Gibraltar, is an area at the north-west end of the Rock of Gibraltar. A low sandy area attaches it to mainland of Spain. Captured from the Spanish by Admiral Sir George Rooke in 1704 Gibraltar was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). The Spanish attempted to occupy Gibraltar in 1727, 1739 and 1779. By the 19th century Gibraltar had become Britain's principal dockyard and naval base in the western Mediterranean. Spanish demands for the return of Gibraltar were resumed by General Francisco Franco in 1939.
During the Second World War Gibraltar became an important British naval base as it guarded the narrow entrance to the Western Mediterranean from the Atlantic Ocean. As a result it was frequently bombed by the Luftwaffe. It was also attacked by the airforce of the Vichy regime in reprisal for the British attacks on the French fleet in July 1940.
The Allies were aware that Gibraltar could not be defended against an attack from Spain. However, Francisco Franco did not join the Axis powers and the invasion never materialized. After the surrender of Italy in September 1943, the base was never seriously threatened.
Spain has constantly argued that Gibraltar belongs to them. In 1967 a referendum was held and the Gibraltarians chose British rule by 12,138 votes to 44.