VIDEO: Land of My Birth – New Spin!

It wasn’t the first time that the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus Public Relations office had called to say they had someone from Gibraltar in their office and could I help! I’ve done research on UWI’s history and specifically on Gibraltar Camp where thousands of Gibraltarian evacuees, Jewish refugees and others found haven from displacement during World War 2.

This time, the visitors were Wilfred and Genevieve Balban. Wilfred’s mother, Mariquita was born in Jamaica after her mother, Catalina Mauro arrived pregnant in 1940. Two shiploads of Gibraltarians, around 1,800 people, most of them women and children, came to Jamaica under an agreement that saw the British fortress colony’s civilian population evacuated. Several thousand more were scheduled to come to the site, now within Mona, called Gibraltar Camp; however, they were sent first to England and then were trapped there by conditions of travel during wartime. Later, empty space in the Camp would be taken up by mainly Jewish refugees, and a far northern section would be turned into a family camp for civilian internees.

Wilfred said that being at Mona, even with the few wartime structures remaining, gave him goosebumps and that he knew his photos would make his mother cry. He has heard about his Jamaican connection since he was young and heard Jamaican music – LP records of which are a precious collection in his home. Listen in…

We still hope to capture some Gibraltar Camp mememtos for exhibition. Our collection does include two relevant artifacts – a plaque given to the university in 1978 in recollection of the Gibraltarian aspect of UWI heritage; and a British military helmet found by a lecturer, Dr Martin Aub, while walking through ruins of the Camp – which was briefly a colonial Jamaican military camp after the Gibraltarians left in 1944.

Suzanne Francis-Brown (PhD), UWI Museum Curator

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