Gibraltar Regiment (1958 - 1999)
On the 30th August 1958 the permanent cadre and the reserve of the GDF together with the Volunteer Reserve of the officers were formed into the Gibraltar Regiment. The Regiment had a dual role, being organised as an infantry battalion with four rifle companies and, uniquely, a gunner troop manning 9.2 inch coastal guns. This organisation was to remain in force until 1971. With the departure of the last gunner unit in 1958 the Regiment was issued with four 25 pounder guns and took over the responsibilities of firing Royal Gun Salutes.
On the 28th April 1960 the Regiment commemorated the occasion of its founding when a changing of cap badge ceremony was held at John Macintosh Square. The Regiment received its new badge from His Excellency the Governor, General Sir Charles Keightley. In December of that year and after a long debate, the Legislative Council decided that whilst national service should continue, the period of service should be reduced from six months to four months. The 23rd intake who were called up on 1st February 1961, was the first intake to do so under these new conditions.
The training cycle at Buena Vista however, remained unchanged with two intakes per year and 15 day reservist camps in between. Each intake now performed the Ceremony of the Keys towards the end of their training, at which time the Willie Thomson Key and the Cargill shooting trophy were also officially presented to the winners.
The attention of the Regiment was focused on the emotive issues of conscription. For some years, there had been growing discontent, especially amongst some of the youth, about the usefulness and validity of national service. Pressure groups had been formed which insistently called for its abolition. The House of Assembly formed a select committee to look into the matter which reported that ‘compulsory military service should cease not later than the 31st July 1972,’ and that the Regiment should become “a volunteer force similar to the TAVR units in the UK”. With the end of conscription ended a chapter in the history of Gibraltar, but a far greater blow to the Regiment was the death on the 4th June 1971 of its fondly regarded mentor Sir Willie Thomson.
On the 11th June it was officially announced that Her Majesty the Queen had graciously approved the presentation of colours to the Regiment and these where presented on Saturday 25th September 1971. At a ceremony held at the Grand Parade, His Excellency the Governor, Admiral of the Fleet Sir Varyl Begg, presented the Regiment with its colours on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. The parade was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J J Porral and consisted of three guards each of three officers, four SNCOs and 48 men.
On the same day the Regiment was granted the Freedom of the City of Gibraltar by the Mayor of Gibraltar, the Hon Alfred Vazquez during a ceremony outside the House of Assembly.
The last conscripts departed Buena Vista barracks on the 7th October 1971. The Regiment was reorganised with a Headquarter element, an Infantry Company and an Artillery Battery made up the Light Air Defence and Heavy Troops. Its establishment was set at 18 officers and 201 other ranks. The Regiment then settled down to a period of intensive training, with each of the new sub-units undertaking obligatory 15 days camp in Gibraltar. Almost two years later the Heavy Troop closed another chapter in the annals of the Regiment’s history when on the 7th April 1973 they fired the 9.2inch Gun at Spur Battery for the last time. Ceremonials still played an important part in the life of the Regiment: The Infantry Company performed a Ceremony of the Keys on the 28th June 1972 with Sergeant J Ritchie as Port Sergeant. This was the first time that this duty had been undertaken by a member of the Regiment.
At a parade held on the 15th September 1973 the Artillery Battery was named ‘Thomson Battery’ in honour of the late Sir Willie Thomson OBE JP. The symbol of the Battery is a Trident in a red and blue field, the traditional Gunners’ Colours presenting the links with the Royal Artillery. The centre prong of the Trident represents the Infantry Company of the Regiment. The other two prongs on either side represent the two troops that make up the Battery in 1973, that is the Heavy and Light Air Defence Troops. The Staff supporting the prongs symbolise the Permanent Cadre. The Trident also represents the letter W superimposed over the letter T, the initials of Willie Thomson.
In December 1975 Thomson’s Battery was issued with three 105mm pack howitzers. The Heavy troop then converted to the light role and in June 1976 carried out their first live firing in the UK at Larkhill Ranges. With the arrival of General Sir William Jackson as Governor, the Regiment assumed extra ceremonial responsibilities and began a new tradition by always providing His Excellency with a permanent Port Sergeant. WO2 J Sanders was the first Port Sergeant and he carried the Keys for the first time on the 9th June 1978 at a dinner night held at the Convent.
Following Operation Corporate (the liberation of the Falkland Islands in 1982) the Ministry of Defence decided, in line with its policy of modernisation and commonality of equipment to re-equip the Regiment with new weapons. In late 1982 six 105mm Light Guns replaced the three howitzers and eight blowpipe Surface-to-Air missile units replaced the four L40/70 AA Guns. The Regiment was also issued with some 35 new vehicles and the Clansman family of radios.
With the introduction of the new equipment, the Regiment was reorganised and a new and increased establishment approved. Thomson’s Battery was reformed as a purely field battery whilst the Air Defence troop assumed a separate identity. The overall manpower increases amounted to two officers and 39 other ranks. At the same time three Royal Artillery Permanent Staff Instructors were attached on a two year posting. The introduction of the new equipment necessitated a very comprehensive training package in order to convert to the new equipment and to become operational with them as quickly as possible.
On 1st April 1991, the Regiment was reorganised into an all Infantry Unit and took over the duties of the resident Battalion. The re-roled Regiment consisted of a Headquarter Company (Thompson’s Bty) and three Rifle Companies of which G Company was regular with the others being made up of TA soldiers.
On 21st April 1998 the Regiment performed its first public duties in London by firing a 62 Royal Gun Salute at the Tower Of London on the occasion of HM the Queen’s Birthday. On the 1st July 1998 HRH the Duke of Kent presented The Regiment with its new Colours. The parade was held at Devil’s Tower Camp, the Regiment’s home since 1993.