Well – not quite. Today, it may be a holiday oasis, but it may surprise you to know that it’s also played a part throughout historical international affairs. In fact, its surrounding seas have been a battleground at least twice! If you hear anyone talking about the great ‘battle’ during your time on the island, they might be referring not to one but to two clashes that occurred here.
The Battle of Menorca (1756)
During the Seven Years War, Menorca was the scene of the conflict’s first naval battle among European powers. The French moved to take Britain’s garrison on Menorca in May of 1756. By the time the British government had dispatched ships from Gibraltar to aid the garrison. French troops were already occupying the island, with the exception of St Philip’s Castle in the port of Mahon. On 20 May, twelve British ships faced off against twelve French ships. The more heavily-armed French contingent easily outmanoeuvred the British, forcing the latter to return to Gibraltar. The fall was a disastrous embarrassment for the British, even though they reclaimed the island with the Treaty of Paris at the close of the war.
The Battle of Menorca (1939)
The more recent battle took place during the Spanish Civil War. Menorca, the only Republican holdout among the Balearics, was blockaded by General Franco’s Nationalist navy. Once the Nationalists arrived on the island to occupy the base at Puerto Mahon, the Republicans scattered. The surrender of the island was negotiated aboard the Royal Navy cruiser HMS Devonshire with the help of the British government.
Over the centuries, our country oasis has proven to be much more important than its small size might indicate. The Mediterranean location that made the island such a strategic naval base in European wars today provides holidaymakers with sea, surf, and sun and no shortage of peace and quiet.