Kings Chapel Gibraltar Battle Of Britain Service

Jan Leeming

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Me looking brave before taking to the air (and the wing) of the plane. Wow, it was cold !! But the whole experience was totally exhilarating.



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KING'S CHAPEL, GIBRALTAR - Battle of Britain Service

Date: 15th September 2013


I cannot do justice to a description of this lovely little Chapel and had not taken my camera with me so I suggest you might like to look up its history on the Internet – it is quite fascinating especially the story about the Ghost!

Over my years of association with the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust, I’ve been to several of these BOB services and I enjoy them very much especially the rousing hymns which are very familiar. So often, when I attend a church service I’ve never heard the hymns and can’t join in with full gusto.

Being an Assistant at Canterbury Cathedral and knowing a little about the architecture and layout of a church, I was surprised to see that there appeared to be a traditional transept but almost nothing of a nave. I looked it up on Wikipedia and copied this for you:-
The chapel was badly affected by the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779–83). Like many other brick or stone buildings in the city, it was pressed into military service to shelter troops and stores. The Spanish bombardment of Gibraltar caused widespread destruction, and the chapel was not spared; its western end and south transept were destroyed by enemy fire. They were rebuilt after the end of the siege but not in their original forms. The western end of the church and south transept were incorporated into the Governor's residence; the former became the Governor's ballroom and music room, while the transept became the site of the residence's main staircase. The present-day chapel consists of only the eastern half of the original church. The truncated nave originally stretched 61 feet (19 m) beyond where it now ends. Before the bombardment began the chapel also lost its belfry, which was pulled down in September 1779 to deny the Spanish gunners an aiming point.

We were allowed to view the Georgian Ballroom and the stunning dining room which has the most extensive display of heraldry in the Commonwealth of Nations. It took my breath away. The ADC who accompanied us asked if we had a camera – sadly not and I can’t find any pictures on the Internet so I can’t share the lovely memory with you.

The Chapel was originally that of the Franciscan Friars and over the years has changed its usage but for many hundreds of years the ‘Convent’ has been the home of the Governor of Gibraltar. After the service, His Excellency entertained us to refreshments in ‘his garden’ – a stunningly beautiful small courtyard around which ran the original two storey cloisters. There were orange trees and a fountain and with the sun beaming down, it felt like heaven.

Whilst there, Hubert de Lisle discovered on a wall close to the altar, a small plaque dedicated to the Free French. In his diaries and in the few days René spent on Gibraltar after his flight from Oran, he mentions attending the funerals of the four French aviators whose Glen Martin plane was shot down by the Spanish and I’d read somewhere that their graves were still to be seen in the Commonwealth War Graves Section of the North Cemetery. So after the service, John and Claire were kind enough to take me there.

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