04 February 2007
Backwaters of history - Operation Tracer
Today’s Independent carries an interesting but unsurprising story about one of those little fragments that makes history interesting. During WWII a plan, known as Operation Tracer, was put in place to leave a surveillance team behind on Gibraltar should it ever have fallen to Axis forces. Comprising of six men it would effectively be buried alive in a bunker so they could continue to monitor enemy movements.
A retired doctor from Preston has been named as the chamber's last survivor. As a young navy doctor Bruce Cooper he was called in to see Surgeon-Commander Murray Levick (a fascinating man himself – Levick had accompanied Scott on his Antarctic missions) and was told that they were looking for a doctor "to do something special". He became part of a team that included his friend Arthur Milner, an executive officer "Windy Gale" and three seamen, who would function as radio operators.
The team was warned that they may have to be sealed inside an operation post for up to a year, although they were aware that it could be longer. Once in Gibraltar, they lived under cover for two and a half years with the prospect of being moved up to the operation post to be sealed inside. The Rock was never captured, the team was disbanded and its members resumed civilian life.
It is not surprising that this sort of plan would be put in place had Gibraltar been overrun and its existence is hardly new news. The Gibraltar Caving Group rediscovered the team's base (“Stay Behind” Cave) in 1997, while the Telegraph carried the basic story almost 10 years ago when documents were made available by the Public Record Office
According to the Telegraph report, the Gibraltar scheme was deemed to be so full of potential that similar Tracer operations were to be put in place at Colombo, Trincomalee, Malta and Aden.
Tracer was stood down in August 1943 and the chambers sealed.
Operation Tracer Gibraltar WWII