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- Battle Hell () - IMDb
- NOSTALGIA: Twenty-two killed aboard HMS Amethyst in Yangtze incident
- What we do
She tells me she was born at 55 Torrington Road in but because the house was built on brewery land, the family was asked to move when the brewery wanted to build The Phoenix on it. Right on the corner was a little grocery shop. The landlord was thrilled to see us, and even took my dad around the pub where he was surprised to see our old fireplace in one of the rooms.
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She lived in Princes Street on the side of the road now demolished. Jim reminds us that the sign and its legend was subject of a letter in The News a week or so ago: I wonder what happened to it? 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 I would add this. The Flag Officer's policy throughout was designed only to rescue H.
There was no question of a punitive expedition and His Majesty's ships fired only to silence the forces firing against them. I will at this point briefly summarise the losses and damage which resulted. In addition, 12 ratings are still missing. Of the damage 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 "Black Swan" was less serious. The "Amethyst" suffered severe damage but was repaired by the efforts of her own crew to be capable of a speed of seventeen knots. 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 letters. At this time Mr. Edward Youde, a Third Secretary in His Majesty's 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. His Majesty's Ambassador agreed to this attempt, and Mr. Youde passed through the Nationalist lines on the night of April Thanks to his courage and determination, Mr.
Youde succeeded in reaching the forward headquarters of the People's Liberation Army in the Pukou area on April He described the situation as he knew it when he left Nanking on April 21, and pointed out to them the peaceful and humanitarian nature of the mission of H. 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 His Majesty's ships. They refused to admit justification of self-defence. After consulting higher authority, the headquarters stated that in the circumstances they would be prepared to allow the ship 29 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 unacceptable. It further stated that it was not until 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 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 claims are, of course, so far as they relate to His Majesty's Government or the Royal Navy, as fantastic as they are unfounded.
If there was any initial misunderstanding as to the nationality of H. 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 Majesty's Government can only reserve their position. 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 courage of all those who took part in it. Five names deserve special tribute. The first lieutenant, Lieutenant J. Weston, refused to leave the "Amethyst," although dangerously wounded, until relieved in command by Lieutenant-Commander Kerans fifty-six hours later.
French showed superlative devotion to duty. He was the only telegraphist left in the "Amethyst" after the early hours of April 21; and from then onwards his efforts kept the ship in almost continuous communication with Shanghai. The name should also be mentioned of Flight-Lieutenant K. Youde, whose one-man mission through the Communist armies I have already mentioned. Without a doubt 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. We have had reports of seamen and marines remaining at their task for up to twenty-four 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. 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 the 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. I should like, in concluding this statement, to pay a tribute to the British communities in China, who have shown such steadfast behaviour in the difficult conditions in which they find themselves, and whose decision to remain in China in spite of the uncertainties created by the civil war is in accordance with the best British tradition. The House is now in full possession of the facts known to His Majesty's Government, and we shall, of course, continue to keep the House informed of developments as they occur.
It will be realised that the situation is at present very fluid, but if, at a later stage, there is a general desire for a debate on this matter, I am sure that this can be considered through the usual channels. Amethyst and her detention by the Communists' People's Liberation Army in the Yangtse Kiang, not only in the Press but in official documents; a detailed account would now be redundant.
Political considerations debar certain details and, in addition, publication of other matter might be prejudicial to the safety of certain people still in Communist-occupied China. It is intended to attempt, in the following paragraphs, to try and elaborate on some of the less publicized points and bring out certain salutary lessons learnt.
There will, therefore, be no co-ordinated and co-related "story" in the strict sense. Based on a Reuter's report that a number of wounded had reached a hospital in Chingkiang subsequently found to be incorrect I reached there by jeep loaned by the Australian Military Attache with our Assistant Military Attache on the 21st of April, , with medical supplies.
The Chinese Naval Headquarters offered us all assistance possible in the circumstances, and before dark that day we were at the village of Tachiang, the headquarters of the local Regional Commander; here stretcher-bearers and coolie carriers were organized, since the roads to the banks of the Yangtse petered out as far as vehicular traffic was concerned. We had by now the Medical Officer United States Navy from the American Embassy at Nanking and his sick berth assistant with us, and the Chinese Naval Chief of Staff from Chingkiang; with this heterogeneous "team" we moved off to reach the nearest point to the Amethyst.
After many and various tracks and considerable delays we intercepted some wounded shortly after midnight not far from the coast.
It was here that it was learned that a Chinese National Army medical officer with two orderlies had been onboard the Amethyst that day to render first aid. In spite of language difficulties and intermittent sniping he stuck to his job and did invaluable work. After evacuating her wounded, except her first lieutenant, the Amethyst moved upstream during the night towards Chingkiang Zhenjiang ; it was impossible to reach her and by dawn the following day the dead and wounded were embarked for Chingkiang from Tachiang modern location not identifed.
It is here at Chingkiang that Admiral Kwei Yung-chin's authorization to myself worked wonders and after some hesitations we managed to solicit a sleeping coach on the last train to Shanghai. Every assistance to the wounded was given by the American-run Stevenson Mission Hospital at Chingkiang. The matron in charge was an United States subject - one of the many gallant women who devote the greater part of their lives endeavouring to improve the well-being of the Chinese for so little in return.
These brief words show that many people were concerned in the evacuation of the Amethyst's wounded from her difficult position. Later in Shanghai the U.
Battle Hell () - IMDb
By this time the Chinese Nationalist Army had successfully evacuated by train from Changchow about fifteen miles due south of Rose Island - modern location not identifed some sixty ratings who had been ordered to evacuate the ship when under fire to avoid further loss of life; due to minefields they could not rejoin her.
Thus it can be seen that co-operation was much in evidence in the very early stages; this continued in all the ways that were practicable throughout our enforced immobility. The very ready assistance of the Royal Air Force in Sunderlands from Hongkong was of the highest order.
The Yangtse is not an easy place to land in, and Communist gunfire did not assist matters; the help of the R. It is perhaps not generally known that the first R. Sunderland to close the Amethyst had two army ranks on board; they were trained "droppers " and if all else failed it was intended to parachute medical supplies to as close to the Amethyst as was possible.
MORALE There is no doubt that this was the most important point of all to consider from the word "go"; an incident of this nature which came with such suddenness is bound to affect those concerned in various ways. From all the evidence that I have gathered, there is everything to show that morale was of a high order, in spite of the extreme youth of many ratings. When I joined eventually p. In spite of all, they were prepared for the last rites by a valiant team of petty officers and a few junior ratings.
Eventually, when the ship's company realized the situation and the hopelessness of movement either way, there was a distinct hardening of determination to stick it out and face the future with equanimity and confidence. This did much to help. Early on I decided that a strict Service routine must, and would be, adhered to from the beginning. This continued throughout and with watchkeeping every day and night on the bridge as well as considerable damage repairs being necessitated, this kept men fit and physically tired.
Non-working hours were hard to fill; there was little to find to do. We were lucky to have had an unbroken S. No attempt by officers was ever made to institute recreational games for ratings. This bore fruit and it was not long before they made their own entertainment; I have felt that there is nothing more a sailor dislikes than being "organized" into whist drives or other such ideas which eventually finish up as a dismal " flop".
The ship's company were always kept fully informed as far as was possible of the outcome of all my meetings with the C. China People's Liberation Army ; I did, however, never at any time give them any assurance that events would be speedy - it was a personal opinion, which became truer as time unfortunately wore on.
NOSTALGIA: Twenty-two killed aboard HMS Amethyst in Yangtze incident
Certain selected chief and petty officers were given access to the ship's signal log each day; this did much to help morale and gave petty officers a clearer knowledge of the issues at stake, and acted as a deterrent to the proverbial false "buzzes. The ability to receive and send telegrams helped immeasurably were despatched during our days internment. Inability to send an outgoing mail was unfortunate but we did receive three bags towards the end of June; for reasons best known to the C.
The presence of two domestics, and a cat and a dog onboard who had somehow survived the shelling, tended to produce an air of normalcy in messdeck life.
Fortuitously the Amethyst was well stocked, having just left Hongkong, and in addition was carrying flour and frying-oil and other provisions for the Embassy at Nanking to replace their emergency stocks which the lengthened stay of the Consort up-river had depleted. Mercifully the forward galley remained intact and was in constant use throughout; there was thus no difficulty in baking bread and the provision of hot meals. Casualties amongst the cooks whites as well as Chinese were nil, which was salutary.
By bartering with surplus flour, frying-oil, soap, duffel coats, seaboots and other articles we were able to augment our fare with eggs and potatoes albeit small, but better than dehydrated. Later on we were able to obtain Communist money Jen Min Piao, which translated means People's Money and increase our purchases. For large amounts I was able on occasions to use Hongkong currency.
Whichever way one looks at it we lost heavily on the rate of exchange, and their prices were as the opposition wished; perhaps I reached the limit when after three months I discovered Shanghai-brewed beer was available in Chingkiang, by paying approximately 12s. This gave morale a great boost. The daily issue of rum continued as usual - stocks of this were sufficient for many months ahead; this is not surprising when 25 out of the 68 eligible were under twenty years of age. When I went on to half rations at the beginning of July the seriousness of the situation was very quickly brought home to many ratings.
This mainly concerned conservation of cold room stocks and butter, milk, sugar and tea. Looking back on it now there was sufficient calorific value at each meal not to cause undue anxiety; the main trouble was lack of variety. A careful tally was kept on every item each week and the limiting dates of each article were re-assessed. By the end of August it was estimated that starvation would have been very close.
Still I was preparing to go on quarter rations early in August; it would have been then that difficulty in maintaining morale might have been hard. In view of this contingency, lack of food was one of my reasons for the "breakout. Amongst the wounded who were evacuated were the Amethyst's engineer officer and chief E. It was a depleted engine room staff that remained, but mercifully the majority were petty officer stoker mechanics backed up with sufficient hands to run machinery. Considerable credit is due to the senior E.
It is interesting to note that this E. Without going into details here I cannot stress too highly how important knowledge of damage control is when disasters such as this occur—especially ship knowledge. It was unfortunate that large drafting changes had taken place in the Amethyst only a few days previously. The important points which come to my mind here are accurate damage control markings and dispersion of lockers and fire-fighting equipment.
A more simplified form of markings on doors and fans should, I feel, be introduced. Young ratings are inevitably going to forget what the various letterings stand for in time of emergency. The dangers of ratings painting over rubber on hatches and doors is still too evident wherever one looks and in spite of all that has been said in training. Only time and constant supervision will eradicate this very important detail. There is no doubt that our peace-time damage control must be maintained as near to the war-time scale as habitability allows.
FUEL The vital factor throughout our detention was over fuel, on which everything depended. The Amethyst left Shanghai on her fateful journey with full tanks. A small amount was lost by pumping to refloat after grounding; by the time I joined her on the 22nd of April approximately tons remained on board.
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No attempt was made in the early days at conservation since the situation was dangerous and fluid. On April 28th contact had been made with the Communists ashore, and with the realization that time meant little to the C. As time wore on the hours without power became greater - at the end we were shut down for as long as 59 hours without steam. This was grim and was accentuated by the extreme heat which the Yangtse experiences in July. The limiting factors were a the cold rooms and b the magazines: I consider we could have exceeded this period and existed shut down for 72 hours at a time with strict rationing of fresh water.
To live in a "dead ship" is an experience which none of us are likely to forget. Our lowest average daily consumption of fuel for the week was a ton a day. Isolation of one side of the engine room helped considerably, and at the same time allowed refitting to continue. Employment of engine room ratings when shut down was difficult, but eventually sufficient items on the upper-deck with departmental affinity were found to keep them fully employed in chipping.
From the health point of view this was beneficial in the case of some of the younger ratings. The outstanding success perhaps of all our time in the River was the receipt of 54 tons of Admiralty oil fuel in drums from Hogee Wharf, Nanking. I shall never know why the Communist authorities were so ready to accede to the entry of this invaluable oil fuel.
I should explain here that this was a reserve of fuel built up at Hogee where H. Over the months each ship had filled up so many drums before departure. The Naval Attache's foresight paid handsome dividends in the end. This was the one mistake of Colonel Kang Mao-Chao the Political Commissioner and chief negotiator against me ; for a long time he thought we burned coal!
Embarkation of this fuel in drums was an interesting, though strenuous, operation. Due to shortage of man-power no steam was possible. All this fuel was pumped and poured into the three fuelling connections. No pumps being available and the fuel line being on the port side an excessive list to port was necessitated; fortunately the weather was fine, but I experienced a few anxious moments until steam was raised and we could level off. The other miracle was the evaporator, which never let us down only one in this class of ship.
One amusing incident I recall was when an extremely harassed and worried E. Inspection by myself and the electrical officer left no doubt at the time. Signals were made and Hongkong Dockyard over a week-end was quickly at work making another; some time later the E. When the light condition was reached it was approved to flood the forward ballast tank and X magazine X gun was destroyed, anyway instead of flooding oil fuel tanks; the two after ones were flooded earlier on. I hoped to keep as many tanks free of Yangtse water and its large amount of sand whilst there was any hope of fuel replenishment.
For the passage out of the Yangtse Nos. All fuel remaining for the break-out was previously transferred to Nos. Tanks to avoid losing too much by loss of suction. Training in damage control was not overlooked and the boys were put through a course; the many weeks spent in shoring and cutting away damage provided a useful instruction for the great majority. The world has never seen a good deal of the damage caused to the Amethyst's upperworks since all that was practicable was cut away.
To increase stability many heavy weights were struck below - the best examples of this were the damaged Bofors and certain radar equipment but more of this later. A blackboard was kept in my cabin throughout with details of fuel of all types remaining in each tank, fresh water, main items of food and limits of endurance in each case. The remainder were all on shore and for the most part held in Chingkiang at the General's headquarters. These meetings were held with a very thin veil of amicability and rigid formality.
The convening authority was the Area Commander, General Yuan Chung-hsien, whose appearances at the table were few and always of short duration. In spite of everything that was said the negotiating powers on his behalf were handed over to the Political Commissioner, Colonel Kang Mao-Chao; he also is alleged to have been the Battery Commander at Sang Chiang Ying who originally fired on the Amethyst. Kang had two interpreters who were both former students and well indoctrinated in Communist ideologies.
It is of interest that everything I have ever said at all these meetings has been religiously taken down in full, in English as well as in Chinese. At some meetings I had the attention of the Press and propaganda section of the C. The keenest photographer was a female who one day actually ventured out in a sampan from the local village nearby to photograph the Amethyst at all angles. The local garrison commander, Captain Tai Kuo-liang, who acted as my personal bodyguard, also attended each meeting; but apart from writing reams he was never allowed to say a word.
Funnily enough we used to converse in French. The progress of the meetings can fairly be summed up as representing a sine curve; at one meeting some hope for safe conduct was given, but the next would speedily dash it to the ground. By July it was evident that the Communists were deliberately protracting the course of proceedings and that safe conduct would only be given provided H.
Government acceded to damaging admissions which were, of course, quite unacceptable. At no time was any assistance to aid me allowed to enter the area by the C. This officer belonged to the senior officer's frigate at Shanghai and was on passage to Nanking in order to repair the Amethyst's radar.
What we do
No sooner had he done this than circumstances were such that destruction of classified radar equipment was ordered for security reasons. It is coincidence, or perhaps chance, that Telegraphist French was a volunteer to man the whaler ferrying wounded and others to the mainland. He was quickly hauled out of this and thus it was that this rating became the sole wireless operator left in the Amethyst. He did well, and it speaks highly of West Country physique and guts that he stood up to continuous watchkeeping for so long. Two electrical ratings were eventually trained to read our call-sign and simple procedure.
By special arrangements with the flagship or Hongkong continuous watch was always maintained, and the telegraphist rested accordingly. This necessitated raising steam for transmission and was therefore costly in fuel.
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We were able to maintain continuous listening watch with a B. Having to resort to plain language or other insecure means severely limited the reporting of the outcome of my meetings and imparting my intentions to my Commander-in-Chief. The net result was that we nearly succeeded in deceiving each other as to our ideas.
In the end, all was clear. The volume of traffic throughout our period up-river was fairly high and of necessity signals were extremely lengthy. Excellent co-operation at Stonecutters reduced repetitions to a minimum. It is fairly certain that the opposition were eventually reading our messages; and considering we were on the same wavelength for many months, it is perhaps not surprising.
The need for caution was paramount. Lack of codes and cyphers was undoubtedly my severest handicap, and in the end a reasonably secure but limited method was adopted. Rising temperatures in July began to tell on the telegraphist, and there is no shadow of doubt that physically his mental capacity in reading traffic was falling rapidly. There was unfortunately little we could do when shut down to alleviate conditions.
This was one of my paramount reasons that escape was the only solution. It was clear that Colonel Kang had little intention of allowing entry of fuel from Shanghai for a long time, if at all. Moon conditions at the end of July were favourable and I could not risk awaiting another opportunity, since the time was drawing near when operational immobility to get out of the Yangtse would have been reached, even with further very drastic curtailment of fuel consumption.
The climate was at its worst; and though the physical condition of all onboard was reasonably high, no one could have expected such a state of affairs to continue. The Yangtse was at its highest peak so the risk navigationally was worth taking, and if I was hard pressed or badly damaged the channel out to the open sea north of Tsungming Island had hopes of success; there was plenty of river water to pump overboard from the oil fuel tanks and ammunition to jettison to reduce our draught.
As early as May, , I had always considered in my mind that escape would have to be faced eventually. How this could be achieved without disaster I was unable to fathom - but while negotiations gave some hope of eventual agreement I considered it my duty to continue at them to the best of my ability.