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Devil’s Tongue Battery

Ref: HLFP3/008

This battery is sited on the north side of the Old Mole, constructed in 1618, close to the neck and facing northeast across the water to Spain. In its complete form, the battery consisted of four distinct parts. The mortar battery, nearest the City, which was connected by a footbridge through a postern gate which is still visible in the Montagu Counterguard. Next, there was the land facing battery, then, the sea facing battery and finally, the Old Mole Head, nearest the sea.

Old Mole detail by Cristobal de Rojas, 1608. A battery would be constructed there ten years later.

In 1720, the battery mounted seven 32 pounders, although during the siege of 1727, its parapet was rebuilt and remoulded and the battery cannon increased to twenty-two. The Chief Engineer of Gibraltar, William Green, in his report of 1770 submitted to the Master General of the Ordnance, the Marquis of Granby, recommended that the defences of the Old Mole be strengthened and that a loose rubble dyke be built in front of it, spiked with two rows of wooden stakes so as to keep small assault boats at a distance.

The Grand Battery and Devil's Tongue from the Neutral Ground by Williams Skinner, 1740's.

Plan of the Northern Defences 1796 showing the battery extension to the Old Mole.

During the Great Siege (1779-83) this battery proved to be a considerable effective asset to the besieged garrison with Colonel John Drinkwater, in his History of the Siege of Gibraltar, writing that ‘the old mole, to the west of the grand battery, forms also a very formidable flank, and, with the lines, a cross-fire on the causeway and neutral ground. This battery has been found so great an annoyance to the besiegers, that, by way of distinction, it has been known under the appellation of the Devil’s Tongue. Indeed, the ordnance in the lines, upon the grand battery, and the old mole, all together, exhibit so formidable an appearance to a spectator on the causeway, that the entrance to the garrison is called by the Spaniards the Mouth of Fire.’

In 1829, the Captain of the USS Somers, Alexander Slidell-Mackenzie, referred to the batteries in the Upper Rock, stating that they were ‘more formidable in appearance than in reality. A shot from so great an elevation may, it is true, be projected within the works of the besiegers; but then it only strikes in one place, where it buries itself in the sand; whereas the Devil’s Tongue, which forms the Mole, and is upon a level with the neutral ground, sweeps an extent equal to the range of its cannon, and licks up all before it.’

Montagu Counterguard and Wicket leading to Devil's Tounge Battery by Henry Aston Barker 1804.

Devils Tongue Battery and Mole Head 1832.

In 1848, the Inspector General of Fortifications, General Sir John Burgoyne, recommended that the defences of the Devil’s Tongue Battery be turned around so as to face south across the harbour and thus be in a better situation to protect shipping. By 1859, there were twenty-four guns on the Mole – eight 8-in. guns, nine 32-pdrs., one 32-pdr. carronade and six 13in. mortars.  These were upgraded in 1886 to include six 8-in. Smooth Bore 65-cwt. guns, six 13-in. LS mortars, 6 32/64-pdrs. Rifle Muzzle guns and one 8-in. Howitzer.

Gibraltar from Old Mole, 1870's.

Devil's Tongue Battery from the Old Mole, 1870's.

Devil's Tongue Battery 1870's.

Devil's Tongue Battery late 19th Century.

During the Second World War, the battery once again came into use and several guns were mounted there including two 4.5 Howitzers, a 6-pdr. anti-tank gun and a 2-dr. Pom Pom.

In the present day, the battery is used as a garden centre and plant nursery with its embrasures of brickwork and masonry still preserved in a fairly-good condition.

Devil's Tongue Battery firing steps.

Devils Tongue Battery magazine.

Devil’s Tongue Battery Image