The Rock (no, not that one)
The Goons travelled to the Mediterranean for episode five of the fourth series, to tell ‘The Gibraltar Story’. It was broadcast at 9:30pm on 30 October 1953 on the Home Service and can be seen on page 42 of the Radio Times.
As with quite a few series four episodes, no recording exists.
Gibraltar has an interesting history. It has been a British Overseas Territory since the early 1700s, and withstood several attempts by Spain to retake it by force. For example, Spain tried to take advantage of the American Revolution by supporting the revolutionaries along with the French, while also targeting Gibraltar. A classic 'look over there!' ploy.
During the Second World War, most of Gibraltar’s civilian population was evacuated as a precaution. Adolf Hitler had supported Spanish ruler General Franco during the country’s civil war in the 1930s and Franco was expected to repay the favour by joining the Axis Powers of Nazi Germany and Italy.
Franco resisted formally joining the Axis – although he did provide military and economic support – which meant that there was no combined attack on The Rock (that’s Gibraltar, not Dwayne Johnson) by Franco's and Hitler's armies.
However, it still came under fire from the Vichy French – the army of occupied France under the command of the Nazis – and the Italians.
As the threat of capture remained, the British set out a top-secret plan called Operation Tracer. This was an astonishing plan to station a group of officers in a secret sealed-off bunker with enough supplies for seven years, to spy on the occupiers. Dubbed the ‘Stay Behind Cave’, it lay undiscovered until it was located in 1997 by a local caving group, as explained in this 1998 documentary.
Top Gibraltar photo by Martin Magnemyr from Pexels. Black and white image by Royal Air Force official photographer, sourced from the Imperial War Museum.