A retelling of the Yangtze Incident

Thu, Aug 6th 2009 at 12:00 am - 2:00 am

Lt Commdr Brian Searle, President Donald Crawford, Assistant Governor Alex Blair

This evening the Members of the Club welcomed three guests, Assistant Governor Alex Blair who was paying his first visit as successor to  Assistant Governor Bruce McPherson; Tom Brands as a guest of Douglas Brands. Tom is Douglas' father and our Guest Speaker Lt Commander Brian Searle who was introduced by Archie Livingstone.

The subject of the Commander's talk was The Yangtze Incident., which he illustrated by pictures and maps using an over head projector.

It was the Chinese Civil War and towards the end of April 1949 the Chinese Communists, on one side if the Yangtze were preparing to cross to engage and eradicate the Nationalists on the other side. Chiefly to protect British interests, HMS Amethyst, part of a four ship company, steamed up from Shanghai and immediately came under heavy fire. She suffered terrible damage and, even worse, casualties. It lost all power and steerage and ran aground.

HMS Consort came steaming down river at 29 knots (fast) to try to assist and get Amethyst afloat again. It, too, came under heavy shore fire and was badly damaged to the extent it could render no assistance and had to retreat.

HMS London and HMS Black Swan started to come to assist but they too suffered serious damage and were ordered to turn back as they were too important to the navy to be lost.

Amethyst was to be left to its fate!

The communists would not let Amethyst go unless it signed a confession that it had fired first. Well, sod that for a game of soldiers said Amethyst.

Meanwhile, some repairs were being done covertly to the ship. Also, they cut and repositioned ship's plates so that its shape was altered. They heavily greased the anchor chains and weighed anchor silently and managed to set off down river.  Some way down, suddenly parachute flares exploded into light and shore gunfire started again. This time Amethyst poured out a huge cloud of black smoke which confused the shore gunnery enough to let the ship get down river, break through the boom defence and out to open sea to rejoin the fleet.

This story was told in a film which was entitled The Yangtze Incident.

As a postscript, Commander Searle told how the dead were buried in a war grave cemetery in Shanghai. Later, the Chinese flattened it and built multi-storey flats on top.

A sincere and heartfelt vote of thanks was given by Jim Blair for a superbly prepared and presented talk. The members present were enthusiastic in their applause.

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Membership Development Committee