British Military History In St Lucia

Tapion

Clanker
My wife and I recently moved to St Lucia in the West Indies. Near our home is a British fort with a variety of coastal artillery pieces. They are pre-1874 given the VR vice VRI markings and appear to be 10.5" smooth bore guns.

The island exchanged hands some 14 times betwen the British and French. However, other than some brief historical accounts online, I can't seem to find out much about any of the forts. The one nearest us, in Tapion, was apparently abandoned by the British Garrison in 1979 when independence was declared.

I'm just wondering if anyone knows which regiments served here and if there are any resources I should seek out other than the Imperial War Museum? Thank you very much in advance and have an outstanding day!
 
J

JWBenett

Guest
My wife and I recently moved to St Lucia in the West Indies. Near our home is a British fort with a variety of coastal artillery pieces. They are pre-1874 given the VR vice VRI markings and appear to be 10.5" smooth bore guns.

The island exchanged hands some 14 times betwen the British and French. However, other than some brief historical accounts online, I can't seem to find out much about any of the forts. The one nearest us, in Tapion, was apparently abandoned by the British Garrison in 1979 when independence was declared.

I'm just wondering if anyone knows which regiments served here and if there are any resources I should seek out other than the Imperial War Museum? Thank you very much in advance and have an outstanding day!
Do you know the forts/barracks names? Was one of them "Vigie Fort"? If the artillery is pre-1874/Victorian and the Brits pulled out in 1979: I'm sure you'll appreciate that's over 100 years of history :) Pretty tall order to identify all the units stationed there, unless somebody's listed all the forts and regiments. :thumbdown:

Perhaps start with the Victorian army/pre Indian Mutiny, and move forward. The "distribution of the British Army" in 1840 or something, might be a good start. Records, archives, (free) archived books and regimental histories are excellent documents, and published online in some cases.
Regards
 
J

JWBenett

Guest
The 5th Regiment of Foot/Fusiliers, could be one regiment to start you off. The Northumberland Fusiliers (actually 5th Regiment of Foot) won the hackle at the battle of St Lucia/Grand Cul de Sac, as marines during the Anglo-French War in December 1778 (source). Major General James Grant ordered Brigadier General William Medows to land with a force of 1400 at Grand Cul-de-Sac/Battle of St Lucia. Troops came from several regiments, Grenadiers and Light Infantry, and the 5th Foot. "400 French soldiers were killed and 1,100 wounded ; 10 British killed and 130 wounded" (rough estimates).

St Lucia forts include Fort Rodney on Pigeon Island (with British cannons), Vieux Fort, and Vigie Barracks built by the French around 1784 (derelict). There may be more, but you might ping the British occupying forces 18th-19th C. Googling will only get you Trip Advisor and Wikipedia; history books (The Rough Guide to St Lucia By Karl Luntta) and regtl histories are the best if you're that keen. In 1778, Admiral First Baron George Rodney took over Pigeon Island - kicked out the natives and built Fort Rodney. Rodney ordered all trees on Pigeon Island to be cut down and from Signal Hill he was able to watch the French naval base on Martinique. Another Pigeon Island fort was built in 1824 (same time as the Burma war) and it's also been a whaling station. I reckon your cannons are George IV vintage.

The British built several structures on Pigeon Island, two barracks and a mess hall, and a lime kiln.



fixedw_large_4x.jpg


After the French abandoned St Lucia, the 5th took the white plumes from the French headdress; "this was the reason for the red and white hackle". The 5th were in the West Indies for 2 years and then moved to Ireland up til 1783. In 1782, Admiral Rodney fought the French fleet which was defeated in the Battle of Saintes (April 12, 1782), in the American Revolution, a major British naval victory in the West Indies. The 5th Foot became The 5th (Northumberland) Regiment of Foot in 1778 (County re-organisations) thanks to their Colonel, the 1st Duke of Northumberland. They then fought in the Peninsular Wars. In 1836 on St George's Day, the 5th Northumbrians became Fusiliers.

The 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot served in the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Anglo-Afghan War 1878-1880.
Royal Northumberland Fusiliers | Famous Units | Research | National Army Museum, London

That's all before you get to the Caribbean Islands in WW1 and the British West Indies Regiment recruited from Saint Lucia, or WW2.
 

Tapion

Clanker
No, we're Canadian, both retired from the army. My wife served 20 years and deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 and I served 25 years, deploying to the first Gulf War, Bosnia in 2002 and CFS Alert in 1993. We just got tired of the -40C winters in Edmonton, Alberta and moved to St Lucia for warmer temps. Now, we are semi-retired and run a little guest house here.
 

Tapion

Clanker
Hi JWBenett and thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately, I've no idea of any of the names of the various forts here and the locals don't seem to know or really care. We are in Tapion, across Castries harbour from Vigie. I'm not aware of any forts in Vigie, but we haven't really explored there yet, but it would certainly make sense for at least gun emplacements to have been there. I will check around there next we visit Vigie.

Where we are, there is a substantial fort as well as several emplacements guarding the entrance to the harbour. A gun that is still there, it appears as it was mounted as a monument in the latter part of the life of the fort.

I suppose folks tend to focus on the battles and such here, although even then there isn't much info. However, I'm more interested in the timeframe of 1945-1979 or whenever the fort was vacated by the garrison. But, again, thanks for the tips and I will certainly keep plugging away!
 
No, we're Canadian, both retired from the army. My wife served 20 years and deployed to Afghanistan in 2004 and I served 25 years, deploying to the first Gulf War, Bosnia in 2002 and CFS Alert in 1993. We just got tired of the -40C winters in Edmonton, Alberta and moved to St Lucia for warmer temps. Now, we are semi-retired and run a little guest house here.
Shouldn't you have moved to Phoenix Az, like the rest of your countrymen?
 

Tapion

Clanker
To both Retd_Crab and JWBenett: Thank you both so much! You've given me loads of information to go over and I truly appreciate it! This is a wealth of info and it will certainly take me some time to go through it all, but it will help me explain the history of St Lucia (to those interested) in much better detail and context than I've found anywhere else. If you're ever out this way, let me know, the first round is most definitely on me!
 

Tapion

Clanker
Lol! Well, I do know a few folks that moved down there and there are some good real estate deals. But, for us, St Lucia is a better fit. Besides, the wife wanted a business, so we bought a place where we can run a guest house and have a bit of income from that. All-in-all, it's a good place, albeit it isn't everyones cup of tea.
 

Tapion

Clanker
J

JWBenett

Guest
Hi JWBenett and thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately, I've no idea of any of the names of the various forts here and the locals don't seem to know or really care. We are in Tapion, across Castries harbour from Vigie. I'm not aware of any forts in Vigie, but we haven't really explored there yet, but it would certainly make sense for at least gun emplacements to have been there. I will check around there next we visit Vigie.

Where we are, there is a substantial fort as well as several emplacements guarding the entrance to the harbour. A gun that is still there, it appears as it was mounted as a monument in the latter part of the life of the fort.

I suppose folks tend to focus on the battles and such here, although even then there isn't much info. However, I'm more interested in the timeframe of 1945-1979 or whenever the fort was vacated by the garrison. But, again, thanks for the tips and I will certainly keep plugging away!

No worries, and shame; cracking battles and v. interesting French and British colonial history you've got there. Your Garrison cannons might even be Walker's (Wco), they're the right length for George III/George IV garrisons, maybe from the AWOI/ARW 1770's and made in Rotherham or Stafford. Walkers have been found around the West Indies and other British Empire sites. We'd know by the cyphers.

You're only a few miles from Pigeon Island, which was once "salubrious" in the 19thC before it was ravaged by the good old Saint Lucia yellow fever. In 1844, when Queen Victoria was on her fourth sprog, "Pigeon Island barracks could hold about 100 men". This is how one Henry H. Breen saw Saint Lucia and its history in 1844: free book. Fortunately or unfortunately, colonial and Victorian chroniclers were a damn sight more meticulous and helpful to us now.

You lucky bugger.
 

U Boat

Old-Salt
Had a great holiday in St Lucia a few years ago and stayed at the Jalousie Plantation. Like all Caribbean islands you need to be careful. Slight run in with an alcoholic in Soufrierre but phenomenal diving. Very jealous!

Sent from my SM-G925F using Tapatalk
 

Tapion

Clanker
No worries, and shame; cracking battles and v. interesting French and British colonial history you've got there. Your Garrison cannons might even be Walker's (Wco), they're the right length for George III/George IV garrisons, maybe from the AWOI/ARW 1770's and made in Rotherham or Stafford. Walkers have been found around the West Indies and other British Empire sites. We'd know by the cyphers.

You're only a few miles from Pigeon Island, which was once "salubrious" in the 19thC before it was ravaged by the good old Saint Lucia yellow fever. In 1844, when Queen Victoria was on her fourth sprog, "Pigeon Island barracks could hold about 100 men". This is how one Henry H. Breen saw Saint Lucia and its history in 1844: free book. Fortunately or unfortunately, colonial and Victorian chroniclers were a damn sight more meticulous and helpful to us now.

You lucky bugger.

That's a great link, thanks very much. One of the projects I want to undertake is to photograph/video various parts of the island. Obviously any visitors we have would want to know about the beaches, bars, shopping, etc, however I know there are folks that are interested in the historical/cultural side of places, too. On our website, my intent is to have a tab for each category and I have already started collecting shots of the various artillery pieces. Quite a few seem to be in or very near to their original placements and others, like the one near us, seems to have been moved and placed as a monument. Every time I see them, I marvel at the effort it must have taken to get such monstrous guns up the various mountains and the skill of the gunners that placed them and the revetments and embankments protecting them. Clearly, there was some serious engineering that went into the design, layout, siting and construction of these gunpits and magazines. If I can scale some photos to fit on here, I'll post a few with descriptions. And again, thank you so very much!
 
J

JWBenett

Guest
That's a great link, thanks very much. One of the projects I want to undertake is to photograph/video various parts of the island. Obviously any visitors we have would want to know about the beaches, bars, shopping, etc, however I know there are folks that are interested in the historical/cultural side of places, too. On our website, my intent is to have a tab for each category and I have already started collecting shots of the various artillery pieces. Quite a few seem to be in or very near to their original placements and others, like the one near us, seems to have been moved and placed as a monument. Every time I see them, I marvel at the effort it must have taken to get such monstrous guns up the various mountains and the skill of the gunners that placed them and the revetments and embankments protecting them. Clearly, there was some serious engineering that went into the design, layout, siting and construction of these gunpits and magazines. If I can scale some photos to fit on here, I'll post a few with descriptions. And again, thank you so very much!
Your coastal fortifications, forts and artillery monuments must be some of the oldest still surviving. Even Beacon Hill doesn't have that detail; hoping they are protected? :)

Edit: Much of the heritage seems to be "vested" in the Saint Lucia National Trust. Saint Lucia National Trust looks a decent site, and Pigeon Island.
 
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AlienFTM

MIA
Book Reviewer
Yesterday afternoon I caught the tail end of Flog It! before Pointless. Woman brought in a carved coconut she'd been given some years earlier by an old woman patient.

It was clearly marked St Lucia 1793 (David? ) Stewart Xth Band and stuff. The experts were confident that it was a regimental band and genuine. Sold for £550, above everybody's top estimate.

I think it was assumed to be 10th Foot, but I believe it could just as easily have been 10th Light Dragoons. Mallinson's histories (Making of the Light Dragoons, Making of the British Army) tell of cavalry going to the Caribbean, including St Lucia, and suffering badly from Malaria, Yellow Fever, etc).
 
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arfah

ADC
Maybe write a nice letter of enquiry to these guys?

British High Commission
Francis Compton Building
2nd Floor
PO Box 227
Waterfront
Castries
St Lucia

Try not to mention how evil the British are and be sure to say, "please."

Failing that, local municipal government
or a national historical society?

e.g. Saint Lucia National Trust
 

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