Andrew James John Mackenzie
an historiography
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The 2002 British ‘Invasion’ of Spain



One of the more unfortunate and embarrassing military moments of the British Special Forces was the incident that occurred In 2002. During an amphibious training mission, a unit of 30 British Marines transiting in a landing craft from HMS Ocean, armed in full combat gear and equipment, raided an apparently deserted beach – a beach adjoining the Spanish town of La Linea. Not the intended beach on Gibraltar. Thus prompting an apparent sea invasion of Spain.

Situated between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar is of huge military importance to the United Kingdom. It is one of the reasons, therefore, why they are so hotly contested. Gibraltar originally came under British control in 1704, following an Anglo-Dutch invasion. Subsequently, the 1716 Treaty of Utrecht confirmed Britain’s dominance. Sixty-three years later, a Spanish attempt to reclaim the territory by siege failed and Gibraltar was finally declared a British colony in 1830. General Franco, the Spanish Dictator, made a further attempt to claim Gibraltar during the 1950s. Even as recently as 2002, Spain proposed for shared sovereignty between themselves and the UK. For that reason, relations between Spain and Britain have been frayed in times past.

Relations had the potential to fragment still further, however. O
n 16 February 2002, armed with 60mm mortars and assault rifles, the royal marines charged up the Spanish beach and proceeded to take up defensive situations in the sand, much to the surprise and alarm of local fishermen.

Whilst executing a military mission, it had transpired that the Marines had landed on the wrong beach, missing Gibraltar by a few hundred yards. Although highly embarrassing, no unfortunate incidents occurred; all because of negligent orientation. According to the British Ministry of Defence, they commented that it was an incident it would “rather not have taken place”. Their statement went as follows:


“Two landing craft from HMS Ocean accidentally entered Spanish territorial waters and in bad weather one 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.“


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