Students and staff from the University Royal Naval Unit (URNU) Birmingham, alongside regional units from URNUs Wales, Devon, and Bristol visited Gibraltar for a week of local heritage and a taste of the contemporary role of the Royal Navy in defending the rock’s territorial waters.

Having already held a visit to Gibraltar the previous year, Ex Auream Petram built on this and involved a busy week-long programme which saw Officer Cadets getting stuck into the local history of the rock and the Royal Navy.

Officer Cadets on board a naval vessel.Following a last-minute flight change, URNUs Birmingham and Devon braved the early flight from Gatwick on the Sunday and arrived in Gibraltar earlier than had initially been planned, allowing the Officer Cadets and Staff to familiarise themselves with where they were staying (Devils Training Camp) and travel to the beach for the afternoon. The following day, with high temperatures and lots of sun, the group tackled climbing the rock in the morning which while difficult, came with its rewards as the group saw the Pillars of Hercules, from where they could see Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar, and carried on to visit St Michaels Cave and the historic gun emplacements. They learnt that the former was believed by the Ancient Greeks to have been an entrance to Hades and how the latter gun emplacements were in fact an accident as the holes in the cliffside were originally blown out for ventilation, not to be used for gun emplacements. After lunch under the sun, and a lot more sun cream applied, the group visited the historic Queen Anne’s Battery in aid of the Gibraltar Heritage Trust where they helped unearth an old observation post and move a 120kg cast iron mantle holder to the restoration shed. This was extremely fulfilling as the group was able to assist in preserving the rock’s heritage. Once this was completed, URNUs Wales and Bristol arrived having been forced to miss the flight the prior day and the cadets bonded through a beach visit and trip into town.

Tuesday morning saw, the now twenty-eight strong group, travel to the southern range of Buffadero where they were given a tour of the training area and the virtual indoor range, used by the soldiers of I Company Royal Gibraltar Regiment, to familiarise themselves with their weapons systems. The URNUs then continued to the most southerly area of Gibraltar, Europa Point, where they toured the local fortifications and the University of Gibraltar which many of the Officer Cadets began to wish they had applied for. Following this, the group toured the local WW2 tunnels and old Moorish Castle before receiving a private tour of the newly discovered Special Operations Executive’s tunnels, from the Gibraltar Heritage Trust, in thanks for their help the previous day.

Group photograph of all attendees by the Rock.

The next morning, after taking a large exercise photo in view of the rock, the group split for the day with URNUs Birmingham and Bristol spending the morning touring the larger WW2 and Cold War tunnels from South to North, while URNUs Wales and Devon visited Rosia Bay for a try dive before switching activities in the afternoon. Starting with the tunnels, still managed by the MOD, the group witnessed how trucks were still able to drive down the tunnels while listening to ghost stories and the historic role of the tunnels in storing supplies in preparation for Allied operations across the Mediterranean, such as the American-British invasion of Western North Africa. The scuba diving was a brilliant experience for all with Officer Cadets overcoming any fears and engaging in the activity where they saw all assortments of marine life and even took a great underwater photo.

Thursday, and the group visited Gibraltar Squadron in the morning to learn about the weapons systems employed by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment in support of the squadron and the squadron’s role in defending Gibraltar’s territorial waters, this included a tour of one of the patrol ships. After this, all travelled to the top of the rock via cable car for a brilliant three-course meal with 360-degree views of Gibraltar, Spain, and Morocco before some Officer Cadets tackled the Med Steps while others explored the town further.

Two Officer Cadets ready to Scuba Dive.The final day and staff and Officer Cadets visited the ocean survey vessel HMS Scott and learnt about is vital role in supporting the fleet, particularly submarines and the nuclear deterrent. This was especially useful for those looking to join as meteorological officers and all were surprised by the presence of a large gym and squash court on board! This was followed by a relaxing session of powerboating and paddle boarding, organised due to the initiative taken by some of the Officer Cadets.

Overall, the weather and evolutions were great, and it was an excellent opportunity for the staff and Officer Cadets to witness and learn about Gibraltar’s heritage and the Royal Navy’s current role in defending it. URNU Birmingham would like to thank all the staff that facilitated the fantastic experience and the local guides who made the experience far better.



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Published 19/06/2024