The People of Gibraltar
1762 - Francisco del Pozo Aldana - The Spanish Spy

According to John Drinkwater, author of the celebrated history of the Great Siege, an event occurred in 1760 which caused considerable distress to the British authorities in Gibraltar as well as the Government back home in the UK.  
Two British regiments had been a very considerable time on that station, and, from the continuance of the war, saw little prospect of being relieved. Amongst these a conspiracy was formed by some disaffected persons to surprise, plunder, and massacre their officers . . . 
After securing the money which was intended for the payment of the troops, they meant to purchase for themselves a secure retreat, by surrendering this . . . . fortress into the hands of Spain. The numbers who joined the conspirators were not fewer than 730. An accidental quarrel in a wine-house defeated this dangerous project . . . . Reed, a private in the 7th regiment, was executed on the Grand Parade as the ringleader; and ten others were condemned. 1
Modern histories of the Rock quote Drinkwater's account more or less verbatim while one author with a military backgrounds was unable to resist adding an emotive extra. The garrison - he wrote - 'disgraced themselves.' 2

It was an era in which Gibraltar was very much on everybody's agenda although during the Seven Years War opinions on the future of the Rock did always follow the party line. In 1756, as a consequence of the incompetence of several governors and one particular admiral ( see LINK ) - the British lost most of Minorca to the French. 

Pitt the elder - in his capacity as Secretary of State for the Southern Department - attempted through secret negotiations to get Spain to help Britain regain the island in exchange for the Rock. He failed. Instead Britain was faced with the aftermath of the mutiny mentioned above. Although it did not seem like it at the time, Reed and company had set in motion a series of events which would have far reaching consequences. 3

The authorities in London began by replacing the Governor, Earl of Home with Edward Cornwallis. ( see LINK ) They then sent in a certain Colonel William Greene one of the best military engineers of the era and eventually spent millions updating the Rock's dilapidated defences. The end result was that they ensured that Britain would come out on top after the final military confrontation with Spain over Gibraltar during the Great Siege. They should have given Reed a medal instead of hanging him. 4

Colonel William Green ( Unknown )

About a decade earlier, however, and just after the conclusion of the War of the Austrian Succession, a small Spanish Xebec carrying two men and a couple of hundred sheep anchored close to Gibraltar's New Mole. The Governor of the Rock at the time was William Hargrave, whose notoriety as a thoroughly corrupt official ( see LINK ) was well known to the men on the Xebec. Four rams proved a sufficient bribe to get him to allow them to graze their flock on the upper Rock for several days. Their excuse was that they wanted to wait until price of the rams rose sufficiently to make it worthwhile to sell the animals.

As they strolled around Villa Vieja, perhaps visiting the odd tavern in La Turba they must have looked for all the world like a couple of two a penny smugglers. What nobody would have guessed was that they were in fact Spanish spies. One of them was Lorenzo de Solis, an engineer from Ceuta, the other, also an engineer,  was a government appointee, Francisco del Pozo Aldana.

Del Pozo was originally from Malaga. During his career he had been Mayor of Marbella and a resident of San Roque where he had been responsible for anti-smuggling measures. Apparently when he returned from his little jaunt to Gibraltar he immediately arrested forty contrabandists which he had managed to identify while he was there. So much for Spanish solidarity. 5

It was while they were waiting for those rams to increase in value that they drew a map which would form part of a plan for recovering Gibraltar.  This they duly presented to the Marquis of Pozoblanco after they returned to Seville. Almost immediately they discovered that they had forgotten to estimate the height of the north face of the Rock. Ignoring the dangers involved they returned to Gibratar and landed in la Almadravilla  6  ( Catalan Bay).  There they took the necessary measurements and returned to Spain.

A second trip was then required, this time to find out if it was possible to land somewhere on the isthmus without being seen by the British guards. To achieve this they set off from Punta Chullera in the province of Malaga and landed on the east side of the isthmus close to the Devil's Tower. 7

The Devil's Tower ( 1727 - Antonio de Montaigu de la Perille )

Meanwhile Ferdinand the VI of Spain died and was succeeded in 1759 by Charles III - one of the more interesting and successful of Spain's Bourbon rulers. Here was a man who believed both in the Enlightenment and in taking his country to war on the slightest provocation. By 1762 his country was struggling against Britain across the entire world - from the Americas in the west to the Philippines in the East. In middle of all this was Gibraltar.

Charles III of Spain

There is little doubt that the mid 18th century  was one of the few periods in which it might have been possible for Spain to recover Gibraltar. The combination of large swathes of dissatisfied troops stationed on the Rock, the existence of a substantial fifth column made up of locals and Spaniards and the fact that Great Britain was distracted by her involvement in the Seven Years War and that of the Austrian Succession left the field pretty much wide open for Spain.

Yet there is little evidence of any important commitment to the cause by the Spanish Crown, despite a whole raft of proposals, some of them as scatter-brained as those that landed on the Royal desk during the Great Siege. ( see LINK )  All of them with one thing in common - the author's unjustifiable optimism in their success. Perhaps even more intriguing is the fact that so many of these projects were recycled just a few decades later by others. 

One of them at least is worthy of mention. Felipe Crame, was a Spanish military engineer of some repute.  During the mid 18th century he was involved in several important projects one of which was the development of the port of Malaga. His plan for retaking Gibraltar is curious in the sense that he included the use of floating batteries - a fore-runner of Chevalier D'Arcon's ill-fated project which was put into practice during the Great Siege.  Felipe Crame's original and very similar suggestion was curiously dismissed as unworkable.

Map of Gibraltar  ( 1762 - Felipe Crame )

Detail of map showing plan of a floating Battery  ( 1762 - Felipe Crame )

Yet another plan ( 1762 - Unknown ) 

And another ( Unknown ) 

Also in 1762, Tomás López, a geographer who described himself as a pensioner of the King, produced a magnificent map of the area which was probably invaluable to many a map maker who followed him right up to the Great Siege. Unlike Crame he does not appear to have made any suggestions as regards retaking Gibraltar. 

Map of Gibraltar - It includes a potted history of the place ( 1762 - Tomás López)

But Francisco del Pozo's plan - even harder to put into practice than Crame's -  was not dismissed out of hand and various refinements and alterations were seriously mulled over

Pozo had originally handed over his proposals in 1748 to his eventual companion to the Rock - Lorenzo de Solis. The plan depended on a number of troops being available near the Rock ready to assault the place by sea and by land once the northern defences had been neutralised. On the eve of the day in which the attack would take place, about a hundred men would disembark in Catalan Bay well supplied with arms and food and able to keep themselves at the ready for two days. They would remain well hidden from the enemy until they were given a signal to climb the east side of the Rock. At the same time, another hundred fusiliers would climb along a narrow pathway of the same eastern face of the Rock towards the South exiting close to the New Barracks at Europe Point.

Four days prior to this a handful of men would enter the town on the pretext of bringing in cattle and other supplies. They would then make their way towards the Silleta and hide. Given the appropriate signal they would kill the English corporal and the four men who were guarding the place.

Before beginnig their assault, the men in Catalan Bay would light bonfires to guide the rest of the invasion forces on to the beach. The best place for assembling these forces prior to the attack - as had already been proved - would be along Chullera Beach.

The men would then climb up the Rock face towards the Silleta using rope ladders with wooden rungs. More and more men would continue the climb until the town was finally  taken. Pozo also thought that it would be possible to take the New Barracks  - by which he probably meant the Blue Barracks and which he describes as having been built just above the church of San Juan de Dios. 

The Almadravilla or Catalan Bay bottom right and la Silleta, the notch between the cliffs well above the bay. This was the area which the soldiers would have been required to tackle using rope ladders  ( 1870s 0 G.W.Wilson )

Once their objectives had been achieved, a contingent would be sent to the Governor's residence at the Convent with orders to take or kill the incumbent. Similar action should be taken against the Captain of the Port, the Town Mayor and the Captain of the Land Port Gate Guard. He suggested that they should give the Europa area a miss as he thought it was mined.

Pozo also thought it advisable that three armed frigates should patrol the Gut between Punta Carnero and Europa Point so as to intercept and reroute towards Estepona any ships trying to enter the Bay. Armed ships at the ready in both Algeciras and Tarifa should also be available to counteract any enemy ships that happened to be at anchor in the Bay at the time. 8

The map shown below with its comprehensive key formed part of the plan.

Francisco del Pozo's Map of Gibraltar

1. Ship lookout from which ships sailing from both the east and the west can be seen and due warning be given to the Governor. 
2. Another recently constructed ship lookout to view activity on the Barbary coast from     the North. This was ordered after the French fleet had recently been able to sail through unseen
3. 'Salto del Lobo' Battery with 14 canons and 4 mortars 
4. Guard House for the lookout checking Spanish activity to the east
5. 'Ulises' Battery ( Willis Battery ) with 18 cannons
6. Queen Anne's Battery with 24 cannon and 6 mortars 
7. 'Pastel' Battery with 12 cannon
8. 'Pastelillo' Battery with 24 different caliber cannon
9. 'Perejil' Battery with 18 cannon
10. 'Organos' Battery with 16
11. Gunpowder magazine which supplies the above mentioned  batteries
12. The old fortress
13. 'San Juan de Dios' Barracks
14. Gunpowder magazine outside the town
15. Europa Barracks
16. The Royal Hospital
17. Gunpowder Magazine for the Navy
18. The New Mole ( see LINK ) with 36 cannon as well as 200 cannon that guard the Europa area as well as two Mortar batteries with 12 mortars each
19. Puerta Nueva ( South Port Gate ) ( see LINK ) with its moat and Charles V Wall which continues to the top of the Rock
20. Red Sands Battery
21. Watering place for ships ( Ragged Staff ) ( see LINK ) with a fortress with 10 cannons facing towards Europa Point
22. The Old Mole with 50 cannons and two 6 mortar batteries
23. Puerta de Mar ( Waterport ) ( see LINK ) with 36 bronze cannon. The Gates have a curtain wall called the Royal Battery and has a flag which is raised daily after a three gun salute. It has a moat an area for disembarking and a small sentry post.
24. Curtain Wall facing the sea with 24 brand new bronze cannon
25. Magazine containing military equipment
26. The Main Square and the Fountain
27. Puerta de Tierra ( Land Port Gate ) 28. Moat with central palisade
28 - Moat 12 rods in width
29. The mouth of the mine
30. The Guard House occupied by a captain and guards
31. The isthmus leading to Spain with two new forts containing 12 cannons each
32. The Inundation - To deter cavalry 
33. Windmill in Spanish territory. It is possible to build a battery here with cannon and mortars. A path could be built out of sight of the enemy as the place is covered with large sand dunes. It could all be set up in one night the day before the assault so it could be used during a frontal attack. The forts of San Felipe and Santa Barbara would not be of any use in this respect.
34. Not used
35. Fortress of San Felipe
36. Castle of La Línea
37. Fortress of Santa Bárbara
38. Spanish Fortress of La Tunara looking east
39. Torre de los Diablos - The Devil's Tower in British Territory which they would lose when we attack
40. Tessé's House ( Marshal René de Froulay de Tessé was the French commander of the Franco/Spanish forces during the 12th Siege of Gibraltar - see LINK ). During the siege of 36 (sic) its cannons caused a lot of damage as it faces the front of the town
41. Fortress of Punta Mala
42. Puente de Mayorga
43. Patrón Benito Barracks
44. Guadarranque River. 
45. The Palmones
46. Algeciras
47. Isla de las Palomas ( more commonly known as Isla Verde )
48. El Rio de la Miel
49. La Torre de Cuatro Esquinas
50. La Punta del Fraile
51. La Torre del Carnero
52. El Tolmo
53. Perejil Island and Sierra Bullones, Moroccan coast
54. Ceuta
55. The River Tetuan
56. The Barbary Coast
57. San Miguel Fountain - It is possible to destroy this.
58. Drinking water fountain

Pozo's spying trip to Gibraltar is revealing. The amount of information he gathered in such a short time suggests he must have had considerable assistance from the locals. Despite the best efforts of the British authorities during the mid 18th century - and for many a decade after - they seem to have found it almost impossible to distinguish between proper residents, illegal immigrants and legitimate visitors. Apart from those of Jewish and Moorish origin there was a tendency to simplify things and lump the rest as Spaniards - this despite the fact that the majority of non-British and non-Jewish inhabitants were of Genoese origin. In 1753 for example there were - officially at any rate - 597 of them as against only 185 Spaniards.9

Yet in so far as the mid 18th century was concerned this over-simplification may have been justified. The locals whatever their origins may well have been as fed up with Britain and its wars as the Garrison was with Gibraltar.

Drinkwater made no mention of any local inhabitants being involved in the 1760 mutiny - but they must have known what was going on. That it came to light in a wine house suggests it was anything but a closely held secret. In fact Pozo's plan depended on a substantial fifth-column and his original spying trip had convinced him that these people were already in place and readily available.

Even after Reed and company had been rumbled one of the residents who was involved in the plan warned the Spaniards that 'the officers in charge of the assault should be discrete'. They should definitely avoid telling everybody about the plan - three of their number had already been hung by the British authorities. There is also an ambiguous reference to about one hundred and fifty men who had - presumably illegally - introduced themselves into the Rock in order to help carry out Pozo's plan. More pertinently there are also references of contacts with British soldiers who were still disgruntled with their lot three years after the mutiny had failed.

Nevertheless, the plan was never put into practice - which was perhaps for the best as it seems unlikely to have succeeded. In essence much of it was very similar to that carried out in 1704 with the help of a local goatherd called Simon Susarte ( see LINK ) who knew his way around the extremely steep and dangerous eastern cliffs of the Rock. Crucial tracks up the rock face had been destroyed by the British after the original attempt had failed which would have made it almost impossible for the second lot of fusiliers to exit near the south. As for moving large numbers of troops from Chullera to Catalan Bay unseen - this was simply wishful thinking.

But even though Pozo's plan would not have worked in theory, the dangerous combination of a solid fifth column together with a disgruntled Garrison suggests it might have done so in practice. As mentioned previously, the mid 18th century was a propitious time for Spain to recover the Rock. All the Spaniards needed was give it a try and Gibraltar might have been theirs. But they didn't. Could there have been some sort of psychological or mental block involved?

Perhaps. A few years later Gibraltar suffered a massive storm which caused considerable damage to property leaving the northern defences breached and well open to attack. According the Spanish historian López de Ayala ( see LINK ):
En la madrugada del día 30 de este último año de 1766, comenzó una tormenta  . . con truenos casi continuos espantosísimos i repetidos aguaceros. . . en el terreno que está después del muelle viejo entre el cuartel i el hospital, se cayó un lienzo de muralla dejando brecha como de veinte varas. . . 10
The Count of Crillon, eventually the man put charge of the Franco-Spanish forces a few years later during the Great Siege, and who was Governor of the Campo area at the time, urged the king to attack Gibraltar.  

Count of Crillon

Charles III refused to take action. His reason - difficult to understand given our modern, pragmatic approach to politics - was as follows;
We would indeed benefit greatly from the possession of Gibraltar, but being at peace with England it would not be right.11
It was Spain's last chance. From then until today there would never be another one. As for Del Pozo, I have not been able to find out what happened to him after 1763 - but whatever it was, he must have been a disappointed man. One way or another, his connection with Gibraltar was over.

Francisco del Pozo's plan and map