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Black Diamonds


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#1 Jonathan Saunders

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 01:13 PM

Reading through a mid-war letter the other day I came across the expression "black diamonds" and have no idea what it can mean. Has anyone come across this term/slang?

The context was a sailor aboard a dreadnought that had come into port after patrol (home port was Scapa but I guess it could be anywhere on north-eastern coast or western seaboard depending on where they had been patrolling). I dont have the quote at hand but he writes something along the lines of "several black diamonds have arrived". My initial thoughts were is this a Divisional sign but then why would troops be so far north? Another was whether it related to Empire troops? Finally was it a nickname for some ordnance such as a particular shell? There are no other clues I am afraid.

Any suggestions gratefully received.

#2 HERITAGE PLUS

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 03:49 PM

Signals

The term Black Diamonds was used in relation to a particular type of very pure, high quality coal that sparkled. Over time this became a term used for coal in general. The Black Diamonds could therefore be coalers with fuel to fill the coal-holds, particularly as the ship in question had just return from patrol.

Dave

#3 Jonathan Saunders

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 10:30 PM

Many thanks Heritage Plus. He refers to about 900 Black Diamonds coming aboard, which seems excessive although admittedly there would have been huge coal dumps needed to fuel the boilers. I am sure this is what he must have meant.

Many thanks again.

#4 Myrtle

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Posted 19 November 2003 - 11:26 PM

Signals
I have heard coal being called black diamonds by South Wales miners. Probably comes from both coal and diamonds being carbon based.

#5 Michael

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 08:16 AM

Jon

This probably refers to 900 tons of coal.

Mick

#6 Jonathan Saunders

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Posted 20 November 2003 - 01:27 PM

Thanks chaps. Curiosity satisfied.

I also have a copy of a letter from his brother (7 Duke of Wellingtons) and he refers to some "dark ladies" when he was billeted somewhere in Northumbria. I think his language was more literal than his RN brother!