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Ragged Staff Flank

Ref: HLFP3/030

Ragged Staff Flank is situated on the seaward face of the line wall just south of the South Bastion, turning to form a flanking position facing south along the coastal fortifications leading to the New Mole. The gate was situated in the middle of this flank, leading to the Ordnance Wharf with a defended enclosure behind the gate secured by a guardroom. The original wharf, when built, measured over 300 feet in length, where goods were delivered via steps and a drawbridge, the area known at the time as the Ragged Staff Couvreport.

During the Moorish and later Spanish period this raised area was walled covering the ditch and approaches to the South Bastion. The 1627 map by Bravo de Acuña shows two small protruding lunettes on this site, one covering the palisade separating the ditch from the sea and the facing South. Another map dated to 1597 shows two heavily fortified towers covering the approaches to South Bastion.

1627 - Luis Bravo de Acuña map of the Southern defenses.

1597 - Map and Fortifications of Gibraltar (unknown).

In 1755, according to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas James, in his History of the Herculean Straits, ‘the Ragged Staff is a wharf built by the contractor of the Victualling office in one thousand seven hundred and thirty-six, to land provisions near the magazine: this wharf is carried into the bay three hundred and fifty feet in length, with a return to break off the south-west winds; upon this return is a store-house. The communication of this quay to the line wall within the covert way of South port is by a flight of thirty-one stone steps, at the landing of which is a draw-bridge, thrown over every morning and raised every night…. From the covert way South port to this work there are two flanks, upon one a crane is built to land stores from the ragged staff, the other has an embrasure, this wall is likewise continued to the new mole fort, and two flanks of two guns each front the eight-gun battery.’

The first mention of a battery in this area seems to be the reference by Drinkwater who stated that in November 1779 a work of masonry for two guns was erected at Ragged Staff.

1747 - Annotated Showing Ragged Staff Gates and Flank (unknown). The wharf and victualling office is clearly depicted.

During the Great Siege (1779-83), a Garrison Order dated 7th September 1782 contained a number of tactical arrangements for the positioning of troops on the fortifications of the Rock. It also referred to the following instructions pertaining to the Ragged Staff defences: ‘one sergeant, nine privates, and a gunner to the Ragged Staff; detaching a sergeant and six men, with the gunner, at retreat beating, to the Wharf head.’

1782 - View of Grand Attack, Lieutenant William Sandby Roberts. The Ragged Staff Flank is shown firing at the floating batteries.

In the book entitled ‘Travels of His Royal Highness Prince Adalbert of Prussia in the South of Europe and in Brazil’, published in 1849, there are specific instances of criticism on the state of some of Gibraltar’s defences. It was stated that ‘The enormously long, uncovered Saluting Battery joins the town in the south; it is quite as destitute of flank-protection as the other coast-batteries, which extend from this spot round Europa Point, and to the north-east up to the perpendicular rock, where all the defences of course cease. In most parts of the long lines of curtain, a single cannon or at most two are placed behind a corresponding embrasure, as the only side defence.

The English perceive that they have hitherto assigned too little importance to the coast-defences, and are now beginning to strengthen them. Thus it is intended to provide the Saluting Battery with a proper flank, by correcting the point at the Mole at the Ragged Staff, (a small landing-place and quay near the South Bastion, but outside the covered way) obliquely with the land, and converting the space into a battery.’

The Report by Major General Sir John Jones of 1841 called the area of the Ragged Staff ‘an ill-conditioned spot where most foreigners and strangers disembark and its extremely unmilitary appearance, as well as apparently defenceless state, strikes one with astonishment and has given rise to much of the reproach cast on the neglected state of the Fortress'

1830's - Piaget et Lailavoix - Ragged Staff.

WO78 715 - 1826 Plan for the re-alignment of the Line Wall. These recomendations would be implemented twenty years later.

General Jones suggested a new work of which the couvreport (now Ragged Staff Gates) was a prolongation of the tight face of South Bastion, and a left face in the ordinary position of flank, which, besides the object of forming a closed defence to the southern sea wall, would also serve as a powerful flanking battery to scour over the bay even beyond the New Mole. The work was obviously considered of strategic importance for the finance was authorized in 1841/1842 and the work competed by convict labour by 1844.

In 1859, the artillery officer, Colonel Lefroy and the engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Owen, on a visit to the Mediterranean inspected the defences of Gibraltar and submitted their report intended to place the fortress in a reasonable state of preparation to meet any sudden attack from the sea. Their recommendations included the re-armament of many of the batteries on the Rock with the two existing 24-pounders on the Ragged Staff Flank replaced by four 32-pounders and two 8-inch guns for each of its six embrasures.

View fron Southport.

The armament m 1885 was three 64 pounder RML's on wood traversing carriages which were removed between 1892 and 1897. I t was thought that they had been installed around 1865 because plans of this date exist for the building of magazines. There is evidence, however, of 7-inch RBL's being used in the late 1860's found in an article in the 1924 RA Journal by Major General JC Dalton where he mentions practice firing from the Ragged Staff Flank with the RBL. The article refers to a story were firing what was called segment shell at a moored target at sea through an embrasure when the shell broke up in the bore and burst the gun. Two 7-inch RBLs are shown in a photo of about the mid 1870’s in the right hand group of the Ragged Staff Flank embrasures.

The 1896/97 Survey shows six embrasures in two groups of three with traverse in between the groups.

Ragged Staff Flank and Gates.

Ragged Staff Flank early 20th Century.

in October 1942, a Bofors 40 mm gun was installed behind Ragged Staff Flank, the emplacement was completed on the 12th June 1942. It was soon joined by a Twin Z projector and this armament remained until December 1944, having been taken over by 451 LAA battery on the 7th February 1944 when the LAA defences were reduced to one eighteen-gun battery. It became non-operational on the 20th June 1944 and was unmanned from the 16th July 1944. The equipment was removed in December 1944 although the site was maintained.

In addition to the above, some of the embrasures of the Line Wall Flanking guns were bricked up and converted into machine-gun positions.

Machine-gun covered embrasures Ragged Staff Flank.

Under the Military Town Planning Scheme both the area of South Bastion and Ragged Staff Flank was transferred to civilian control in the early 1950’s. Ragged Staff Flank became a yard for the Public Works Department until the late 1990’s when the site was transferred to Gib Elec.

Ragged Staff Flank embrasures and firing steps.

Ragged Staff Flank sunken magazine.

Ragged Staff Flank Image