On the 28th of September 1939, General Francisco Martín Moreno, arrived on an official visit to Gibraltar. He had been inaugurated as Governor of the Campo de Gibraltar a month or so previously. His appointment had, of course, been sanctioned by General Francisco Franco. His host on the Rock was his opposite number, Governor Sir Clive Gerard Liddell.
General Francisco Martín Moreno taking the salute in front of the entrance to the Convent (1939 )
The Spanish Civil war had ended about five months previously and the British were struggling to come to terms with World War II. The U.S.A. had declared itself neutral, Russia and Germany had carved up Poland and the Battle of the Atlantic was not going well. Things, one might say, were not looking good.
The two Governors may have availed themselves of some proper English tea in the small but pleasant drawing room of the Convent while they discussed the rapidly changing international situation. I have never read the minutes of their meeting but I suspect that if they do exist they have never been published.
However, seven months later, on the 7th of June 1940. General Francisco Martín Moreno wrote a letter to his good friend and boss, General José Enrique Varela, who happened to be Franco's Minister of War at the time. The following is a transcript.
Algeciras 7 de junio de 1940. Excmo. Sr. José Enrique Varela
Mi querido general y amigo; El Marqués de Vallecerato, jefe de mi secretaría diplomática, habló ayer con el gobernador de Gibraltar General Liddell, y este le dijo que va a proponer a su gobierno que se nos entregue Gibraltar con todo lo que contiene, incluso con su artillería, a cambio de que España les ceda un pequeño territorio en Marruecos que comprenda Casablanca y Rabat para establecer en la costa del Atlántico una base naval desde la que Inglaterra pueda controlar en caso necesario los barcos que entren en el estrecho hacia el Mediterráneo y los que salgan de él hacia el Atlántico. Me parece conveniente que conozca usted el propósito del General Liddell y este es el único objeto de esta carta. Valdecerrato se lo va a decir también a Beigbeder. Siempre es suyo afectuosamente, subordinado y buen amigo.
Firmado: Francisco Martín Moreno
Copy of a letter from General Francisco Martín Moreno to José Enrique Varela ( 1940 )
I do not know what kind of reply Moreno got from Varela, nor do I have any information as to whether Liddell actually sent in his proposal - or whether the British Government ever officially replied. Whatever the case, Britain never got their bases near Casablanca or Rabat and Gibraltar was never handed over to Spain.