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.
Location:Hanham, South Gloucestershire (nr. Bristol)
Interests:British Military History in general but mainly the period 1837-1919.
Irish Military History mainly 1798, 1916 and 1919-23.
Military & Brass Bands - Music and Instruments
Posted 19 November 2003 - 03:49 pm
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.
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.
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!