Lance Corporal George F. Staples,REME.

To:- George's

National Service Posting to Gibraltar, his work, experiences and travels.



The key to the right hand side of our Badge is the Key for Gibraltar, this was worn on the sleeve of our uniforms.

GIB - KEY the key to the Mediterranean 

Departure was from Southampton.

On arrival I was collected at Southampton Station, taken to the Dockyard to board a ship. This ship sailed a couple of days later. We later learned that it would be a slow trip, since we would be on exercise past the straights. Well, we saw Gib from the distance, went past and up the North African coastline. There were many ships out there, we were bobbing up and down on the swell for some two weeks or more before finally heading into Gib. Many of the chaps were very ill including the MO who was hanging over the side himself!!  

When we neared Gib, a ships pilot came out to take us into the Harbour, as we entered the Harbour a big cheer went up. We were leaving this horrible ship at last.

Gibraltar from the Air

Gibraltar from the Straights

Painting of Europa Point Lighthouse.

This can also just be seen of the right hand side of the Rock 

in the picture above the painting

Europa Gun Emplacement in the old days using Cannon Balls.

Disembarked, we were met by a REME truck which took us to 

REME Barracks, Governor's Cottage Camp 

Road leading to Governor's Cottage,which can be seen just above the 'drive in' on left of picture, and the Camp further up the road, and the Camp seen from upper rock above.

Picture of Governor's Cottage submitted by Jeff Wilson from his uncles collection brought back from 1914/18 war. "An LAD, four stroke engine can be seen passing the cottage on the way back to camp"

 Gibraltar the (gateway to the Mediterranean)  Our REME workshops maintained the fortress guns, all the vehicles, instruments, optical range finders, clocks and service watches and associated equipment which was used and operated in the extensive tunneling complex on the Rock. One of these tunnels, excavated over many years was equipped as a major workshop.

A REME truck took us to Governor's Cottage Camp passing Europa Point lighthouse on the way, (which can be seen in the picture taken from the Gibraltar Straights above on the right hand side) The REME Barracks Camp was on the Eastern face of the rock, (not far from the water catchment which can be  seen in the aerial picture above) we checked in and were designated billets, mine was a bit further up the road and built in a Cave.

Called: Monkey's Cave (below) This was REME Headquarters.


Me in KD outside REME Headquarters


The following day I learned that the instrument workshop that I would be attached to was a little further on along the tunnel.You can just see the entrance to the tunnel (Arow Street)outside REME Headquarters, Monkey's Cave (just below) to the right of where the motor bike is situated.

In the left hand picture where you can see the balcony jutting out from the building, to the right hand side was our living room/billet that was in 1953

(see the balcony below Me in KD left picture, right hand side, I'm relaxed sitting down ordering watch parts that will be sent to us from London )

As you will see below (left) this is Monkey's Cave in August 2005 the offices have been removed between the two platforms, all windows blocked up, rather neglected looking. My bedroom was in the room which I have marked with a black dot and the platform was my balcony, this had iron railings round, which you can see me sitting on below. Pictures taken for me on Friday 26th August 2005 by WO2 Pete Jackson MBE BTAS,   with very special thanks.  

 The picture on the right kindly taken August 2005 by Roy Smith shows our old building lying in a dilapidated state and the entrance tunnel that went to our workshop, again I have placed a black dot where my billet room was and I had many enjoyable views overlooking North Africa from the balcony.

Arow Street with the side of Monkey's Cave "REME HEADQUARTERS" which can just be seen taken by me in April 2006 when re-visiting the site.

The building was a Military Convalescent Hospital in 1942, It was designed and built by the 732nd General Construction Company, Royal Engineers. It was opened by His Excellency General The Viscount Gort in 1942 as the plaque shows. The building was constructed in Monkey's Cave and just to the side of Arow Street you can see the Tunnel entrance in the picture with the Motorcycle outside the building and the following pictures. Arow Street was named after A.R.O.Williams in charge of the tunnelling company.  The Hospital was subsequently taken over and used by the Royal Naval Armament Depot, it was converted by REME in later years and became The Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers  Headquarters. the plaque can be seen in my earlier picture just above our REME Headquarters board.  On the picture above with the Dispatch Riders Motor Cycle outside.

The Building is now disused and looks rather neglected when I revisited the building inside with powerful lights in April 2006 

The Monkey's Cave Convalescent Hospital Plaque and me revisiting

 Monkey's Cave April 2006  

Great Picture of Monkey's Cave taken at Sea, with grateful thanks to Roy Smith currently working in the area August 2005

This was our billet room at Monkeys Cave, my bed space was the one on the

 left just inside the double doors leading to the balcony


Geoff Dakin in Battle Dress having just come of Guard Duty and Me

 on the Balcony of Monkeys Cave in Battle Dress, below me in Khaki Drill (left) and writing out orders for watch parts (right).

The Lads enjoying a Pinta as you can see in the club

Some of the Lads and Ian with a pint to his lips!!


As a "Qualified" engineer, with all of six months Drawing Office experience, Trevor was put in charge of the REME Drawing Office, situated at REME Headquarters, his office being in the jutting out section (seen over the motor bike with it's windows open.) It was a large office, with two draughtsman, together with a technical library and no less complete with a librarian.   

Trevor designed a Train Set featuring the Rock of Gibraltar, with a little help from his friends. It was presented to HRH Prince Charles (age six) by the people of Gibraltar, to commemorate his visit there in May 1954.

 You can read all about Trevor playing with HRH Prince Charles and HRH Princess Anne in REME Links.

A Roller Extractor      My Work Bench      A tool to true a balance   

The above tools were made by me whilst at Garrards the Crown Jewellers in Regent Street, London, I still have them 56 years later, the black eye glasses seen on the bench three of them are still used by me on various occasions.

 (view of workshop below) my workbench was situated at the furthest end near the clocks that can be seen on the wall.

Ian Turner looking across to North Africa

I became responsible for most of the timepieces in various areas of the Rock.

Cleaning and overhauling them as required, there were also many service watches, mainly Omega 30's and Bulova  that needed repairing, there were also watches issued to various officers etc. 

I had been in Gib for a little while when the Government announced that they were extending National Service from 18 months to 2 years, I figured this was going to give me more time to visit Spain and North Africa.

I had already been responsible for cleaning and overhauling these types of watches at Garrards the Crown Jewellers and submitting them to the Royal Observatory, at Hurstmonceaux for final Certificate to be issued

My bench plaque that was made for me at REME workshops Fazackerly, this was sent on to me in Gibraltar. 

I joined the Calpe Institute as a friend Eric Chiffy a well known photographer was also a member, he introduced me to William (Bill)Serfaty (Who sebsequently became Mayor of Gibraltar, who owned the well known shop in Main Street the "THE RED HOUSE":- Serfaty's they sold the best in camera's, photographic equipment and watches.

William(Bill)Serfaty is survived by his son of the same name who I contacted in April of 2006 ( picture I took of Bill in the shop.) The business has been established in Gibraltar since 1897 and Bill carries on this fine family tradition of purveyors of quality watches.

The decor in the shop is of a rich Fleur-de-Lys pattern wallpaper, Bill's tie is a yellow cream also of a Fleur-de-Lys pattern, there are polished wood bevel glass glazed cabinets housing some of the very finest collection of Rolex Tudor and Rolex Oyster watches as main agents.

My Blazer Jacket badge of Montis Insigna Calpe as it is, 50 years later.

We found in workshops a pair of white overalls, the lads thought who could these fit since there was no one in the camp of that size and certainly they would not fit any of the Spanish workers so we tried a padding test. Well as you can see with plenty of padding they filled out. There was enough room in the sleeves, for two peoples arms. Who they were for, remains a mystery!!!

Keith Walker in KD on the Balcony just outside our room at Monkeys Cave with me looking out of the Window of the doors as the picture was being taken.

Keith Walker and Myself in the water at Sandy Bay.

Keith Walker & Ian on the Beach enjoying leisure time, you can see Ian above in the workshop looking at North Africa in the range finder!! 

Mick Moreton and Ian Turner

 Colleagues on the Beach at Sandy Bay            

 Out for a Stroll below

The town,  Gibraltar Main Street was a very busy street in the evenings with all the shops open selling everything from expensive cameras. Silk stockings were then very fashionable and sold in vast quantities by Mr Dialdas, expensive watches by Longines, Omega and Rolex, Silks, Ivory pieces and perfumes.

When the American Aircraft Carriers moored up in the Bay, the town would be thronged by US sailors, buying all sorts of merchandise, and drinking in the bars. The SP's from the carrier also unloaded their own Jeeps to tour the town, rowdy sailors were rounded up and taken back aboard the Carrier. You can see here the "Franklin D Roosevelt Aircraft Carrier" this was the "Midway's sister ship, along with the "Coral Sea".     

There were also dancing drink bars like the "Suizo"  the "Trocadero" and the "Universal" where Spanish girls would perform 'Flamenco' dancing. Flamenco is an individualistic, yet structured folk art from Andalusia, which is often improvised and spontaneous. The song, dance and guitar are blended together by the passionate rhythms of southern Spain which is flamenco's geographical birthplace. Flamenco is the traditional dance performed by the 'Gitanos' throughout Andalucia, especially fiesta time at the Feria in Sevilla.

Click below for up to date Flamenco events and Flamenco music  

Click below for up to date Flamenco events and Flamenco music  


Below an old Poster on visits to Spain-Seville by French and Spanish Rail the home of Flamenco, and also promoting tickets to Tanger,North Africa.  Kindly found by Dennis Lancaster.

Above right poster of the Plaza de Toros de Sevilla

 Announcing the 300 year centenary


Part of a Gibraltar First Day Cover 19th October 1953

Gibraltar Stamps 11th December 1953 from letter sent using Field Post Office

The Illuminations were provided principally by the Seaward Defence 90cm searchlight projectors 

of 28 Coast Regiment RA.

Pictures submitted by Les Harling who assumed responsibility for the maintenance of the equipment

Casemates                            Gibel Tarik                                             Catalan Bay

Scenes from the 50's in Gibraltar with the Church in Catalan Bay, Catalan Bay, and the ship - The GIBEL-TARIK this took passengers over to Tangier.

There was also the "Mons Calpe" 

Picture taken 22.Jan 2006 at 9.01am.

Catalan Bay many years later

Two of the Lads and our Spanish worker 'Joe'  'Jose' in the centre from Instrument workshops

Many of us will have passed through these gates

(My Spanish girl friend from Algeceiras is just on the right of Pic)

Mode of Transport in Gib-A Hackney seen elsewhere on my pages

Pictures of  Aircraft on this page very kindly supplied by RAF friends who were stationed in Gibraltar. Grateful contributions to Dennis Lancaster, RAF-Telegraphist.

Catalan Bay around 1916

Submitted by Jeff Wilson from his uncles collection brought back from 1914/18 war. 

Caleta Palace Hotel and the Water Catchment seen from the upper rock April 2006 when I took the picture, note the grass is growing over the water catchment as it is no longer used you can see the difference from the picture taken in 2004. Gibraltar have now installed a de-salination plant for fresh water supply..

Military Hospital around 1916

GIBRALTAR 1940-1942.

This report deals with the work upon the defences of the fortress of GIBRALTAR which tunneling units of the Royal Canadian Engineers have been prosecuting from 1940 to the present time, it also mentions Monkey's Cave, Governor's Cottage, and the sinking of the ARK ROYAL not far from GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar at Sunrise from the Spanish Coastline

Back home to Demob, transport on the Runway. 

La Linea de la Concepcion 

the Spanish Border town

If you were in Gibraltar- Stationed at Monkey's Cave 

or Governor's Cottage Camp  in 1953

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