Mr Eggleston, publisher, author and passionate navigator, took an interest in naval operations that swept over the Caribbeans during the Revolution and the Napoleon wars. Out of pure passion, he wrote a beautiful book, « ROCK DIAMOND, HIS MAJESTY’S WAR SLOOP », with Vivian Stuart’s help as co-author.
The Martinique island, just at the north of the Saint Lucie island, was the main French base in the West Indies and Fort de France was its main harbour.
“Due to the prevailing current coming from the North”, both authors write, “and sheltered from the wind by mountains about twenty miles along the west coast, goods convoys from the Atlantic have restlessly been approaching Fort Royal from the South.”
Near the southern headland of Martinique, at one mile at large, a 600-feet high rocky peak, “looms over the sea like a gigantic fang“. British seamen called it “the Diamond Rock … Because, when the sun beats its surface, all encrusted with salt, from a given angle, the whole scene shines like a beautiful gemstone with, as a backcloth, the blue tint of both sky and sea”. When closely examined, however, it “seemed like the most extraordinary and most desolate place on earth”.
The story begins around the end of 1803. Won with great difficulty, the return to peace, that followed the Amiens treaty in 1802, collapsed again and gave way to a war between England and France. Samuel Hood’s mission, commodore in command in the West Indies, was to cover hundreds of square meters of sea and islands with his small squadron ; but he could spare the boats required for the Martinique blockade. Hence the idea to convert the Diamond Rock in blockade.
Samuel HOOD explained this idea to his officers but only one of them, called Lieutenant James WILKES MAURICE, approved it as he genuinely believed in this venture. As a middle-size man and mountaineering amateur, climbing the rock was for him a real challenge ! Accompanied by John TAYLOR, Captain of the HMS CENTAUR, under the disguise of a fisherman, he came several times on the rock to find a suitable location, study the underground and establish a marine chart.
MAURICE observed the cliffs of the Rock in order to set the appropriate location of the batteries. The landing place was appointed on the North-West side of the Rock. From here, the decision was made.
On the third day of February 1804, on the 40th year of reign of her majesty King Georges III, the Rock officially entered the service of the King of England. From then on, it was called :
« ROCK DIAMOND, HIS MAJESTY’S WAR SLOOP »