When the Tory MP accidentally invaded Spain with the Royal Marines

15 August 2013

4:20 PM

15 August 2013

4:20 PM

Tory MP John Whittingdale has found himself on the frontline of the row between Spain and the UK. Originally in Gibraltar to investigate gambling, the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is staying to talk to residents and report back on the conflict.

I hope he has a little more success at international diplomacy than one of his colleagues did when visiting The Rock in 2002. It was well reported at the time that a British Royal Marine training exercise went badly wrong, when in bad weather heavily armed marines stormed the wrong beach. As the Guardian reported at the time:

‘The platoon of some 30 marines stormed from a landing craft on to the San Felipe beach in the Spanish town of La Linea, carrying 60mm mortars and SA80 assault rifles, and took up defensive positions on the sand. Instead of being fired on with blank rounds by fellow British soldiers pretending to be the enemy, the marines found themselves being stared at by startled local fishermen. The enemy, when they appeared, turned out to be two blue-uniformed officers from La Linea’s municipal police force, who informed the detachment of marines that they were not, as they had thought, in Gibraltar. This, locals observed, was easily recognisable because it had a 1,398ft high rock sticking out of it.’

‘It was clearly an embarrassing and unfortunate incident’ said an MoD spokesman. ‘They made their apologies and left,’ yet what the MoD did not confirm at the time was that ‘they’ included a Tory MP taking part in the Parliamentary Armed Forces Scheme who had pestered to be allowed to do something more exciting than simple parading and polishing his boots and talked his way onto the doomed amphibious mission. Who knows what might happen if the same sort of incident happened with the current heightened tension.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • peter holland

    Do we have 30 Royal Marines left?

  • Nick

    So mistakes happen……;-)

    • Airey Belvoir

      When this was on the News Quiz (in the days when it was worth listening to) the late Alan Coren said that when the Marines stormed ashore, the German sunbathers on the beach were “falling back on Berlin.” He is much missed.

      • Rush_is_Right

        “the News Quiz (in the days when it was worth listening to)….”

        Before my time, I’m afraid.

      • mightymark

        Towels raised “hock” in surrender no doubt!