For most post-World War II Navymen of the Sixth Fleet, the image of Gibraltar probably is comprised of equal parts of gun-gallery tours and Rock ape photography, bargains in English shoes and tweeds, and a crowded multitude of Indian souvenir shops along the steep slopes. Still, for some military observers, the Rock remains a significant factor in the geo-strategy of the Mediterranean—certainly it continues to be a bone of contention between the British tenancy and the Spanish government next door.
The strategic importance of Gibraltar during the two centuries ending about 1945 can hardly be overestimated. These were the years of seapower in its greatest relative strength. They came after worldwide navigation was reasonably precise and year-around operation of men-of-war was normal for nautical nations.
During most of the 18th and all of the 19th centuries, Britain’s possession of the Rock cut the navies of both France and Spain in half. Later, Gibraltar did about the same thing to the Central Powers of 1914-1918 and to the Axis in 1939-1945. The rise and ultimate world dominance of the Royal Navy coincided with British tenure on Gibraltar.