and Commander-in-Chief Gibraltar 1993-1995 concludes...”I am privileged to write this Foreward and to acknowledge THE DEBT WHICH WE OWE TO SUCH LOYAL CITIZENS, IT IS A DEBT OF HONOUR”.

The Royal British Legion honours them, “ALL GAVE SOME AND SOME, GAVE ALL”.