Spain Calls For Joint Control Of Gibraltar Following Brexit

That Time The UK "Accidentally" Invaded Spain...

Amid tensions between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar we have taken a look back at the time that Royal Marines "accidentally" invaded Spain

Spain Calls For Joint Control Of Gibraltar Following Brexit

Amid all the tensions surrounding Gibraltar and Brexit at the moment, one former head of the Royal Navy, Lord West, has been recalling the time some Royal Marines accidentally invaded Spain.

In 2002 the heavily armed marines were doing an exercise when they landed on the wrong beach.

The former First Sea Lord said of the incident: 

"They charged up the beach in the normal way being Royal Marines [...] when they confronted a Spanish fisherman who sort of pointed out 'I think you are on the wrong beach' and they all scrambled back in their boats and went away again."

The incident saw a number of marines storm San Felipe beach in the Spanish town of La Linea, near the border with Gibraltar.

Using two landing craft, reportedly carrying 60mm mortars and SA80 assault rifles, they took up positions in the sand. 

It was then that they were spotted by two uniformed officers from the local police force, who watched in amazement as the Marines continued their exercise. 

At the time of the incident, the mayor of La Linea, Juan Carlos Juarez, said: 

"They landed on our coast to confront a supposed enemy with typical Commando tactics. But we managed to hold them on the beach."

After a short time, and a glance around, the Marines noticed that they were not in fact in Gibraltar, due to the lack of a giant 1,398ft high rock, so they quickly made their excuses and left. 

"It was a much regrettable and embarrassing mistake. Hopefully, nothing of this kind will happen again," said an MoD spokesman in 2002, blaming the mistake on bad weather.

"Two landing craft from HMS Ocean accidentally entered Spanish territorial waters and in bad weather, landing craft landed on the beach a few yards over the Spanish side of the border." 

"About 20 Royal Marines disembarked for about five minutes and then the error was recognised and they all withdrew."

He added:

"We were not trying to take Spain and have no plans to do so."

Remembering the incident whilst speaking on Radio 4's Today programme this morning Lord West said it was a source of some amusement for his fellow service chiefs:

"I was teased mercilessly. I had a postcard from the Head of the Army and Air Force which was a postcard of Gibraltar with an arrow pointing 'ours' and another arrow pointing 'theirs', so it was not a good day."

The Royal Marines have always had a close connection with the Rock, as Gibraltar is the only battle honour that they display on their cap badges. 

It dates from 1704, when 1,804 Marines deliberately stormed Gibraltar, which was then ceded to Britain in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht.