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Parson’s Lodge Battery and AA machine gun

Ref: HLFP3/028

This massive fortification stands upon the steep rocky promontory between Rosia and Camp Bay and is visually one of the more impressive of the batteries in Gibraltar with its layers of earlier defence works, possibly dating to medieval times. Evinces its commanding fields of fire which, for centuries, dominated both the seaward and landward approaches to this strategic area. The origin of its name is unknown with its first mention as such being referred to in a 1771 armament list; however, it is possible that the name derived from the adjacent earlier site of the Hermitage of St. John the Baptist [Ermita de San Juan Bautista] with the subsequent anglicanisation of the priest in charge, at the time, for ‘parson’.

The rocky outcrop was part of the Moorish defensive wall and towers, later reinforced by the Spanish engineers that stretched all the way from the Watergate in the North to the Calita de los Remedios (now Camp Bay). It is first recorded in Anton de Wyngaerde’s sketches of Gibraltar dated to 1567 which shows a crenellated wall and watchtower on this site.

These fortifications are shown in bird’s eye view elevations and plans prepared in 1627 by Don Luis Bravo de Acuña which show the tower located to the South of the outcrop overlooking the Calita de los Remedios. Much of these defences were in a dilapidated state by the time the Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar. Rosia Bay was soon being used as a safe harbour and a battery was placed on the rocky outcrop above to protect the ships watering in this small cove.

1567 - Anton Van Wyngaerde showing a tower near Rosia Bay (far left).

1627 - Luis Bravo - Red Sands and Rosia (detail). The tower can be seen on the right.

The battery had originally been known as the 13th Rosia Battery and later called the 10th Rosia Battery in 1766. The first record of gun emplacements during the British period occurred in 1725 when mention is made of ‘two guns on the mount by Rosia’. At the time of the Spanish War of 1762, it mounted one 9-pdr.  and this was supplemented by another similar piece of artillery, at the base of the battery, in 1771; these guns were emplaced ‘en barbette’, that is to say on open platforms without protective walls.

During the Great Siege (1779-83), Parson’s Lodge was of great strategic value, protecting Rosia Bay which was the vital landing place for supplies run in by the Royal Navy through the Franco-Spanish naval blockade. The battery was also in an excellent position from which to engage the numerous Spanish gunboats which swarmed in the Bay when the British fleet was across the Atlantic fighting against the rebellious American colonists. Colonel John Drinkwater recorded that a battery of heavy guns was placed in this fortification, built well above the original 1725 level in order to give better fields of fire. By 1781, the battery mounted six 24-pdrs., two 9-pdrs. and one 10-inch mortar.

1768 - Thomas Kitchin detail of Rosia area showing a defensive wall below the rocky outcrop.

1815 - plan showing artillery pieces mounted around Parson’s Lodge, later called 9th Rosia.

As a result of the recommendations of the report by Colonel W.F.D. Jervois in 1868, Parson’s Lodge Battery was armed with heavy guns and by 1873, it had acquired its third level of gun platforms, mounting three heavy 10-inch RML guns housed in strongly protected casemates with armour plated ports and steel traversing gear. No overhead cover was provided because the guns were considered to be too high to require such a protection; however, these were covered over during the Second World War with the provision of reinforced concrete canopies.

1870's - fortification of Parson's Lodge, George Washington Wilson.

Parson's Lodge 1870's.

1880's - Parson's Lodge development of the third latform, Jean Laurent.

By the time of the First World War, the defensive role of Parson’s Lodge Battery had been largely subsumed by the long range 9.2-inch batteries at the top of the Rock and also by other 4-inch and 6-inch guns mounted further down on its lower slopes. In any case, it was considered that there was no immediate enemy threat to the Rock at the time and all of the battery’s guns had already been removed by 1892.

In 1898, two Defensive Electric Light positions were constructed which housed 90cm searchlights intended to illuminate enemy ships. Each light was 200 million candlepower and a concentrated “pencil” (3 degree) beam could be projected 5,000 yards. They were used against enemy aircraft during WWII and the equipment was removed in 1956.

10-inch RML iron Shield on third level of Parson's Lodge.

However, the military position of the fortress changed dramatically during the Second World War when there was a strong possibility of a German attack, through Spain, becoming a real cause for concern. Rosia Bay, Camp Bay and Little Bay were covered from Parson’s Lodge Battery by anti-tank guns positioned at the ends of tunnels, driven through the rock below the original batteries and fitted with steel shuttered apertures. At the top of the RML casemates, a 40mm Bofors gun together with a Z Projector, searchlights and sound locators, were mounted for anti-aircraft defence. The anti-tank guns were never fired in anger, but the anti-aircraft gunners were in action on many occasions against French and Italian air raids on the Gibraltar.

6-pdr Gun Emplacement, Parsons Lodge (Defence of Gibraltar).

Entrance in the Parsons Lodge tunnel leading to a position for two Vicker’s Machine Guns, and observer and possible a Bren or sniper.

WWII machine gun positions below the Parson's Lodge accessed from tunnel.

Defence Electric Light position, Parsons Lodge (Defence of Gibraltar).

The battery was abandoned by the Military in the 1950s and it slowly fell into general disuse with a proposal falling through in 1982 to construct an hotel on the site. Finally, in 1993, the Gibraltar Government, together with the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, decided to set up a Charitable Trust in order to restore the Parson’s Lodge Battery. This was a long and painstaking task, carried out in several phases with the site later being opened to the public and to guided groups of tourists. In more recent years, the Gibraltar Museum has set up a field centre on the site.

In the 1980’s, following renovations at Europa Point one of two 6-pdr 700 cwt MkII A/T mounted at Harding’s Battery was removed and placed in its current position at Parson’s Lodge. The other AA gun was placed further North at Napier of Magdala Battery.

The second 6-punder is located in an underground emplacement within the Parson’s Lodge. This gun was probably removed from Fortress Headquarters when the building was abandoned by Headquarters British Forces in the early 1990’s.

Parson's Lodge 10-inch RML gun positions and Gibraltar Shields.

10-inch RML behind Gibraltar shield.

24 pounders at Parson's Lodge.

QF 6 pounder gun hotchkiss at Parsons Lodge.

Parson’s Lodge Battery and AA machine gun Image