This week, our Travel pics series is F for Fort-de-France.
Today’s image is of Britain’s HMS Severn (P282) tied up alongside the French navy’s Germinal (F735), at Fort Saint Louis, the French naval base in Fort-de-France.
We took the picture in April 2015, as the Severn was on the final leg of her tour of duty in the Caribbean, before returning to the rather more chilly waters of the North Atlantic.
Today, of course, Britain and France are allies – but for hundreds of years, if a British patrol ship and a French frigate had been sighted together in the waters of Martinique, chances are there would have been gunfire, and fighting, and bad blood all around.
The naval base has been in Martinique virtually as long as European settlement – construction began just three years after the “Compagnie des Îles de l’Amérique” established a colony in Martinique.
It’s seen a fair amount of action – in 1674 against the Dutch, and then in the 18th century against the British.
In fact, the base (and much of Martinique) changed hands between Britain and France a number of times between 1759 and 1815 – because both nations wanted to control the Caribbean with its tropical riches and because the region became a surrogate for the larger rivalries being played out in Paris and London.
Today, the naval base is much more placid, and the greater Fort Saint Louis area is open to tourists – and to naturalists who study a small colony of Green Iguana, an imported species that has thrived since making landfall generations ago.