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Defensive Walls of Prince William (originally part of New Mole Fort)

Ref: HLFP3/007

In 1725, Governor Kane reported two guns placed on this location as part of the New Mole defences. A plan for the proposed New Mole Fort by Jonas Moore dated to 1732 shows a battery of eight guns facing north defending the New Mole, another five guns and two mortars facing west towards the bay, two flanking guns facing south and three guns en barbette facing east and covering the dockyard. Two further guns en barbette covered the curtain wall from the South. This last flanking battery appears to be the same battery reported by Kane in 1725.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas James, writing in about 1755, described the new fort which had been built over the ruins of the old Torre del Tuerto as follows: ‘…the new mole fort, with two flanks of one gun each fronting the fort; and two flanks of two guns each fronting the eight-gun battery. Most of this wall was rebuilt in one thousand seven hundred and twenty-five and kept in good repair. On that part of the wall joining the new mole fort, are even embrasures to defend the inside of the said mole. The fort of this mole is of a triangular form, the side next to the hill has a rampart and parapet for musketry, a guard-house, and part of the Spanish barrack is built withinThe Landport gate of this fort is on the opposite flank within side, and against this flank is a magazine, opposite to which, and on the south face of this bastion, is one piece of ordnance, and a howitzer.’

1732 - New Moleand Fort.

The southernmost battery of the New Mole Fort was named Prince William Battery in 1769 after Prince William (born in 1765), the third son of King George III. He later become the ‘Sailor’ King William IV. Both Drinkwater and Sayer record the story of Prince William’s visit to Gibraltar in January 1780 following Admiral Rodney’s defeat of the Spanish fleet under Don Juan de Langara off Cape St. Vincent. Whilst at Gibraltar, the Prince who was serving as a midshipman aboard HMS Royal George was tasked with escorting the Spanish Admiral who was paying a visit to Digby on board the Prince George and who on being introduced to an astonished Langara caused the Spanish admiral to exclaim, ‘Well does Great Britain merit the Empire of the sea when the humblest stations in her navy are supported by the Princes of the Blood.’

During the Spanish War of 1762 the adjoining batteries along this defensive wall – Magazine and Redan batteries – mounted two 18-pdrs. each. The slanted wall, some thirty metres in length, connecting Prince William and Engineer Battery was fitted with loopholes providing cover for musketry fire. During WWII, the uppermost section of the defensive wall saw some of the defensive loopholes removed and replaced with two concrete pillboxes each manned with a machine gun. A third machine gun post was set-up at the base of Engineer Battery. All three positions strategically enfiladed some 200 metres of beach below the coastal line wall stretching from Engineer Battery in the South to Prince William and Alexandria Battery in the North.

Fort Anglais 1782 (F. de Grevingen).

1828 - Gibraltar from the New Mole Fort looking North.

In 1770, it was found that the battery was too low to be effective so the merlons were raised eight feet. In 1771, three 32-pdrs. are recorded in this battery and the same type of guns are recorded in the 1834 and 1850 Armament Lists. In 1859, it was proposed to replace the 32-pdrs. with 64-pdrs. instead but nothing came of it. In 1885 the battery is recorded as disarmed.

1859 - Gibraltar fortifications map (cropped).

At the outbreak of WWII, it was decided to place one of the two 40mm Bofors AA guns in Gibraltar at this site. The AA gun became operational as from the 26th August 1939. In February 1942 this gun was removed to the Old Quarry site but a new gun was issued on the 12th October 1942. Furthermore, two Single Z Projectors were placed on this site although one was removed later. The January 1944 Armament List shows one mobile 40mm Bofors and predictor and one Single Z Projector. The site was recorded as unmanned from the 12th February 1944 with the equipment being removed the following month.

The site was maintained until the end of the war and then abandoned.

WWII machine-gun positions as seen from the sea (Defence of Gibraltar).

Defensive Walls of Prince William (originally part of New Mole Fort) Image