The People of Gibraltar
1906 - The Broken Sword - A Gallant Foe

This schoolboy adventure story written by James Elverson appeared in the December 1906 edition of the Los Angeles Herald. I am not entirely sure who Elverson was but I suspect he was a frequent contributor to the Herald - although this is the only one about Gibraltar. So without further ado - here it is.

Bright and hot and cloudless shone the morning sun upon the Straits of Gibraltar, lighting up the vast, craggy sides of the African mountains, and the mighty outline of Gibraltar Rock, and the tiny white houses that clustered at its base along the edge of the blue, sparkling sea, and the smooth, wide sweep of Algeciras Bay, and the sunny hills of Andalusia beyond it, crowned with vines and olives to the very summit. 
It lighted up, too, the white sails of half a dozen stately ships-of-war in the offing, whence Admiral Sir George Rooks (sic) was watching the great fortress that had never been taken since it was built ages ago. The British ships had already lain there for several days without any sign of an attack, and the Spanish soldiers laughed mockingly as they made taunting gestures at their enemies from the unscalable cliffs above

"This great fortress"   ( Late 19th century - G.W. Wilson )  (See LINK
"What sayst thou, Diego?" cried one to his comrades. "Will not these English fools lie there till their ships rot before they can take Gibraltar?" 
"Let them try it," rejoined the other; "they will find Spanish swords to meet them. This rock hath never felt the foot of an invader since Tarik and his Moors took it a thousand years ago, and there was no fortress here then." 
"Boast not so rashly, brothers," said an old soldier, shaking his gray head. "Last nightI had a dream." 
"Nothing wonderful in that," retorted Diego. "There is never a night when thou hast not one." 
"I dreamed," went on the veteran, without heeding him, "that these Englishmen dropped down among us from the sky like the sea birds that alight upon our cliffs and swept us before them as the storm sweeps the dust. And that was an evil dream, brothers, for it was on this very day that Tarik the Moor stormed this rock, and I have heard it said that if ever another invader shall set foot here upon that day, Spain shall never win back Gibraltar again."

"Tarik the Moor"
So gloomily impressive were the old man's tone and look that even the reckless soldiers felt awed in spite of themselves, but it was only for a moment. "Bah!" cried Diego, with a scornful laugh. "When I see the flag of Spain torn down from yonder cliff above us, then I will believe that Gibraltar can be taken,and not till then." 
But the bold Spaniards, brave though they were, might perhaps have been less confident if they could have overheard the talk that was going on at that very moment aboard the English admiral's flagship between Sir George Rooke himself and a sturdy sailor of his crew. 
"Then you really think it can be done, my man?" 
"I'm sure it can, your honour; it's only just at the first that's it really bad. Jack Davis and I got up 'bout sixty or seventy feet with a hard scramble, and then we came to a sort o' path that looked as if it might ha' been made by goats or monkeys clambering up and down. We could see the track of it all the way up, and if it hadn't been for the chance of some o' them Spanish chaps spyin' us, we'd ha' got right up to the top, or my name ain't Tom Hawkins!" 
"We'll try it, then," said Sir George, with a gleam of stern joy in his deep gray eyes."And if you do the job, my lad, I'll see that you don't go unrewarded."
The silence and deadness of a burning Spanish noonday lay heavy upon earth and sky. Not a monkey frolicked among the rocks, not a bird fluttered overhead. Most of the Spanish soldiers were asleep, and the great yellow standard of Spain on the summit of the cliff drooped lazily in the warm, dreamy air as if it were asleep, too.  
But what were those dark figures that came crawling snakelike up the terrific precipice which overhung the sea to the eastward on the outer side of the great rock? Had any one seen them, he would scarcely have believed his own eyes, so impossible did it seem that any mortal man could find footing upon that black, frowning cliff, which towered up more than a thousand feet against the clear blue sky.

"The terrific precipice"   (  Late 19th century - G.W. Wilson )
But onward and upward went Tom Hawkins and his comrades, step by step, forcing their fingers into narrow crannies and planting their feet upon inch-points of rock, knowing all the while that if a single eye were to espy them from above, they were all dead men. And now they were half-way; and now they were three parts up; and now the highest ridge was plainly visible only a little way overhead, when suddenly a stone came clattering from above, just missing Tom Hawkins' head. 
The daring men clenched their teeth, and for a moment their hearts stood still. Had the Spaniards seen them? No; it was only a loose piece of rock which had suddenly given way and fallen crushing into the dizzy depths below. A few seconds more and they stood upon the summit of the terrible cliff, while Tom Hawkins himself tore down the banner of Spain amid a thundering shout of "Hurrah for old England!" 
"The English! The English!" cried a panic stricken soldier, aroused from his mid-day sleep by the British war-cry. 
"My dream is true," muttered old Manuel as he went down beneath the stroke of an English cutlass. 
"Stand to it for Spain, my children we'll beat them yet!" shouted the brave Spanish commandant, Don Rodrigo d'Aguilar, rallying the dismayed soldiers and hewing with the strength of a giant at the advancing enemy. 
So gallantly did the Spaniards fight, that for a moment the rush of the assailants was completely checked, but just then a terrible uproar behind them told that the English had entered the next gallery. Don Rodrigo shouted to his men to follow him, and without even waiting to see whether they did or no, flew toward the threatened spot. As he entered the gallery, he stumbled over a heap of rubbish and fell forward upon his face, his sword flying out of his hand in the fall.

The English! The English!" - the eleventh Siege of Gibraltar
Springing to his feet, he looked round for the trusty weapon, but it had disappeared into a deep deft. The next moment he found himself face to face with a powerful English seaman - Tom Hawkins himself, in fact who had a cutlass in his hand and a silver hiked Spanish sword tucked under his left arm like an umbrella. 
"Hello, mate!" cried Tom; "lost your sword, eh? Well, see here I've got two swords, and you've got none; so just catch hold of this here Spanish thing, and then we'll start fair!" 
D'Aguilar eyed him for a moment with a somewhat puzzled look, as if half suspecting a joke. Then bowing, as if acknowledging a compliment, he grasped the proffered sword and the fight began. Don Rodrigo was a splendid swordsman and the sailor, strong as he was, found that he had met his match. Sparks flew from the whirring blades, and the rock-cut passage echoed with the stamping and shouting of the combatants. 
All at once Tom's cutlass (less perfectly tempered than the Spanish sword) snapped close to the hilt, leaving him defenceless. But before the Spaniard could strike, Hawkins dashed the broken sword-hilt full in his face, and as D'Aguilar staggered beneath the stunning shock, Tom sprang in and clutched him round the body. 
Don Rodrigo struggled like a lion, but the sailor held him fast, and they rolled on the ground together, D'Aguilar undermost. Just then a deafening cheer was heard, and a fresh body of English, sent ashore by Sir George on the other side of the rock the moment he saw the Spanish flag disappear from the highest ridge, came bursting in, overpowered all resistance and made prisoners of the gallant commandant and his few surviving soldiers. 
That evening,  Sir George Rooke, having thanked and rewarded Tom Hawkins and his little band of heroes, invited Don Rodrigo to dine with him aboard the flagship; and when dinner was over, he sent the brave Spaniard ashore again, a free man, to tell his countrymen that even "English heretics" knew how to show courtesy to a gallant foe.

Sir George Rooke  ( Michael Dahl )

The background to this story is of course the Eleventh Siege of Gibraltar or the capture of the place by Anglo-Dutch forces in 1704. (See LINK) There are - also understandably - several historical misconceptions. 

The Dutch are never mentioned nor is the overall commander of the assault - Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt. There was indeed a brave attempt to climb the steep eastern face of the Rock in order to take the defenders by surprise (see LINK) - but this was in fact undertaken by the enemy against the English rather than the other way round.

Tarik - or Tariq ibn Zayed (see LINK) - never stormed Gibraltar in 711 AD. There was no fortress to storm and hardly anybody was living there at the time. Nor was it correct to say that the fortress had never been taken since it was built - the First, Sixth, Eighth and Ninth Sieges of Gibraltar all resulted in its defences being breached and the place lost to its attackers.

The lowering of the Spanish flag and the hoisting of that of England - the act of the Union was still in the future - is a moot point as the allies were supposedly - at least at the time - capturing Gibraltar in the name of the Archduke Charles - pretender to the throne of Spain.  Whether Rooke actually raised the English flag over Gibraltar after the Siege has been the source of much inconsequential historical speculation.

The Commander Don Rodrigo D'Aguilar bears comparison with Don Diego de Salinas - the real Commander and Governor of the Rock at the time, although I suspect that Don Diego never used his sword in anger throughtout the attack.

That Toledo steel should be described as better tempered than Sheffield's finest is odd to say the least when written by an Anglo-Saxon pen but perhaps the most curious part of the story is that the Spaniards are described as brave and honourable men - rather than the usual description by British authors - that of a rabble of incompetent cowards.