Royal Navy commemorate the Yangtze Incident

The Royal Navy has marked the 70th anniversary of the Yangtze Incident at HMS Collingwood.

Veterans and their families, alongside Fleet Commander, Vice Admiral Jerry Kyd, Collingwood Commanding Officer, Captain Rob Vitali, and other guests, paid tribute to those involved in HMS Amethyst’s ill-fated mission up the Yangtze River during the Chinese Civil War.

In April 1949, Amethyst, a Royal Navy sloop, was ordered to act as a guard ship for the British Embassy in Nanjing, east of Shanghai.

She came under heavy fire from the Chinese Communist People’s Liberation Army on the northern bank, killing 17 sailors and wounding ten, including captain, Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner, who later died.

I’ve learnt a huge amount from having the veterans here from the incident. It’s been fantastic.

Captain Rob Vitali RN

First Lieutenant Geoffrey Weston assumed command and a number of rescue attempts were made, by HMS Consort, HMS London and HMS Black Swan, but were all forced back.

Eventually, the ship’s company re-floated their stranded vessel and Assistant Naval Attaché, Lieutenant Commander John Kerens, took command and established a truce with local Communist forces.

Conditions worsened but, under the cover of darkness, Amethyst re-joined the British Far East Fleet and arrived in Hong Kong after her three-month ordeal.

At Collingwood, a talk was given about the incident and this was followed by a service of remembrance.

HMS Amethyst veteran Ray Calcott, who was also celebrating his 90th birthday, said: “This has been very memorable, it’s been a lovely day, I’ve really enjoyed it. I was a seaman in charge of the A Gun, when the first shell came over, I remember it as clear as day.”

Stewart Hett, who was also serving on the Amethyst as a 22-year-old Lieutenant, said: “When we were trapped in the river I had to take over as the second in command.

“I’m really pleased that HMS Collingwood keeps a lobby in Endeavour Building with all of the Yangtze memorabilia.”

Cpt Vitali added: “On behalf of HMS Collingwood having you all here today has been fascinating.

“I’ve learnt a huge amount from having the veterans here from the incident. It’s been fantastic. Thank you for coming.”