HOME
        TheInfoList






Description

On 20 April 1949, HMS Amethyst, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner,[11] was on her way from Shanghai to Nanking[Note 1] to replace Consort, which was standing as guard ship for the British Embassy there during the [11] was on her way from Shanghai to Nanking[Note 1] to replace Consort, which was standing as guard ship for the British Embassy there during the Chinese Civil War between the nationalist Kuomintang-led Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party. According to the Royal Navy, at around 08:31, after a burst of small arms fire, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) field gun battery on the north bank of the river fired a salvo of ten shells to warn[citation needed] HMS Amethyst to stay away from the war zone.[citation needed] The salvo fell well short of the ship, and was assumed to be part of a regular bombardment of Nationalist forces on the south bank. Therefore, HMS Amethyst ignored the warning and continued to sail towards Nanking.[citation needed] Speed was increased, and large Union flags were unfurled on either side of the ship, after which there was no more firing from this battery.[citation needed]

Initial damage and grounding

At 09:30, as the frigate approached Kiangyin (now known as Jiangyin) farther up the river, she came under sustained fire from a second People's Liberation Army (PLA) battery, as PLA considered the frigate had violated the "stay away warning" from the war zone. In addition, the PLA may have thought HMS Amethyst might open fire and therefore opened fire without receiving incoming fire.[citation needed] The first shell passed over the ship. Then the bridge, wheelhouse and low power room were hit in quick succession, Lieutenant Commander Skinner was mortally wounded, and all the bridge personnel were disabled. The coxswain on the wheel, Leading Seaman Leslie Frank, was seriously injured and as a result the ship slewed to port and grounded on the bank. Before the ship grounded, the order to open fire had been given, but when the director layer pulled the firing trigger, nothing happened, because the firing circuits were disabled when the low power room was hit.

First Lieutenant Geoffrey L. Weston assumed command of the vessel, although he was also wounded himself.[12] PLA shells exploded in the sick bay, the port engine room, and finally the generator, just after the injured Weston's last transmission: "Under heavy fire. Am aground in approx. position 31.10' North 119.20' East. Large number of casualties".[Note 2]

The order was given to fire in local control with each turret firing independently, but Amethyst had grounded in such a way that neither of the two forward gun turrets could bring their guns to bear on the PLA batteries, leaving the single stern turret to return fire. This turret was soon hit and disabled. None of the close-range weapons could be

At 09:30, as the frigate approached Kiangyin (now known as Jiangyin) farther up the river, she came under sustained fire from a second People's Liberation Army (PLA) battery, as PLA considered the frigate had violated the "stay away warning" from the war zone. In addition, the PLA may have thought HMS Amethyst might open fire and therefore opened fire without receiving incoming fire.[citation needed] The first shell passed over the ship. Then the bridge, wheelhouse and low power room were hit in quick succession, Lieutenant Commander Skinner was mortally wounded, and all the bridge personnel were disabled. The coxswain on the wheel, Leading Seaman Leslie Frank, was seriously injured and as a result the ship slewed to port and grounded on the bank. Before the ship grounded, the order to open fire had been given, but when the director layer pulled the firing trigger, nothing happened, because the firing circuits were disabled when the low power room was hit.

First Lieutenant Geoffrey L. Weston assumed command of the vessel, although he was also wounded himself.[12] PLA shells exploded in the sick bay, the port engine room, and finally the generator, just after the injured Weston's last transmission: "Under heavy fire. Am aground in appr

First Lieutenant Geoffrey L. Weston assumed command of the vessel, although he was also wounded himself.[12] PLA shells exploded in the sick bay, the port engine room, and finally the generator, just after the injured Weston's last transmission: "Under heavy fire. Am aground in approx. position 31.10' North 119.20' East. Large number of casualties".[Note 2]

The order was given to fire in local control with each turret firing independently, but Amethyst had grounded in such a way that neither of the two forward gun turrets could bring their guns to bear on the PLA batteries, leaving the single stern turret to return fire. This turret was soon hit and disabled. None of the close-range weapons could be brought to bear on the PLA batteries. The shore batteries continued to fire at Amethyst, causing more damage and casualties on board.

Some time between 10:00 and 10:30, Weston ordered the immediate evacuation to shore of anyone who could be spared. A boat was manned to take people the short distance to shore and some men swam ashore. The batteries switched their fire to the men being evacuated and further evacuation was stopped. Fifty-nine ratings and four Chinese mess boys made it to the Kuomintang-controlled southern bank, but two men were assumed drowned while swimming ashore. Those who survived were joined by the seriously wounded from Amethyst who had been landed by sampan, with the assistance of the Chinese Nationalists on the following day. Both parties were taken to a missionary hospital in Kiangyin where they were met by a party from the British Embassy in Nanking and put on a train for Shanghai. Remaining on board were about 60 unwounded men. The shelling had stopped, but no one could move without drawing the attention of PLA snipers.

Assistance from Consort

On 30 April 1949, the Chinese Communists demanded that Britain, the United States, and France quickly withdraw their

On 30 April 1949, the Chinese Communists demanded that Britain, the United States, and France quickly withdraw their armed forces from any part of China. During the negotiations the Communists insisted that the British ship fired first, but eventually (in 1988) the PLA commander Ye Fei admitted that it was his troops that fired first,[13] thinking it was an American naval intervention.[14] Amethyst remained under guard by the PLA for ten weeks, with vital supplies being withheld from the ship. Negotiations were stuck because Kerans would not accept the demand of Kang Yushao, the Chinese representative, that he admit the British state had wrongly invaded Chinese national waters. The CCP insisted that it was illegal for Amethyst to cruise in the Yangtze River.

Escape

On 30 July 1949

On 30 July 1949, Amethyst slipped her chain and headed downriver in the dark, beginning a 104-mile (167 km) dash for freedom running the gauntlet of guns on both banks of the river. She followed the passenger ship Kiang Ling Liberation (carrying Chinese refugees) in the hope that the observers ashore would be confused and not see Amethyst in the dark. When the battery opened fire, the fire was directed at the Kiang Lin Liberation, which was sunk by the gunfire, with heavy civilian casualties.

At 05:00 hours on 31 July, Amethyst approached the PLA forts at Par Shan (Baoshan) and Woosung (Wusong), which had their searchlights sweeping the river. At 05:25 a pla

At 05:00 hours on 31 July, Amethyst approached the PLA forts at Par Shan (Baoshan) and Woosung (Wusong), which had their searchlights sweeping the river. At 05:25 a planned meeting with the destroyer Concord took place, at which point Amethyst sent the signal "Have rejoined the fleet south of Woosung. No damage. No casualties. God save the King".[15][16]

Concord had been ordered to prepare to provide gun support to Amethyst if she came under fire from the shore batteries at Woosung. To achieve this she had moved up the Yangtze during the night, at action stations. Fortunately for the British, Amethyst was not spotted by the shore batteries and the two ships then proceeded down river until at 07:15 they stood down from action stations and after clearing the river mouth arrived at the Saddle Islands at 12:00 hrs to anchor and transfer much needed oil and stores.

After a short stay at anchor, Concord lent Amethyst sailors to fill gaps in her ship's company and the two ships set sail for Hong Kong. Next day the cruiser Jamaica (flying the flag of the Flag Officer Second in Command Far East Fleet) and destroyer Cossack took over as escort and proceeded to Hong Kong. Concord was sent to Japan after being sworn to secrecy. Amethyst subsequently received a message of congratulations from King George VI:

Please convey to the commanding officer and ship’s company of HMS AMETHYST my hearty congratulations on their daring exploit to rejoin the Fleet. The courage, skill and determination shown by all on board have my highest commendation. Splice the mainbrace.[16]

Aftermath