'I saw things I'll never forget...'
By Matt Jackson
April 20, 2009

Veterans lobbying the Ministry of Defence for a medal clasp for the Yangtze incident have won the backing of MPs. Sailors from HMS Concord helped the stricken warship HMS Amethyst complete her escape from China in 1949 and want recognition.

As reported in yesterday's News, the MoD has said they do not qualify because they were not fired on by Chinese forces - unlike the sailors of four other ships involved.

But today, Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has said the veterans deserve the award.

The Lib Dem said: 'I had a friend whose father was injured in HMS Amethyst so I'm aware of the awful casualties they took.

'But surely there can be space made for the sailors of HMS Concord?

'They put themselves within a short distance of Chinese guns and there was no way they could have known what would happen.'

In Scotland, Labour MP Jim Devine has quizzed defence minister Bob Ainsworth on why Concord should be left out.

Mr Ainsworth said in a written reply that the awards committee, aware that Concord was not fired upon, thought there wasn't sufficient risk.

He said: 'Those responsible for establishing the ships and personnel that should qualify for the clasp would have been aware of this and it is clear that there were no grounds to consider including HMS Concord in the list of ships.'

Commander Eddie Grenfell, who led the successful News campaign to win a star for the veterans of the Second World War Arctic convoys, said: 'Our campaign benefited hugely from having a letter written by Winston Churchill's office, which put down in writing for the first time that there could be exceptions and reviews of a good rule.

'That is why campaigners should not give up and why civil servants should be more flexible.'

Mr Hancock said: 'This is the same as the Arctic medal and the same as the Suez medal.

'The cost to the MoD is so negligible compared to the experience of these veterans, and it's another decision made by a civil servant.'


The Yangtze incident began on April 20, 1949, when the British frigate HMS Amethyst was attacked as she sailed along the Yangtze River in China.

Along with HMS Consort, HMS Black Swan and HMS London, dozens of sailors were killed as Chinese communist forces fired on them for being in Chinese waters.

When HMS Amethyst later made her daring escape to the open sea, it was HMS Concord that passed the Woosung Forts, where further firing was feared, to meet her and escort her.

-Matt Jackson
Defence correspondent

Reprinted with the permission of Matt Jackson and The News
© 2009 The News and www.portsmouth.co.uk all rights reserved


Page published Apr. 29, 2009