GIBRALTAR ROW: 'Sir we've just invaded Spain - but we don't think they've noticed'

A former First Sea Lord has spoken out about an embarrassing blunder which led to Royal Marines invading a Spanish beach by accident.

Tuesday, 4th April 2017, 12:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:50 pm
Gibraltar has been named as part of the UK's Brexit negotiations.
Gibraltar has been named as part of the UK's Brexit negotiations.

Lord West said the marines were taking part in a training exercise in 2002, which involved charging onto a beach in Gibraltar.

But after a geographical mistake, the team actually ended up on land across the border, leading to a fairly hasty retreat.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 this morning Lord West, who was First Sea Lord at the time but not directly involved in managing the operation, revealed how he received a call from a military commander.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lord West of Spithead

He said: ‘It wasn’t one of the best days in my time. The commander said “Sir, I’m afraid something awful has happened.

‘I thought “Goodness me what?” and he said “I’m afraid we have invaded Spain, but we don’t think they noticed.’

The commander told Lord West the marines had been doing a landing exercise on a beach in Gibraltar - a British territory - but had lost their bearings and ended up across the border.

They only discovered their mistake when a fisherman stopped them and asked what they were doing.

Lord West of Spithead

The team quickly returned to their boat, but not before bemused locals captured the hilarious scene on video.

Lord West, who was speaking about Gibraltar’s role in Brexit negotiations, said he would have hoped the marines would know their way onto the beach but admitted the layout of the land did make it ‘complicated’.

He said: ‘We have had good links with the Spanish military and I talked to them, and they understood as people make cock-ups.

‘The Spanish government did not make something out of it, I’m afraid historically they have occasionally stirred things up and made trouble over Gibraltar.’

The interview also surrounded former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard’s claims that Britain could go to war with Spain, after it was suggested Gibraltar could form part of Brexit negotiations.

Speaking about the comments, Lord West said he felt the former MP had not been ‘wise’ but was ‘very disappointed’ that Gibraltar had been named in relation to the talks.