HMS Diamond Rock

At the South end of Martinique is a piece of Napoleonic history that , depending on your point of view might bring a patriotic tear to your eye or a feeling of disbelief at the folly of mankind . Martinique was held by the French , and the British fleet was based in Rodney Bay , St Lucia , just a few miles to the South . Some bright spark had the idea of landing some guns on a rocky island that commanded the southern approach to both Marin and Fort de France , and the naval garrison there was so effective in causing a nuisance , and probably a source of information on ship movements in the area, that it was regarded as a ship of the line : HMS Diamond Rock.

From martinique to the saints

It is only when you pass close by that you realise what an astonishing feat of naval engineering this must have been. There are no good landing places , and as far as I could see just scrambling to the top would have required considerable mountaineering skills. How a battery of 18th century cannon and assorted supplies were got up there beggars belief , but once ensconced , the sheer elevation would have made the guns wickedly effective and probably far too high to have been bothered by ship born artillery.
The French pilot book tells the story of how the rock was eventually retaken only after several boatloads of rum were “allowed” to wreck themselves at the foot of the island , but adds the rider that you won’t find this fact in any British history books! It is of course a truism that history is written by the winner – but as Martinique has remained French to this day , whilst all that is left of this magnificent folly are some poorly glimpsed ruins on the very top of the once more uninhabited rock it is likely that their version of events is probably true. Methinks some research into the logbooks of the period would make fascinating reading .

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