Between the 20th and 21st of April 1949 four Royal Navy warships, namely H.M.S. Amethyst, Consort, London and Black Swan, got caught up in the conflict, of the ensuing Chinese Civil war in China’s Yangtze River.
According to news report at that time, here in the United Kingdom the question on the lips of the populace was, ‘how could such an incident occur at a time when this nation was at peace?’
With that being the situation then, Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, on the 26th April 1949 within the House of Commons, and The First Lord Of The Admiralty (Viscount Hall), within the House of Lords, both made a statement to all assembled within the House of Commons and the House of Lords, regarding the incident, which is now referred to as the ‘1949 Yangtze Incident’ and by clicking on the links being provided here below, this will provide access the statement made by Prime Minister, Attlee and Viscount Hall, and the question that were asked by those assembled within both Houses.
At the beginning of link numbered (2) it will be seen that the First Lord of the Admiralty (Viscount Hall) states: ‘My Lord’s, I ask leave of your Lordships to intervene to make a statement on the circumstances in which His Majesty’s Ships were fired upon in the Yangtse River. The statement is similar to one now being made by the Prime Minister in another place.’
Then in continuation (Viscount Hall) is seen to have stated to all assembled within the house of Lords, the following, that I am about to quote from Hansard * “ The House will wish to have a full account of the circumstances in which His Majesty’s Ships were fired upon in the Yangtse River, with grievous casualties and damage.” * Unquote
Now, within the 2009 autumn edition of the magazine ‘THIS ENGLAND’ at page 30 there was an article titled ‘Our English Heroes’ which was written by Clifford Bentley, flowing from that article, another write up touching on the Yangtze Incident, appeared on page 56 of the 2010 summer edition of the magazine, ‘THIS ENGLAND’. That material is being reproduced here on the following pages via the kind permission of ‘This England’ magazine. For further information on the magazine ‘THIS ENGLAND’ click on the following link: - http://thisengland.co.uk
Where in the reproduced page from the 2009 autumn, edition of ‘THIS ENGLAND’ magazine, it can be seen that Clifford Bentley, in writing the article begins by writing the following sentence; “Politics can be a dirty game and the truth is often suppressed for many reasons good and bad.”
In a fashion, to support that pronouncement, he then writes: - “This year is the 60th anniversary of the Yangtse Incident and we can now reveal that HMS Amethyst was not alone when she made her daring escape down the Chinese river, whatever the official records or famous film might indicate. She was in fact accompanied part of the way by HMS Concord but to have revealed this at the time would have been political dynamite as we had just backed the wrong horse in the Chinese Civil war won by the Communists.”
Then he follows up on that by writing: - “Initially three ships went to the assistance of HMS Amethyst, namely the destroyer HMS Consort, the frigate HMS Black Swan, and the cruiser HMS London, all of which suffered casualties and were forced to withdraw because the channel was too narrow for them to maneuver.”
Next, when I read what was reported on page 56 of the 2010 summer edition of ‘THIS ENGLAND’ magazine, I noticed that within the second column it was being reported that an ‘Ian Martin served as an RAF attaché at the British Embassy at Nanking which hosted naval crews and, like all others mentioned he is keen to hear from anyone who remembers him.
Well, I cannot point Ian Martin, in the direction of anyone who remembers him, but perhaps he might be interested in reading about an event that occurred at the British Embassy in Nanking, on the 20th April 1949 the event can be read within chapter 7 which comes under the heading of ‘Amethyst and Consort’, in Dr Gren Wedderburn’s, publication titled ‘No Lotus Garden) ISBN 0946270 376.
Within that chapter Dr Wedderburn wrote that which I now quote; * “ The Mitchell braked to a stop in front of the control tower at the empty Nanking Airport. As I shook hands with the pilot he said to me, “ Well, you and I are the only guys around who have ever seen that sight and I reckon we are the only ones who ever will.”
A jeep took me to the Embassy where the naval attaché, a captain asked me what I had seen.
“Consort was terrific. I could see no signs of damage or any hits. Most of the shell splashes were miles out.” “Great” he said. “We think she should be alright. She is well past the place where they started firing on Amethyst.”
“I was wrong, Consort had received many hits, mostly in her upper works. Fortunately most of the shells were incorrectly fused and many went right through without exploding.
We went out to a truck where a colonel was standing. He showed me the medical supplies and equipment loaded on it. We were climbing in when a sergeant ran up. The Communists had started to cross the Yangtze some twenty-four hours before the expiration of the armistice.”*Unquote.
What Dr Wedderburn, and the United States Air Force Pilot, who was flying the ‘Mitchell’ saw was H.M.S. Consort, racing down the Yangtze River to go to the assistance of ‘The Sitting Duck’ H.M.S. Amethyst.
Then when the ‘Mitchell’ made two passes over the location on the Yangtze River where the Amethyst, had grounded both the pilot and Dr Wedderburn saw, that there was no one to be seen on the upper and open decks of Amethyst.
Note: - There is no mention of those occurrences in the two Hansard links provided on the first page of this article, just as there was no mention of the of the following facts that were written into the 1987 publication titled, ‘Renegade Signalman R.N’. (ISBN 0904475 34 4) by the author I.G. Robertson, who wrote that which I am about to quote for its terms therein: -
* “ Under the guise of ‘peaceful mission’ the British pursued a policy of maintaining a warship at Nanking for the protection of their interests in the event of civil disturbance getting out of hand in that city. Clearance for the presence of this ship and the necessary river passage were obtained for each ship from the Chinese Nationalist Government at Nanking as a matter of routine, the only difficulty was that in April the Nationalist Government ceased to control both banks of the river. Nobody knew whether the new regime on the North bank recognized our ‘peaceful mission’.
The only guide to form was a broadcast on the 9th April (my Birthday) that they would interdict the river to ‘all shipping’, presumably by gunfire from the north bank. This was a reasonable military precaution if they intended to cross before the river reached its summer level. Once they crossed they would be at the gates of Nanking within a matter of days, if not hours.”* Unquote.
The author, I.G. Robertson, was at the time of the Yangtze Incident 20th April 1949 the Captain of H.M.S. Consort.
Further: - By clicking on the following link being provided here: - http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0014%2FDKNS
That will take you directly to the source where the papers and naval signals concerning the “Amethyst Incident” and the writings of Rear Admiral Sir David Scott were deposited.
Sir David Scott deposited his collection at the Churchill Archives Center, in July 1992, September 2002, and June 2003.
During the “Amethyst Incident” Rear Admiral Sir David Scott, KBE, CB (born 5 April 1921) was Flag-Lieutenant to the Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Station, Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, KCB, CBE.
Prior to Rear Admiral Sir David Scott’s retirement in 1980 he was Chief Polaris Executive KBE, CB. At that time he earned both the nickname and reputation, of being a ‘Whistle Blower’.
Well it’s for certain that Rear Admiral Sir David Scott, in depositing his collection, referred to above within the Churchill College Archives, has ‘Blown the Whistle’ and left behind the all important and irrefutable documentary evidence, which by the unforeseen and extraordinary in political business was wrongfully excluded in order to corrupt the ‘1949 Yangtze Campaign Awards System’ which in turn deprived the ships compliment of H.M.S. Concord, of being recognized as a unit that was involved in the Yangtze Incident on the dates 28th July to 31st July 1949.
Next. By clicking on the following link: - http://www.kcl.ac.uk/lhcma/locreg/BRIND1.shtml
You will have access to a page within Kings College London Military Archives, which provides a list of item, the belongings of Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, are now archived there. Among that material there’s the letters that he sent home for the Far East 1949; official report on the blockade of Shanghai and British inability to defend Hong Kong from possible future attack by Chinese Communist forces 1949; press cuttings relating to the blockade of HMS Amethyst in the Yangtze River, China, and Brind’s order, as Commander-in-Chief Far Eastern Fleet, for the successful breakout 1949. Being posted below is a copy of one, of the Admirals, newspaper cuttings.
Note. Within column two of the above newspaper cutting it can be seen that in one brief sentence Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, the Commander-in-Chief, Far East Station, in going public is reported as having stated; ‘As a result of this dead-lock, I decided to authorize an endeavor to escape, in spite of the risk.’
In Spite of the risk !!!. Within the Foreign Office Files for China 1949 and 1976 (Public Records Office Classes FO371 and FCO21). Within Reel numbered 24 file, FO371/7590 that file relates to the Chinese Nationalists blockade of ports under Communist control and the closure of
Chinese territorial waters up to 12 miles. Following that file there’s 17 other FO Files, all of which touch on the Chinese Nationalists indiscriminate mining of the Yangtze River. Those files as such are capable of defining that from a location on the Yangtze River, known as the Woosung Forts, to a distance of 12 miles outside of the Yangtze River estuary the environmental risk and rigour factor, when assessed was significantly above that which might be routinely expected to be tolerated by UK Armed Forces personnel.
On the 31 July 1949 when H.M.S. Concord, escorted H.M.S. Amethyst, out of the Yangtze River and was clear of the 12 mile exclusion zone that surrounded the Yangtze River estuary, H.M.S. Concord was stopped there and then by H.M.S. Cossack’s Capt, D, of the Eighth Destroyer Flotilla, his purpose being, to take H.M.S. Concord’s ships log out of commission.
However, the ships log of H.M.S. Concord, is now readily accessible at Kew Archives, and written into the log are the facts that establish H.M.S. Concord, movements and role as a unit within the Yangtze River during the dates 28th July 1949 to 31st July 1949 facts that were brought about as a result of Admiral Sir Patrick Brind’s endeavor to bring about H.M.S. Amethyst’s escape. Add to those facts, the naval signals that Rear Admiral Sir David Scott, deposited within the Churchill College Archives, as by the terms written into them, they establish and endorse the fact that H.M.S. Concord, was a unit, involved in the Yangtze Campaign during the dates 28th July 1949 to 31st July 1949.
Now for the record : - Following the events of the 20th and 21st April 1949 when the three ships H.M.S. Consort, London and Black Swan, in there damaged conditions, with the dead and wounded on-board arrived at Shanghai, before the dead and wounded were allowed to removed from the ship the ships compliments of all three ships were sworn to silence under the official secrets act. Then on the 2nd of August 1949 at 1100 hundred hrs the Captain of H.M.S. Concord, Cleared Lower Deck and Addressed The Ships Company. i.e., (Silenced).
Add to that the fact, ratings could not write to Members of Parliament, and mail censorship existed, a system that had service personnel tied and gagged. A system that allowed the unforeseen and extraordinary by political intrigue to practiced within both the House of Lords and the House of Commons.
As can be seen on page one above I have posted two Internet links that will allow anyone to read from Hansard, the statement that was read out by Prime Minister, Attlee, to all assembled within the House of Commons, just as the statement was read out to all assembled within the House of Lords, by the First Lord of the Admiralty (Viscount Hall).
Whilst Attlee and Hall, were reading out those statement, it was within their knowledge that they were part and parcel to an orchestrated plot that had been conceived in order to disallow question within the House of Commons and the House of Lords that were relevant and touching on the four Royal Navy Ships that had caught up in the Yangtze Incident on the dates 20th and 21st April 1949.
Now see posted below what was put together as a Secret Cabinet Document dated 25th April 1949 to be circulated 26/4/49 at 8 a.m.
THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OP HIS BRITANNIC MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT)
-G.T?.(k9) 93 COPY NO. Si
25TH APRIL, 1949
SITUATION IN CHINA
Memorandum by the Foreign Secretary
and the First Lord of the Admiralty
We circulate for the consideration of the Cabinet the
text of the statement which it is proposed should be made to
Parliament on the AMETHYST incident (Annex A).
2. Also attached (Annex B) are some details of the incident,
not intended to be included in the statement to Parliament,
though certain points may have to be brought out in answer to
questions which may be raised there.
3. The rapid advance of the Communist armies and the political
situation aroused by the AMETHYST incident also raise certain
questions of urgency in connection with ouj? policy in Shanghai.
Three telegrams which have been received from H. M. Ambassador,
Nanking, the Consul General, Shanghai and the Flag Officer, 2nd in command, Far East, are attached at Annexes C, D and E
Z+. In view of the urgency, the issues raised in these
telegrams were considered at a meeting of the Chiefs of Staff
this morning and in the afternoon at a meeting between the
Foreign Secretary, the Minister of Defence and the First Lord
of the Admiralty. As a result, the Prime Minister approved
a telegram in reply (Annex F), which has been sent by the
Admiralty to the Flag Officer. A similar telegram has been
sent by the Foreign Office to the Consul General.
-5. The Prime Minister also approved the text of the
Admiralty statement (Annex G) which has been issued in London
and communicated by the Foreign Office to Nanking and Shanghai.
Cabinet Office, S.W. 1.
25TH APRIL, 191+9.
1. The House will wish to have a full account of the
circumstances in which His Majesty's Ships were fired, upon
in the Yangtze river with grievous casualties and damage.
2. I will first explain what.our position is with regard
to the civil war in China. It has been repeatedly stated in
this House that our policy has been governed by the Moscow
Declaration of December 19U5 in which the United Kingdom,
the United States and the Soviet Union declared a policy of
non-intervention in Chinars internal affairs. - In view of
the considerable- British interests in China and of the
presence of large British communities, His Majesty's
Government decided some months ago that His Majesty's
Ambassador and His Majesty's Consular Officers in China should
remain at their posts and this was announced to the House by
my Rt. Hon. Friend in December. In the disturbed conditions
which have prevailed in recent months, warships were stationed
at Shanghai and Nanking in the event that a breakdown of law
and order as the result of hostilities should require the^m to
assist in the evacuation of British subjects.
3. I should make it clear that the stationing of these
ships and their movements from one port to another in China
were undertaken with the full knowledge and consent of the
National Government of China. I want to make the point
therefore that when the incident took place to which I am
about to-refer H.M. S. "Amethyst" was proceeding on her
lawful occasions and that there was no other properly
constituted authority to whom His Majesty's Government were
under an obligation to notify her movements even had they been
in a position to do so.
h. Early on Tuesday, 19th April the frigate U. M.S. "Amethyst"
(Lieutenant-Commander Skinner) sailed from Shanghai for Nanking.
The objects of her passage were to relieve H. M. S. "Consort" at
Narking, to provide communications for His Majesty's Ambassador,
to bring supplies for the British community and to be prepared
to carry out their evacuation if need arose. A warship has in
fact been maintained at Nanking for a considerable time and
passages have been fairly frequent.
5. The opposing Chinese forces have been massed along the
. banks of the Yangtse for a considerable time and there have been
repeated rumours during recent weeks that the Communists were
about to cross the river. The passage of the "Amethyst" was
accordingly adjusted to meet the military situation.
Arrangements were made at the time to avoid the expiration of
a Communist ultimatum to the.effect that in circumstances
they would cross on 12th April. Nevertheless, the necessity
for relieving H.M.S. "Consort" as early as possible remained;
she was -running short of supplies after a long stay at Nanking
and a frigate was considered, more suitable for this task than
a destroyer. The second Communist ultimatum was due to expire
on 21st April. The Flag Officer therefore decided, with the
agreement of His Majesty's Ambassador, that the passage should
be timed to allow the "Amethyst" to reach Nanking a clear 2k hours before the expiry of this ultimatum. "Amethyst"
should therefore have reached Nanking on 20th April. For the
same reason the "Consort" was due to leave before "Amethyst's"
arrival. An intelligence report was received on the 19th
which confirmed 21st April as the date for the Communist
crossing; hy the time "Amethyst" received this she was
Already half-way up.the river. In the light of these
facts the decision for "Amethyst" to sail was made and this
decision was in my opinion correct..
6. What could not have been foreseen before the incidents
v/as the repeated and deliberate attacks by massed artillery
on the four warships, and on the Sunderland Plying Boat,
whose neutral character and peaceful intentions were all
fully known to the Communist forces. For example, both'
"London" and "Black Swan" were prominently displaying white
flags. Perhaps the high light of humanity was the machinegunning
of the men being disembarked from the "Amethyst"
under the white flag, many of them seriously wounded, or
while still swimming in the water. The same policy appears
to be reflected in the refusal of the Communist authorities
in Peking even to receive a letter from His Majesty's Consul
asking them to order their forces to stop firing and allow
our ships to give medical relief and evacuate the wounded.
7. To turn to the narrative of events when "Amechyst" had
reached a point on the Yangtse River some 60 miles from
Nanking, at about nine o*clock in the morning on the 20th,
Chinese time, she came under heavy fire from batteries on
the North bank, suffered considerable damage and casualties
and eventually grounded on Rose Island. After this, the
Captain decided to land about sixty of her crew, including he-r
wounded, who got ashore by swimming or in sampans, being
shelled and machine gunned as they did so; we know that a
large proportion have, with Chinese help, arrived at Shanghai.
8. Vice Admiral Madden, the Flag Officer 2n3 i/c Far Eastern
Station ordered the destroyer H.M.S. "Consort" (Commander
Robertson) from Nanking to go to "Amethyst's" assistance,
and the frigate H.M.S. "Black Swan" (Captain Jay) from
Shanghai to Kiang Yin, I4O miles down river from the "Amethyst".
9. "Consort" reached "Amethyst" at about three in the
afternoon and. was immediately heavily engaged. She found the
fire too hot to approach "Amethyst" and therefore passed her
at speed down river. She turned two miles below and again
closed "Amethyst" to take her in tow. But she again came
under such heavy fire that she was obliged to abandon the
attempt, although she answered the shore batteries with her
full armament and signalled that she had silenced most of the
opposition. Half an hour later her signals ceased, though
in fact she was making a second attempt to take "Amethyst"
in tow, having turned, down-stream again. This attempt also
failed and she sustained further damage and casualties during
which her steering was affected. . She therefore had to
continue downstream out of the firing area.
10. Meanwhile, the Cruiser H.M.S. "London" (Captain Cazalet),
v/earing the flag of Flag officer 2nd i/c, was also proceeding
up the Yangtse at best speed.
11. The three ships "London", "Black Swan" and "Consort"
met at Kiang Yin at about eight that evening. It was found
that "Consort" was extensively damaged; she was ordered to
proceed to Shanghai to land her dead and. wounded and effect
12. At about two o'clock in the morning of the 21st the
"Amethyst" succeeded in refloating herself by her own efforts
and anchored two miles above Rose Island. She could go no
further as her chart was destroyed. Her hull was holed in
several places- her Captain severely wounded, her First Lieutenant
wounded, and her Doctor killed. There were only four unwounded
officers left, and one telegraphist to carry out all'wireless
13. Later the same morning the "London" and the "Black Swan"
endeavoured to close the "Amethyst", but met with heavy fire
causing some - casualties. The fire was of course returned, but
the Flag Officer then decided that it would not be possible
to bring the damaged "Amethyst" down river without further
serious loss of life in all ships; he therefore ordered the
"London" and "Black Swan" to return to Kian Yin.
11).. At Kiang Yin they were fired upon by batteries, and
suffered considerable casualties and damage. Both ships
afterwards proceeded to Shanghai to land their dead and
wounded and to effect repairs.
15. That afternoon a Naval and a R.A. F. Doctor, with
medical supplies and charts, were flown by a Sunderland
aircraft of the Royal Air Force to the "Amethyst". Both the '
aircraft and the "Amethyst" were fired upon. The ship was hit,
but the Sunderland managed to transfer the R. A.F. Doctor and
some medical supplies before being forced to take off. The
"Amethyst" then took shelter in a creek.
16. During the night of the 21st-22nd "Amethyst" succeeded
in evacuating a further batch of her wounded to a nearby town.
After doing so, she moved 10 miles up river under cover of
darkness, though under rifle fire from the banks, and again
anchored; she then completed the landing of all her more
seriously wounded, including her Captain. I am sorry to say
that this very gallent officer, who had insisted on remaining
with his ship up to this time, died of his wounds soon after.
There remained on board three R.N. officers, 1 R.A.F. Doctor,
52 ratings and 8 Chinese. At about this time Lt. Cdr. Kerans,
the Assistant Naval Attache at Nanking, reached the ship and
17. Another courageous effort to reach "Amethyst" was made by
the R.A.F. in a Sunderland on the afternoon of the 22nd. but
the aircraft v/as driven off by artillery fire without
succeeding in making contact. The "Amethyst" then moved
a further four miles up river. She was in close touch with
the Flag Officer, and after a number of courses had been
considered it was decided that she should remain where she
18. Perhaps I may at this point anticipate two questions
which may possibly be asked. First, how was it that
H.M. Ships suffered such extensive damage and casualties,
and second, why they were not able to silence the opposing
batteries and fight their way through. In answer to the
t?irstj, I would only say that Warships are not designed to
operate in rivers against massed artillery and infantry
sheltered by reeds and mudbanks. The Communist forces
,appear to have been concentrated in considerable strength
and are reported as being lavishly equipped with Howitzers,
medium artillery and field guns. The above facts also
provide much of the answer to the second question only
would add this. The Flag Officer's policy throughout
was designed only to rescue H.M.S. "Amethyst" and to avoid
unnecessary casualties. There -was no question of a
punitive expedition and H.M. Ships fired only to silence
the forces firing against them.
1-9. I will at this point briefly summarise the losses
and damage which resulted.
The casualties were:
H.M.S, "London"; 13 killed. 15 wounded.
H.M.S. "Consort"; 10 killed. k seriously wounded.
H.M. S. "Amethyst"; 19 killed. 13 wounded.
H.M.S. "Black Swan"; 7 wounded.
In addition, an unknown number of the crew of H.M.S.
"Amethyst" may have been killed or wounded while they
were swimming ashore; some 10 ratings are still missing.
Of the damago to the ships, the "London" suffered the
most severely, having been holed repeatedly in her hull
and upper works. The damage to the "Consort" and
the "Biack Swan" was less serious. "London" and
"Black Swan" have already completed their emergency
repairs. The "Amethyst" suffered severe damage but
was.repaired by the efforts of her own crew to be capable
of- 17 knots.
20. The House will wish to know whether any steps were
taken by our authorities in China to make contact with
the Communist authorities. Some time has lapsed since
Communist forces overran Mukden, Peking and Tientsin
where we have Consular posts. His Majesty's Consular
Officers at these posts have been endeavouring for some
time past to reach day-to-day working arrangements with
the local authorities. Their approaches have, however,
been rejected on every occasion without any reason being
given for such rejection.
21. When H.M.S. "Amethyst" was fired upon "by Communist forces
H.M. Ambassador instructed H.M.. Consular Officer in charge at
Peking to communicate to the highest competent Chinese
Communist authority by whatever means possible a message
informing them of this and seeking the issue of immediate
instructions by them to their Military Commanders along the
Yangtse to desist from such firing. A subsequent message
emphasised the urgent need of medical attention of the
casualties and reiterated the request for instructions to '
prevent further firing upon these ships of the Royal Navy
engaged in peaceful and humanitarian tasks. The local
Communist authorities, however, refused to accept the Consul's
22. At this time Mr. Edward Youde, a Third Secretary in
H.M. Foreign Service who has a good knowledge of Chinese,
volunteered to try and contact the Communist forces north of Pukou
in the hope of reaching some Commanding Officer with sufficient
authority to stop the firing. H.M. Ambassador agreed to this
attempt and Mr. Youde passed through the Nationalist lines on
the night of 21st April. Thanks to his courage and
determination Mr. Youde succeeded in reaching the forward
headquarters of the People's Liberation Army in Pukou area on
23rd Aprili He described the situation as he knew it when he
left. Nanking on 21st April and pointed out to them the peaceful
and humanitarian nature of the mission of H.M.S. "Amethyst"
and requested that she be allowed to proceed to Nanking or
Shanghai without further molestation. Their headquarters took
the line that clearance had not been obtained from the People's
Liberation Army and that she had entered the war area. They
also complained of heavy casualties incurred by their troops as
a result of fire from H.M. Ships. They refused to admit
justification or self-defence. After consulting higher authority
the headquarters stated that in the circumstances they would be
prepared to allow the ship to proceed to Nanking but only on
condition that she should assist the People's' Liberation Army
to cross the Yangtse. Such a condition was obviously
23* M'y attention has been drawn to-a communique broadcast by
the Communists which said that on the date in question warships
on the Yangtse opened fire to prevent its crossing by
Communist forces. It v/as not imtil the following day that they
learned that these ships were not all Chinese but that four
British ships were among them. The Communists state that their
forces suffered 252 casualties as a result of this firing and
claim that His Majesty's Government have directly participated
in the Chinese Civil War by firing on Communist positions.
These *laims are, of course, so far as they relate to His
Majesty's Government or the Royal Navy, as fantastic as they
2k. If there was any initial misunderstanding as to the
nationality of H.M.S. "Amethyst" this would have been speedily
resolved had the authorities in Peking acted on H.M. Ambassador's
message. Moreover, had the Communist authorities objected in
the past to the movement of British ships on the Yangtse it was
always open to them to raise these through our Consular
authorities in North China. It is the fact that for reasons
best known to themselves the Communists have failed to notify
any foreign authority present in areas which they have
occupied of the channels through which contact can be maintained
and that they have rejected all communications made to them. In
these circumstances His Majesty1s Government can only reserve
25o The House will wish to join me in expressing sympathy
with the relatives of all those who have been killed or
wounded in this-action and in expressing admiration of the
coixrage of all those who took part in it. Four names deserve
special tribute. Lt. Commander Skinner, R. N., the Captain of
the "Amethyst", and Lt. J.C. Weston, R..N. his First Lieutenant,
(who for a short time succeeded his Captain in command of the
ship) lost their lives through their devotion to duty. Both
were severely wounded but remained at their posts, fighting
and manoeuvring the ship' and removing the wounded to safety.
Both left the ship too late to receive effective surgical aid
fo r themscive s.
26. Telegraphist J.L. French showed superlative devotion to
duty. He was the only telegraphist left in the "Amethyst"
after the early hours of 21st April; and from then onwards
his efforts kept the ship in almost continuous communication
with Shanghai. '
27* The fourth name is that of Mr. Youde, whose one man mission
through the Communist Armies I have already described.
28. Without a doiibt .many other cases of bravery and devotion
will be revealed when all the facts are known. But we already
have ample evidence that the conduct of the whole ship's
company of H.M.S. "Amethyst" was beyond all praise, though a
considerable proportion were young sailors under fire for the
first time. We have had reports of seamen and marines
remaining at their task for up to 2k hours though badly
wounded, and of men declining to have their wounds treated
until cases they considered more urgent had been dealt with.
I have heard too that in H.M.S. "London" and "Black Swan",,
when there .was a possibility of volunteers being flown to
"Amethyst";, there was almost acrimonious rivalry for
selection, - as.they put it "to go back for more".
29J In conclusion, I should mention that the United States
naval authorities at Shanghai placed their resources
unstintingly at our disposal, and the kindness and help of the
British communities at Shanghai have been beyond all praise.
Finally, the Chinese Nationalist, forces in Chinkiang area were
most helpful in providing medical aid and stores which they
could ill afford. The House will join with me in expressing
our gratitude to all of these.
lgence of Communist plans
3* AMETHYST*S position- on-22nd April and after.
To retan to the AMETHYST'S narrative. By the afternoon
of the 22nd she had reached a fairly safe position. Pour
possible courses of action were considered.
(a) to attempt to get dov/n river to Shanghai
Ob) to attempt to get up river to Nanking
(Q) to abandon the ship
(a) to stay where she was
Her Commanding Officer held himself ready to follow any of these
courses. Reports which began to come in of the crossing of
Communist troops above and below her position meant that attempts
to reach Shanghai or Nanking at this time would almost certainly
end in disaster. Further damage might sink the ship; the
crew though in good heart were physically exhausted and of course
depleted in numbers; navigation of the Yangtse is always
difficult and virtually impossible at night; the radar and gyro
compass were out of action and the magnetic compass doubtful.
The courageous Captain v/as unwilling to abandon his ship until
the result of the approach of a mission sent to the Communists
should be known; there was also, a possibility that the
Ambassador himself might negotiate a safe passage with the
Communist authorities at a later stage or even that the ship
might slip down later, after the crew had been rested and the
armies had completed their crossing. She was now in a
comparatively safe position and in fact was only fired on twice
in the next 1+8 hours. So she remained where she was, shifting
berth slightly on two occasions.
ho Risks attendant on passage of the Yangtse,
The passage has always been regarded as one of some risk in
case irresponsible elements ori-"either bonk opened fire. Nevertheless, the
Naval Commander-in-Chief decided that, since there had been no
opposition or protests on either side and since our aim was
peaceful, the passages should be continued until it became
apparent they would be opposed; I full:/ endorse his decision.
The House will of course appreciate that if during these months
passages had been stopped because of the uneasy situation, or
because of individual scares, (of which there were many), the
requirements of the Embassy and the British community in Nanking
would not have been met. The Navy has always been prepared, and
I hope will always be prepared, to take justifiable risks in
carrying out its tasks.
5* Have the Americans or French recently had warships at
,/It is not known whether a U.S. warship has been at Nanking
in recent weeks. Information is being urgently obtained through
the U.S. Naval Attache^
There are no indications that a French warship has been at
Nanking in the last 6 weeks.
Both the Americans and French have ships at Shanghai - (
6 Why was air cover not provided?
Air cover would have been inconsistent with the peaceful
intent of H.M.S. AMETHYST.
In fact, air cover would not have been available.
Beaufighters from Singapore could not have arrived before
Tuesday, 26th April.
7, Why is Admiral-Brind still in London?
The Commandor-in-Chief was paying a special visit by air to
England to attend exercise Trident with other Commanders-in-
Chief . This visit was arranged last January. His presence in
London has been most helpful in the handling of the situation.
Arrangements have been made for his return by air on Thursday,
several days earlier than originally intended.
If he had returned at once' he would have been of no service
either in the Admiralty or on his station while on passage at
this critical time. The Admiralty has complete confidence in
Vice-Admiral Madden, his Second-in-Command.
8. Did the Nationalist forces fire on H.M. Ships?
- We are advised that they did not.
90 It is undesirable for security reasons, to give a detailed
explanation of the AMETHYST'S present condition and possible
courses of action, unless the AMETHYST1S position has substantially
altered by the time this statement is made.
COPY OF TELEGRAM
FROM H.M. AMBASSADOR. NANKING, TO FOREIGN OFFICE
No.k89 dated 2hth April. 1 QUoT
In so far as political considerations are concerned, I
feel that the withdrawal of the warships at this moment
would he unfortunate in view of the attitude of the
Communists as contained in statement quoted in my
telegram k88. We have maintained that the presence of these
ships in Chinese waters is for peaceful and humanitarian
purposes. Their withdrawal now might undermine the validity
of our case as well as increase local panic.
It is vital that all three Governments concerned
(United States, French and His Majesty's Government) should
take similar action. My French colleague is inclined to
think that the ships should be maintained until definite
decision regarding evacuation of foreign nationals is
reached and acted upon, and should then be promptly
withdrawn. In view of the recent developments, I agree
with this proposal and consider it undesirable for
H.M. Ships to be in Shanghai when the Communists arrive. I
have consulted my Commonwealth colleagues who are in
complete agreement.' I will try to consult my United States
colleague in the course of the day.
3. I fully endorse the view of His Majesty's Consul
General Shanghai set.forth in paragraph 3 of his
telegram 79 to me.
ii. It is too early to judge from their actions here
what are the attitude and intentions of the Communists.
COPY OF TELEGRAM
FROM CONSUL-GENERAL, SHANGHAI. TO FOREIGN OFFICE
No.238 of 2hth April. 1 9k9*
Communist comment as made here says that at first the
ships were mistaken for Nationalist vessels but that later it
was realised that they were British ships sent (sic) to
interfere with the crossing in the interests of the
Nationalists. It claims that our ships fired first of all,
and that Communists suffered 262 casualties "for which
British Imperialists will be held responsible".
2. I do not admit this as meaning that the British
communities here or elsewhere will suffer reprisals, but if
the Communists do come quickly to Shanghai they may arrive in
angry mood with British in general and Royal Navy in
particular. It is, of course, probable that their arrangements
for crossing at one point in question were effectively
3. I submit that from the political angle it is out of
the question to think now of bringing troops from Hongkong to
assist in any evacuation -and I shall advise the Emergency
Committee in that sense unless otherwise instructed. I am
showing this telegram to Admiral Madden.
k. Any guidance you can give me about the attitude or
intentions of the Communists will be welcome.
COPY OF TELEGRAM
PROM FLAG OFFICER, SECOND IN COMMAND.
FAR EAST, TO ADMIRALTY
concur that troops cannot- now he used with advantage.
2. In any case it seems probable that there will not now be
any time for the ordered plan for evacuation to be used.
3* Consul-General informs me that he is arranging for
voluntary evacuation of non essentials by commercial sea
passage and aircraft and anticipate that this new plan does
not need Naval aid.
k* It seems that the presence of Warships at Shanghai can
only be an irritant to the Communists when they arrive and
that they may constitute a positive disadvantage to the
5* I therefore intend to reduce the number of Warships at
Shanghai immediately by sailing SHOALHAVEN for Kure tomorrow
Monday and CONSTANCE for the Chusan Archipelago on the
following day. '
6. The departure of LONDON and BLACK SWAN must depend on
circumstances, but I intend to avoid if possible, the risk of
being locked in by. Communist control of the river. I have little
information as to rate of advance of Communists but it seems
very rapid indeed.
7* Consul-General agrees that ships should not remain in
these circumstances. I shall remain in the vicinity.
8. I have exchanged views on this subject with
Comnavwestpac who holds similar view that this risk must not
APPENDIX P .
COPY OF TELEGRAM, FROM,, ADMIRALTY TO
FLAG OFFICER. SECOND IN COMMAND. FAR EAST
Act at your
discretion, in consultation with the
His Majesty's Ships have been at Nanking and Shanghai
solely to provide assistance for Commonwealth nationals in
case of a breakdown of law and order during any change-over
As soon as circumstances permit, it is intended to
withdraw British warships and to continue normal procedure
with regard to. visits to foreign ports
As can be seen that document was compiled and put together by the Foreign Secretary, who was by name, Ernest Bevin, and The First Sea Lord of The Amiralty, who was by title and name, (Viscount) Hall. Now for the record, Sometime between the 16th and 26th December 1945 at what was known as the Moscow Conference of Foreign Ministers, and also as the (Interim Meeting of the Foreign Ministers), of the United States (James F, Byrnes) the United Kingdom (Ernest Beven), and the Soviet Union (Vyacheslav Molotv), all signed up to the declared policy of non-intervention in Chinas internal affairs.
With those facts shown, and by clicking on any one of the two links provide on the first page of this article it will be seen that within the opening statements being made, regardles of the link you chose to open, the following is being stated: - “It has been repeatedly stated within this house that our policy has been governed by the Moscow Declaration of December 1945, in which the United Kingdom the United States and the Soviet Union declared a policy of non-intervention in Chinas internal affairs.”
Now here is what there has been no mention of. Within the United Nations Treaty Series 1950 the following could be found at that numbered 850.
EXCHANGE OF NOTES CONSTITUTING AN AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA FOR THE TRANSFER OF CERTAIN BRITISH NAVAL VESSELS TO CHINA AND THE MUTUAL WAIVER OF CLAIMS IN RESPECT OF THE LOSS OF OTHER VESSELS. LONDON, 18TH MAY, 1948.
Mr Ernest Bevin to Dr. Cheng Tien-His
Your Excellency 18th May, 1948.
In order to assist in the post-war reconstruction of the Chinese Navy and to consolidate the association between the Royal Navy, which has continued for seventy years, and in order to show their goodwill towards the Government of the republic of China, His Majesty’s Government of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are willing to make arrangements with the republic of China on the following terms: -
(1) His Majesty’s Government shall transfer to the Government of the Republic of China the ownership of the cruiser HMS Aurora and H.M. Harbour Defence Launches 1033, 1047’ 1058’ 1059, 1068, 1390, 1405, and 1406 (al of which launches are at present on loan to the Government of the Republic of China). The transfer will be made on the 19th May 1948.
(2) His Majesty’s Government shall also lend to the Republic of China the destroyer H.M.S. Mendip for a period of five years on the terms set forth in the annex to the present note. Possession of H.M.S. Mendip shall be formally transferred by His Majesty’s Government to the Republic of China on 19th May, 1949.
(Make of that material evidence what you will)
On the above photograph I have encircled an area on the ship that is referred to as the wing, within that encircled area the object that can be seen there, is an orlikn gun mounting, but noticeably there is no orlikin gun on the mounting. Orlikin guns were at that time H.M.S. Amethyst’s secondary armament, but at the time, when Vice Admiral Madden, gave the order to the Captain of H.M.S. Black Swan, to have the H.M.S. Amethyst make ready to go to the relief of H.M.S. Consort, at Nanking, H.M.S. Amethyst’s secondary armament was lying in a dockyard shed, and add particular fact the fact that the ships main armament was at that time malfunctioning.
That was the condition of the ship, which upon the orders of Vice Admiral Madden entered the Yangtze River on the 19th April 1949.
Further to those facts there is another fact which was omitted from the statement that was prepared or compiled to be read out within both the House of Commons and the House of Lords on the 26th April 1949 and that fact is, that prior to the at time of H.M.S. Amethyst, entering the Yangtze River, on the 19th of April 1949 the Admiralty had put into place Standing Orders that were to the effect that all Royal Navy Warships, making passage on the Yangtze River, those ships would remain at the ‘Stood-to-position’ in readiness to respond only, if fired upon from the north bank of the river.
Digressing to make a point: - When as a result of the Commander-in-Chief, Far East Station, Admiral Sir Patrick Brind’s endeavour to bring about H.M.S. Amethyst’s escape from the Yangtze, it was upon his orders that H.M.S. Concord, was deployed into the Yangtze River, on the 28 of July 1949 in order to make ready to go to Amethyst’s assistance.
Within the National Archives at Kew, this reference: - (ADM 53/ 125839 CH13633) is that which will now allow anyone access to the written ships log of H.M.S. Concord, as such it will be seen that written into the log on the 29th of July 1949 is the following ‘July 29 O555 hrs Hoisted White Ensigns at both Yard Arms.’ For the benefit of those who have no sea-faring knowledge, that brief message logged within H.M.S. Concord’s ships log, was written into the log in order to put on record the fact that at 0555 hundred ours on the 19th of July 1949 H.M.S. Concord, was ‘Stood to and ready for battle’ within the Yangtze River.
Also Note for the record: Among the Naval Papers, which Rear Admiral Sir David Scott, deposited at the Churchill Archives Centre, there is the Telegram marked ‘Confidential’, which the British Ambassador, Sir Ralph Stevenson, while stationed at Nanking, sent out to various sources. The first item, itemised (a) reads: - “No repeat no publicity must be given to the fact that H.M. Ship Concord entered Chinese territorial waters.” That telegram is dated 31st July 1949 and as such is documentary proof to the fact that H.B.M. Ambassador Sir Ralph Stevenson, while stationed at Nanking, in China, placed an embargo on any mention of H.M.S. Concord having entered Chinese territorial waters.
Breaking News September 2012
In August of this year I received a phone call from a Mr Robert Mackay, a Policy Officer, within the Reliance Division, at St Andrews House, Edinburgh, and the purpose of his call was to let me know that Keith Brown MSP would be meeting with Mr Andrew Robatham MP Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. The meeting had been arranged for the 10th of September 2012 and as such was there any particular issue that I would like Mr Brown to raise with Mr Robathan.
Well as we all now know, as a result of Prime Minister, Cameron’s reshuffle, Mr Andrew Robathan, has been elevated to the position of Minister For Armed Forces, which speaks volumes for Cameron’s, ‘Covenant with the Military’ when the following is considered, Robathan, in responding to Scottish Public Petition numbered 1312 presented to the Scottish Parliaments Public Petitions Committee what he deemed to be a review of the ‘1949 Yangtze Campaign Awards System’ within that review were false allegations touching on the role of H.M.S. Concord, as a unit in the 1949 Yangtze Campaign..
Then when he Robathan, was called upon to compile a review of the Military Medals Awards System, that review was found to be flawed and as such was rejected by Prime Minister, Cameron, himself. Flowing from that veteran’s agencies and campaigners were calling for Robathan’s, removal from office.
Following that event Sir John Holmes, was brought in to deal with the Medal Review Situation and I make mention of the fact that I was one of those interviewed by Sir John Holmes and two of his colleagues at the time of that interview I made it known to Sir John and his colleagues that Graeme Morrice MP had formally submitted my petition to parliament.
On the 7th of July 2012 in a written ministerial statement touching on the Military Medals Review, Prime Minister, is seen to have written: - ‘I have today placed a copy of Sir John Holmes,
Interim review of the rules and principles governing the award of military medals in the libraries of both houses. (Presumably the House of Commons and the House of Lords)
Well, as the rules and principles governing the award of military medals are, as we know a reserved issue, one that’s for the House of Commons to deal with, and not just the Government, within the House of Commons, please click on the link being provided below, and give some consideration to supporting Public Petition [P000987]