Saint Lucia. Royal Rangers 1797

A recent acquisition by the Military Collection is a small water-color on paper depicting two native soldiers in the West Indies standing in front of a guardhouse with diagonally set defensive stakes by the exterior fence. This picture is titled and dated Saint Lucia. Royal Rangers 1797, and on the bottom left are the initials VM. According to the dealer, these stand for Valentine Munbee, a captain of HM 43rd Regiment which went to the West Indies in 1787. Munbee sketched these twosaint-lucia-royal-rangers members of a locally-raised black unit named Malcolm’s Royal Rangers which was serving on the Island of Saint Lucia in 1797 under the command of General John Moore who would later die at the siege of Corunna, Spain in 1809 during the Peninsular War. Two companies of the Royal Rangers had been raised early in 1795 on the island of Martinique by Captain Robert Malcolm, detached from the 41st Regiment.

According to Rene Chartrand’s article ‘Black Corps in the British West Indies, 1793-1815’ (JSAHR 76, 1998, pp. 248-254), Malcolm’s unit was particularly effective at counter-insurgency work in the interior of Saint Lucia where the rough terrain and humid conditions were considered inhospitable to European troops.

As to the meaning behind this grisly scene, we can only guess. The decapitated head is clearly that of a native and perhaps he was one of the insurgents.

Malcolm’s Royal Rangers were later absorbed into the 1st West India Regiment in 1797.

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