HMS Fort Diamond


As we’ve noted before, one of the advantages of writing fiction set during the Age of Sail is that the real events are often so much more exciting than any mere novelist could conceive of.

Take for instance the case of HMS The Fort Diamond (pictured above), probably the only geographical feature to ever be classified as a warship, which directly (in the case of Dudley Pope’s Lord Ramage novel, Ramage’s Diamond) and indirectly (C. S. Forrester’s Horatio Hornblower novel Lieutenant Hornblower) makes an appearance in nautical fiction.

The real story is more amazing.

Whenever France and Britain were at war, Martinique was a hotbed of privateer activity. Britain took Martinique in 1794, held it until the Peace of Amiens when it was returned and seized it yet again in 1809 and held it until it was returned to France under the Treaty of Vienna in 1815.

In 1805, the British squadron under Admiral Sir Samuel Hood maintained a blockade of Port Royal, Martinique to protect British and allied shipping in the Caribbean. One of the ships assigned to this thankless and potentially deadly mission was the 74-gun Centaur under the command of the redoubtable Captain Murray Maxwell. Now a quick perusal of his biography would identify him as an officer in the mold of Nelson and Cochrane (and Jack Aubrey and Nicholas Ramage, etc.).

To overcome the difficulties of accomplishing his mission while contending with the vagaries of wind, tide, and currents Maxwell conceived of the notion of fortifying Diamond Rock and using it to command the sea lane into Port Royal. In a marvelous feat of seamanship, Maxwell swayed three 24-pounder guns (about 6000 pounds each) and two 18-pounders (about 4700 pounds each) from Centaur up to the summit of the 574-foot rock and garrisoned it with 120 men. (As an aside here, Wikipedia gives the garrison as 20 men which would be impossibly small to serve and support 5 guns).

From their perch on HMS Fort Diamond they played hell with French shipping. The French were not happy. HMS Fort Diamond had an armed sloop assigned as a tender. In July 1804, French rowboats caught the crew mostly asleep and cut the sloop out leaving her unfortunate commander beached for life.

But all good things must come to an end.

On June 3, 1805 HMS Fort Diamond was the target of a concerted attack by a French flotilla including two 74-gun ships. The fort could not be resupplied and unfortunately its cistern had cracked in an earth tremor. Low on food and water it surrendered.


Filed under Age of Sail, Famous Ships, Geography, Naval Operations, Naval Operations Ashore, The Rest of the Story

2 responses to “HMS Fort Diamond

  1. Pingback: HMS Glatton Takes On All Comers « Age Of Sail

  2. Pingback: The Flight of Captain Essington « Age Of Sail

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