WWII

Gibraltar To Honour Second World War Naval Hero

Commodore Kenelm Creighton brought more than 13,000 evacuated civilians back to Gibraltar after they were stranded in French Morocco.

A Second World War naval leader who defied orders to save thousands of Gibraltarians is to be honoured by the people of the Rock.

The then-Commodore Kenelm Creighton brought more than 13,000 civilians back to Gibraltar in July 1940 after they were stranded in north Africa and the Admiralty forbade their evacuation.

The veteran officer, who was later appointed to Rear Admiral, ignored instructions from both London and Gibraltar, loaded the evacuees aboard the convoy he commanded and ferried them home.

Eight decades on, the government of Gibraltar is to posthumously recognise his actions with the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour which will be presented to his descendants.

The government had intended to honour Commodore Creighton last year to mark the 80th anniversary of the evacuation, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed plans.

Dr Joseph Garcia, Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister, said it was the right time for Gibraltar to show the naval officer the "recognition that his actions deserve".

"He stood up for and sympathised with the plight of the people of Gibraltar to the degree that he had to be threatened with arrest by the French and he had no hesitation in defying orders when he judged that following them would have put our people at risk," he said.

A plaque acknowledging Commodore Creighton’s role will be added to the memorial to Gibraltar’s evacuees (Picture: Royal Navy).

"It takes a brave man to stand up to authority in this way and there is no better time to mark his courageous actions for the benefit of our people."

In 1940, authorities in Gibraltar evacuated more than 13,000 women, children and elderly citizens.

They were taken to French Morocco so the Rock could be bolstered with extra service personnel and shore up the British position in the western Mediterranean during World War Two.

In a matter of weeks, France was overrun and its colonies managed by Nazi sympathisers.

The Royal Navy had attacked the French fleet at its North African base of Mers el Kebir to prevent warships from falling into German hands.

This made the position of the Gibraltar evacuees in French Morocco untenable, as Commodore Creighton discovered when he arrived in Casablanca to repatriate 15,000 French soldiers.

All three services of the UK Armed Forces continue to have a presence in Gibraltar.

After the troops had disembarked, a senior French naval officer demanded Commodore Creighton to take back the Gibraltar evacuees.

He refused, as his ships were in no fit state to carry the civilians.

The French admiral threatened to arrest Commodore Creighton and impound his convey, and eventually, the evacuees were forced aboard the vessels at gunpoint.

Having faced direct orders from his superiors to sail directly to Britain, the commodore ignored those and sailed for Gibraltar.

A memorial to Gibraltar’s evacuees stands on the Waterport roundabout and a plaque acknowledging Commodore Creighton’s role will be added to the monument.

The inscription will read: 'In gratitude – Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE CVO (1883-1963) who in July 1940 assisted the people of Gibraltar in their hour of need.'

Cover image: Rear Admiral Kenelm Creighton (Picture: Royal Navy).