SCRUFFY: A DIVERSION

Reviewed by: BILL EVERSHED

Yes, it’s Gibraltar again. Think Gibraltar? Think The Rock. Think Apes. NR members may remember our Book Review Editor kindly publishing my fairly recent review of Defending the Rock, Scruffy tells the same story but set as a novel and in the author’s talented and inimitable style. Remember his Snow Goose? So it is not a new book but why should the NR not carry reviews of venerable books still of interest to members who enjoy a really good read?

The gist of the story hinges upon Churchill’s concern for morale in Gib during WW2 when the number of apes fell perilously low and Nazi propaganda seized upon this to strengthen the myth that if the apes left Gib so would the British.

They were known to the sailors of Nelson’s Navy and to every generation since. There cannot be anyone from HM Forces who has served in Gib who has not visited them and, if by car, not taken care to safeguard wing mirrors, wiper blades and radio aerials. Today’s tourists and cruise line passengers are an unsuspecting prime sourced target for watches, cameras, necklaces and glasses. The Gibraltarians are only too well aware of the apes’ occasional depredatory raids into the Town. All this rekindles the WW2 scene for Scruffy but you can’t help liking him!

Of course, they are not actually apes at all: They are macaques, tailless monkeys, so very much like us. And for many years were the responsibility of the Gibraltar Garrison from whose number a senior NCO was appointed as Oi/c Apes. This too sets the background for Scruffy.

My usual page 59 test introduces a Nazi spy!

My final appointment in the RN was in Gib: not much more than 6 months of unchallenging RDP!  I failed: Not in my duty but in a self-appointed task. I could so easily have arranged for a commemorative plaque to have been cast and installed on the Upper Rock but to my shame and chagrin I failed in this. Perhaps one of my successors in Gib, sailor, pongo or crab, has since rectified my omission. I certainly hope that such a commemoration now exists. And readers of Scruffy will know the wording.

So yes, it’s Gibraltar again. Think Gibraltar? Think The Rock. Think Apes.