THE GALLERY SOLACE - The Pierre Solace Gallery
  • Yangtse Incident.

    On 20 April 1949, HMS Amethyst came under heavy fire from the Chinese People's Liberation Army as she sailed the Yangtze River, attempts to escort Amethyst to safety by HMS Consort, HMS Black Swan and HMS London failed. Not until August 11th after a 104 mile dash to freedom did Amethyst re-joins the fleet.

  • This four mug collection honours the 46 who fell in action and the four ships involved.

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    Yangtze Incident Collectable Mug
    On 20 April 1949, HMS Amethyst came under heavy fire from the Chinese People's Liberation Army as she sailed the Yangtze River, attempts to escort Amethyst to safety by HMS Consort, HMS Black Swan and HMS London failed. Not until August 11th after a 104 mile dash to freedom did Amethyst re-joins the fleet. This four mug collection honours the 46 who fell in action and the four ships involved.
    Price: £10.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Postcard
    HMS Amethyst
    Price: £1.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Mug
    HMS Consort
    Price: £10.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Postcard
    HMS Consort
    Price: £1.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Mug
    HMS Black Swan
    Price: £10.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Postcard
    HMS Black Swan
    Price: £1.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Mug
    HMS London
    Price: £10.00
    Yangtze Incident Collectable Postcard
    HMS LONDON
    Price: £1.00
    Yangtse Incident:
    On 20 April 1949, HMS Amethyst was on her way from Shanghai to Nanking (now Nanjing) on the Yangtse (Yangtze) River to replace HMS Consort, which was standing as guard ship for the British Embassy there during the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang (KMT) and the Chinese Communists. According to the Royal Navy, at around 08:31, after a burst of small arms fire, a People's Liberation Army (PLA) field gunbattery on the north bank of the river fired a salvo of ten shells, which fell well short of the ship, and was assumed to be part of a regular bombardment of Nationalist forces on the south bank. Speed was increased, and large Union flags were unfurled on either side of the ship, after which there was no more firing.
    At 09:30, as the frigate approached Kiangyin (Jiangyin) further up the river, she came under sustained fire from a second PLA battery. The first shell passed over the ship, but the second hit the wheelhouse, and the injured coxswain grounded Amethyst on Rose Island. The bridge was also hit, mortally wounding Lieutenant Commander B. M. Skinner and injuring First-Lieutenant Geoffrey Weston, before he could pass on the captain's order to return fire. Other 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 119.50' East. Large number of casualties." The loss of power also disabled the gyrocompass, and electrically controlled firing circuits. Amethyst was now a helpless target.
    The frigate grounded in such a way that neither of the two gun turrets at the front of the ship could be brought to bear on the PLA batteries, leaving the single stern turret to return fire with some thirty shells before it was hit, knocking out one of its two guns. The remaining gun returned a few more shots until ordered by Weston to cease fire in the hope that this would cause the PLA to do likewise. The shore batteries, however, continued to fire both medium and heavy artillery, causing more damage and casualties to the ship. Weston ordered the uninjured crewmen to take up defensive positions with Lee-Enfield rifles and Bren guns, and prepare to repel boarders.
    Some time between 10:00 and 10:30, Weston ordered the immediate evacuation of most of the crew. Everyone capable of swimming was ordered over the side, while the non-swimmers and walking wounded used the only one of the ship's boats left undamaged. Fifty-nine ratings and four Chinese mess boys made it to the Kuomintang-controlled Southern bank, but several more were cut down in the water by PLA machine gun and artillery fire before reaching safety. Those who survived were taken to a nearby Nationalist Army hospital, and afterwards trucked back to Shanghai. Remaining on board were about 40 unwounded men, 12 wounded, and 15 dead. The shelling had stopped, but no one could move without drawing the attention of PLA snipers.
    By the time the shelling stopped at about 11:00, 22 men had been killed and 31 wounded in all. Amethyst had received over 50 hits and holes below the waterline were plugged with hammocks and bedding. During this time HMS Consort was sighted, flying seven White Ensigns and three Union flags, steaming down from Nanking at 29 knots. Consort came under fire from the shore batteries and returned fire with her 4.5 inch (114 mm) guns, destroying the enemy shore batteries before she attempted to take Amethyst in tow. HMS Consort turned about with all guns blazing at the north bank batteries, destroying an enemy position. However, Consort came under heavy fire, and the attempt was abandoned with 10 killed and three injured.
    Lieutenant Geoffrey Weston refloated Amethyst on 22 April and moved her out of range of the PLA's artillery. The British Naval Attaché Lieutenant Commander John Kerans joined the ship later that day and assumed command.
    On 26 April an attempt to free the Amethyst from the mud was successful, the ship then proceeded to move up river and anchored off Fu Te Wei. Later that day a signal was received: "HM ships London and Black Swan are moving up river to escort the Amethyst down stream. Be ready to move." The cruiser London and the frigate (ex-sloop and Amethyst's sister ship) Black Swan were heavily shelled as they attempted to help Amethyst and retreated with 3 killed and 14 wounded. In Chinese records this battle happened on 22 April.
    On 30 April, the PLA demanded that Britain, the United States, and France quickly withdraw their armed forces from any parts of China. It was only in 1988 that the PLA commander Ye Fei admitted that it was his troops that fired first; during the negotiations the Communists insisted that the British ship fired first. 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 from Colonel Kung (康予召), who was the PLA representative, that the British state that they had wrongly invaded Chinese national waters and had fired upon the PLA first. Because the communists (and later the People's Republic of China) did not acknowledge any treaties between the previous Chinese government and the British, they insisted that it was illegal for Amethyst to cruise in the Yangtze river.
    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 Communist guns on both banks of the river. She followed the passenger ship Kiang Ling Liberation, which showed the way through the shoals, distracted the PLA and used as shield when Amethyst and PLA exchanged gun fire. Kiang Ling Liberation was later sunk by the gun fire, and heavy civilian casualties were caused. At 0500 hours on 31 July, Amethyst approached the PLA forts at Par Shan (Baoshan) and Woosung (Wusong) with their searchlights sweeping the river. At 0525 a pre-planned meeting with HMS Concord took place in order for her to protect Amethyst from the gun battery at Woosung. The two ships then proceeded down river until at 0715 they were stood down from action stations and after clearing the river mouth arrived at the Saddle Islands at 1200 hrs to anchor and transfer much needed oil and stores. Early the following morning, a steaming party was provided by Concord and HMS Cossack took over as escort and proceeded to Hong Kong. HMS Concord was sent up to Japan after being sworn to secrecy. Amethyst went full speed ahead, broke through the boom at the mouth of the river and made contact with HMS Concord before arriving in Hong Kong on 11 August 1949, the signal transmitted: "Have rejoined the fleet off Woosung...God save the King."