Originally called Martinica by Christopher Columbus, who spent 3 days there refilling his water casks, bathing and washing laundry when he landed there on 15 June 1502, Martinique is an overseas region of France located in the Windward Island chain in the Caribbean. The capital of the territory was originally St.-Pierre, but the volcano of Mont Pelée erupted in the 8th of May, 1902, obliterating the city and killing over 30,000, with refugees arriving in Dominica by boat. The only survivor in St.-Pierre was a convict
, Ludger Sylbaris, who was saved by the thick walls of his prison cell. As a result, the capital shifted to Fort-de-France, which remains the capital to this day.
Martinique was a major topic of one of the only battles set in North America in World War II, the Battle of the Caribbean. Martinique was officially pro-Vichy France until mid-1943, and relations between it and Britain deteriorated following the Second Armistice at Compiègne, with the territory seen as a possible base for Axis ships, and the US preparing plans for an invasion by an expeditionary force to capture the island, with the US and Britain establishing several blockades. 286 tons of gold from the Bank of France that were originally intended for Canada were also rerouted there and kept in Fort Desaix. In return for the Allies not bombarding and invading the French Antilles, Admiral Robert agreed to keep the French fleet stationed there immobilized, and Free French sympathizers eventually took control of the gold at Fort Desaix and the French fleet in 1943 as Admiral Robert returned to France.
The Martinican flag
This unofficial flag floats next to the French flag on some public buildings of the island, and is also used by the French military and Gendarmes on their buildings and/or uniforms. It features a white cross like St Georges cross on a blue background filled in with a white snake in each quarter, with flag dating from an edict issued 4th of August 1766, specifying that vessels of the French Colony of Martinique and Saint Lucia should fly a version of the French ensign, which at the time was a white cross on a blue field, with L-shaped (for Lucia) snakes in each quarter of the cross.