Spanish object to Royal Navy firing at NATO flag 'one' in Gibraltar
(spot the difference…)
All the best dipolomatic incidents begin with a minor mix-up. True to form, last week a Royal Navy vessel sparked a minor row after appearing to use the Spanish flag as a machine-gun target.
The crew of the fast patrol vessel HMS Scimitar, patrolling off the coast of Gibraltar last week fired at a red and yellow flag fixed to a buoy. After the exercise was witnessed by a Spanish police launch, Giles Paxman, the UK’s new ambassador in Madrid, was summoned to the Spanish foreign ministry.
Officials said he had conceded there had been an error of judgment, but the ambassador denied the crew of Scimitar had been insulting Spain’s flag, insisting the sailors had actually been firing at Nato’s maritime flag for the number ‘one’, which shares the same distinctive colours.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Portsmouth News: ‘Flag No 1 is traditionally used on gunnery targets due to its high visibility. However, we recognise its similarity to the Spanish national flag and will use an alternative marker during gunnery practice in this area in the future.’
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