St Vincent: Island Fortifications

A few weeks ago I posted a blog about the rather bizarre commission of HMS Diamond Rock, The Unsinkable ‘Stone Frigate’, as a fortification off the coast of Martinique. However, it seems that the propensity to occupy otherwise barren and hostile rocks in the Caribbean Sea for military purposes is not unique. A set of stamps issued in 1984 by St Vincent introduces us to another such outpost, Fort Duvernette.

Fort Duvernette, also known locally as Rock Fort, is understood to have originally been built by the French on Duvernette Islet (also known as Young’s Sugar Loaf), immediately to the south of Young Island which itself lies just off the south coast of St Vincent. Like Diamond Rock, Duvernette Islet is a volcanic plug of hard basalt that rises 60m out of the Caribbean Sea. It’s position on the windward side of St Vincent, protects the town of Calliaqua which at the time was the colonial hub of St Vincent.

France ceded the island of St Vincent to the British under the terms of the 1763 Treaty of Paris. Almost twenty years later the French launched an invasion of St Vincent at Calliaqua. Their English built ships were not flying French colours and many local residents assumed they were merchant ships. The British regained St Vincent under the 1783 Treaty of Versailles. Fort Duvernette became a strategic fortification for the British, protecting Calliaqua where sugar was loaded onto ships bound for English ports. The Fort eventually fell into disrepair as the British completed the building of neighbouring Fort Charlotte in 1806. This latter fortification was a more substantial redoubt accessed via viaduct and capable of supporting 600 troops and 34 guns.

St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette 35c stamp
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette 35c
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette 45c stamp
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette 45c
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette $1 stamp
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette $1
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette $3 stamp
St Vincent 1984 Fort Duvernette $3

The set of four stamps with denominations of 35c, 45c, $1 and $3 were issued in 1984 and feature scenes of the Fort and surrounding area. The 35c stamp features a scene of Duvernette Islet and the $3 stamp depicts a map of the Fort’s location relative to Young Island and the main island of St. Vincent (note that the map is rotated 90 degrees so that south appears to the left of the stamp). This was not the first time Fort Duvernette had featured on a stamp issue of St Vincent – an earlier 1d stamp of the 1938-1947 George VI definitive issue had featured a view overlooking Young Island with the basalt rock of Duvernette Islet clearly visible on the far left.

St Vincent 1938-1947 George VI 1d definitive stamp featuring Young Island and Duvernette Islet
St Vincent 1938-1947 George VI 1d definitive featuring Young Island and Duvernette Islet

Today, Fort Duvernette can only be accessed by boat. A spiral staircase of 225 steps that have been carved into the rock take you to the top where you can enjoy commanding views over Calliaqua Bay and Indian Bay. Two batteries of cannon remain that are marked as from the reign of George II and George III.

To view postal issues of the St Vincent, please visit the M&S Philately HipStamp store.

Published by nigelmandsphilatelycom

Nigel Matthews has been a philatelist for more than 30 years. He has a particular interest in the postal history of the Caribbean including associated British Commonwealth countries (incl. Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Monserrat, St Lucia, St Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos) as well as Cuba, Danish West Indies, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Martinique, Netherlands Antilles and Puerto Rico.

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