HMS Valiant had been assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, a favorite port of call would have been Gibraltar – a port with many entertainments for sailors.
British sailors taking shore leave on Gibraltar visit the Suiza Bar to watch a Spanish dancer perform. (I must say that the bovine dancer doesn’t look too appealing.) Photo taken by famed British photographer Bert Hardy.
“Gib” was a major anchorage for the Royal Navy and the red light district was known as “the Gut.” Many a British sailor lost his virginity in the Gut, often receiving a dose of the clap in return. This was a punishable offence in the Royal Navy. (Not screwing. Getting VD)
After being on the winning side in the 1704 War of the Spanish Succession, Gibraltar was ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. While a self-governing overseas territory, Gibraltar is still a possession of the British Crown. While there is a local elected body, the Governor of the territory is British and the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II. There are only 30,000 residents and in several referendums in the last fifteen years the population has voted 99% in favor of remaining under the British Crown and not being ceded to Spain.
The strategic importance of Gibraltar is way out of proportion to its small size. The magnificent photograph above shows why Gibraltar is such a key strategic point. In the photo, Gibraltar is on the left.
Gibraltar controls the narrow mouth of the Mediterranean and the British can easily choke off merchant traffic or the passage of warships into or out of the Mediterranean from Gibraltar which they have done during various wars, the most recent being World War Two. The beautiful photo above shows how narrow the Straits are.
Hitler desperately wanted Franco to attack Gibraltar and Franco said he would as long as the German gave him a few things he required and delivered them before he joined the Nazi side. The list of items was so long – including re-equipping most of the Spanish Army, Air force, and Navy, gold, huge stockpiles of food and fuel oil – it was impossible to for the Germans to fulfill as Franco knew. Nonetheless, Franco did not want the Allies to win World War Two.
He sent a division of 50,000 men to fight with the Germans in the Soviet Union. Known as the Spanish Blue Division, it was decimated over time and in 1944 under intense diplomatic pressure from the Allies, he withdrew the division. Only half of the men had survived. Franco also allowed the German state airline, Lufthansa, to continue their air service from Barcelona to Stuttgart throughout the war.
[Source: Government of Gibraltar.