The Government intends to present the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour posthumously to Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE CVO (1883-1963).
This is in recognition of the role that he played during the Second World War, when he was Commodore Creighton, in support of the people of Gibraltar who were evacuated to French Morocco. 2020 was the 80th anniversary of that wartime evacuation.
It will be recalled that during May and June 1940 the mass evacuation of over 13,000 women, children, elderly and infirm Gibraltarians to French Morocco took place. However, their position there became untenable following the collapse of France in July and the sinking of the French fleet in Algeria by the Royal Navy in order to prevent the vessels from falling into enemy hands. The French authorities retaliated with air raids against Gibraltar and by forcing its civilian population out of French Morocco.
At that time, Commodore Creighton was in command of a convoy of 15 freighters that disembarked 15,000 French troops in Casablanca after the fall of France. Given the condition of the vessels, Commodore Creighton first resisted the demands of the French Admiral at Casablanca to immediately board the Gibraltarians arguing that the ships needed to be prepared to accommodate thousands of civilians, many of whom were elderly. The Vichy Admiral refused the request and threatened to arrest the Commodore and the entire convoy unless the evacuees boarded the vessels and left. Eventually, the evacuees were herded on board at gunpoint without allowing time for the vessels to be properly cleaned and victualled and the Commodore was ordered by his superiors to set sail for the United Kingdom.
Given the very poor conditions in the freighters, Commodore Creighton defied those orders and set sail for Gibraltar instead, insisting to his superiors that the ships had to be properly refurbished for the transport of thousands of civilians. This action angered his superiors in London and Gibraltar but eventually the evacuees were allowed to disembark and return to their homes while the necessary refurbishment took place.
The Commodore assisted the people of Gibraltar by resisting the French and then defying his own superiors. The Government says it believes that his support for the people of Gibraltar should be commemorated in two ways. First, the Government will propose to the Gibraltar Parliament the award of the Gibraltar Medallion of Honour posthumously and secondly a plaque to mark his actions will be placed at the Evacuation Memorial in the Waterport roundabout. The plaque will read: “In gratitude – Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE CVO (1883-1963) who in July 1940 assisted the people of Gibraltar in their hour of need”.
Gibraltar House in London has already been in touch with close family members of Rear Admiral Creighton, who have been located in Australia. They were delighted to hear the news and will be kept informed of developments going forward.
The Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said: “The Government is delighted to honour the memory of Rear Admiral Creighton. His vivid description of the incident with Gibraltarian evacuees in Casablanca can be read in his autobiography “Convoy Commodore”. He stood up for and sympathised with the plight of the people of Gibraltar to the degree that he had to be threatened with arrest by the French and he had no hesitation in defying orders when he judged that following them would have put our people at risk. It takes a brave man to stand up to authority in this way and there is no better time to mark his courageous actions for the benefit of our people. The original intention had been to place the plaque at the evacuation monument last year, on the 80tth anniversary of the year in which the events took place. Sadly, this was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and other matters so I will present the commemorative plaque shortly. The Government is confident that the placing of the plaque and the posthumous award of a Medallion of Honour will provide Sir Kenelm Creighton with the recognition that his actions deserve.”