FORMER Chief Minister Joe Bossano believes the number of Second World War evacuees who returned to live on the Rock is a key factor in proving that Gibraltarians are a race.
Of the 600 people still alive – from the thousands of women and children who were sent abroad – an incredible 500 live in Gibraltar.
“This is where our tribe lives,” he told the Olive Press during National Day. “And the fact that they all came back to live here is clear proof of our identity.”
Singled out as a figurehead of the ‘evacuation generation’ during Fabian Picardo’s keynote National Day speech, Bossano, 76, had been sent with his mother to live in Morocco for months before ending up in the UK.
In a complex operation, some 10,000 women and children were sent away for their safety and to make way for billeted troops, as the Nazis invaded Europe, in 1940.
The 75th anniversary of the ‘great evacuation’ was the main thrust of the National Day celebrations this year.
“It is great that we have finally done it, even though it is late and there are a few people we have not been able to track down,” added Bossano, who led the GSLP party for 38 years.
“Certainly the Gibraltarians get around. When I was in Tokyo opening a Japanese office a few years ago we found three. One was living in a Buddhist monastery, one worked on the stock exchange and the last was teaching jujitsu,” he quipped.
Having carried out a profound research and published a book on the subject of evacuation of the Gibraltar civilian population during World War Two I feel that I have to mention that 16,500 civilians out of a total population were evacuated and 14,000 returned to Gibraltar after the war. The first evacuation was to French Morocco but when France capitulated and the bulk of the French fleet was destroyed at Mers-el-Kebir the 13,000 who had already been evacuated were expelled within 24 hours. From then the British Government had to evacuated 13,000 civilian to London, 2,000 to Madeira and 1,500 to Jamaica. Owing to the flying bombs in 1944 about 7,000 evacuees were sent to Northern Ireland where many had to wait more than four years after the war to return to Gibraltar.