Campaigners' delight at Scottish backing in fight for Yangtze Medal
By Matt Jackson
March 9, 2010

Veterans who want the government to acknowledge a warship's role in a major Cold War episode are celebrating a victory.  

The Scottish Parliament's petitions committee said it would press for answers as to why the MoD does not recognise the risk HMS Concord faced in July 1949.

The ship sailed into China's River Yangtze during a civil war to help the stricken ship HMS Amethyst escape to freedom.

But while crew members on Amethyst and other ships were given the Yangtze Clasp for their efforts in an earlier rescue attempt in the April of that year - which left 45 sailors dead - none of the dozens of Portsmouth-based sailors from Concord were recognised for the July operation.

The government maintained until recently that the ship never entered Chinese waters, which ex-sailors from the ship say was a diplomatic cover-up.

Campaigner Willie Leitch said: 'This is a great result and gives the veterans a boost.'

Speaking at the committee meeting in Edinburgh was MSP Robin Harper.

His father was a midshipman at the China station when Concord and Amethyst tied up after the Yangtze incident.

He said: 'It's clear from the details we have that the story we were fed after the war was very far from being the whole story.

'There's no doubt that all the ships including Concord were engaged in an extremely dangerous operation and that everybody behaved extremely creditably and very bravely.

'But one ship and her complement were entirely left out of the honours,' he added.

Last year, when questioned by The News about the HMS Concord campaign, a navy spokesman said the ship had not ventured into the main river.

But since then the navy has acknowledged that Concord had sailed into the river to help Amethyst.

Mr Leitch said in changing their version of events the navy was 'clutching at straws'.

A navy spokesman said: 'At the end of July 1949 HMS Concord sailed up the Yangtze River to support Amethyst's escape down the river.

'Thankfully the enemy was not aware of the escape and neither ship was forced to go into action.

'Concord's involvement in Amethyst's escape was reported then and has since been a matter of public knowledge.'
Reprinted with the permission of Matt Jackson and The News
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Page published Mar. 10, 2010