The attack on the British frigate Amethyst on the Yangtze River by Chinese Communists in 1949 made world headlines. There was even more publicity when the ship made a dramatic escape after being trapped for 101 days. Eulogised by the British as an example of outstanding courage and fortitude, the Yangtze Incident was even made into a feature film, which depicted the ship and her crew as innocent victims of Communist aggression. The truth was more complex, and so sensitive that the government intended that some of the files should be closed until 2030. However, these have now been released and in making use of these documents this book is the first to tell the full story. What emerges is an intriguing tale of intelligence failure, military over-confidence and a flawed hero it is by no means as heroic as the well-publicised official version, but every bit as entertaining. While the reputations of diplomatic and naval top brass take a knock, the bravery and ingenuity of those actively involved shines even more brightly. Written with verve and including much new and surprising information, this book is both enjoyable and informative
YANGTZE SHOWDOWN The Ordeal of HMS Amethyst
This is the story of the Yangtze incident in the round, the military and political machinations prior to, during and after the event. It could be argued that the Amethyst incident, like the defence of Rorke’s Drift during the Zulu wars, was blown out of all proportion by the government of the day for political gain. Amethyst’s escape from the Yangtze in 1949 provided a tonic for a public in the grip of post-war austerity and was a welcome re-affirmation of the status of the Royal Navy. The over-riding question which remains, however, is what this lone British frigate was doing on a foreign river amidst the climax of a long civil war.