Coptic Cave is a sea cave, similar to others located within the Gorham's Cave complex. This site, like many other sea caves has a wide entrance narrowing down into a small chamber.
It was named ‘Coptic Cave’ after a pottery lamp, believed at the time to have been of Coptic manufacture was found in 1937 by Mr A. C Greenwood. This piece has now been studied further and has been confirmed to have not been Coptic at all but in fact late Roman from the late 5th - early 6th C AD (~450-~520 AD) brought to Gibraltar probably by the Byzantines or the Vandals.
The Cave is 7.3 meters wide at the entrance and is 14.8 meters deep. The caves maximum height is 8 meters.
Thecave was used in the Second World War and has been fitted with a red brick wall covering the entrance completely and access is now through a small door fitted on the extreme left hand corner. The interior has wooden beams and corrugated sheets lying on the floor from a ceiling which has now collapsed.
At the back of the cave, 11.5 m from the entrance in the main hall of the cave, there is a shaft which has been carved into the rock and descends vertically from the road above. This shaft was also built during the Second World War as an escape route and for transport of materials in and out of the site. Some fragments of the wooden ladder which was used, is also now found deteriorating on the cave floor.
During the Second World War, a project called Operation Tracer was planned which would have involved leaving soldiers hiding within Gibraltar's tunnels in the event of Nazi forces having succeeded in taking Gibraltar. For a long time, Operation Tracer remained a rumour and being classified Top Secret it was never confirmed. It was only after the discovery of what we now call ‘Stay Behind Cave’ that we know of its existence, but this is another story.
However, since the British were well aware of many spies being in the area during the war, it was decided to work on a decoy project which would divert attention from the real project. This was called ‘Operation Monkey’ and two sites were selected for this very purpose. One was at the time called ‘Operation Monkey Cave’ which we now know to have been Beefsteak Cave and the other, more important site, was indeed Coptic Cave.
In more recent times, Coptic Cave was visited, surveyed and partly excavated by Mr George Palao and his team between the 28th of January and the 11th of February 1967.