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A beach too far: British marines invade Spain by mistake

A beach too far: British marines invade Spain by mistake

By Kim Sengupta
19 February 2002

After its military successes in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and
Afghanistan, Britain tried on Sunday to end the continuing row
over Gibraltar by invading Spain.
That, at least, is what it may have looked like to the inhabitants
of the Spanish town of La Linea de la Concepcion when they saw
waves of Royal Marines hit the beach wielding mortar launchers and
SA80 assault rifles. Sunbathers sat up startled, fishermen gawped
and children ran to their mothers as the men of 45 Commando took
up battle stations. It was then that they were approached by a
policeman asking: "Excuse me, Inglese, but which country do you
think you are in?"

Having realised they were not in Gibraltar, the marines packed up
their weapons and climbed back into their landing craft, muttering
apologies, to go further south.

The marines, based at Condor Barracks, near Arbroath in Scotland,
were taking part in an exercise while sailing to the Gulf on the
helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean. The wrong landing, a corporal
pointed out, was due to "one of the most dangerous things in the
world – an officer with a map".

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We were not trying to take
Spain and have no plans to do so.

"There is much embarrassment, the error is regretted and lessons
have been learnt. Anyway they spent only about five minutes on the
beach before being told they were in the wrong country."

The Spaniards were charitable about what happened. David Iria, a
policeman, said the mistake was understandable as "it is difficult
know exactly where you are on this coastline". The mayor of La
Linea, Juan Carlos Juarez, hoped the British would not make a
habit of arriving in that fashion.



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