Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Jewel of the Yangtze

Part One
Part Two

The escape plan for the battered HMS Amethyst presented a great many risks.  First of all, she would have to navigate an unknown river at night.  Normally the ship would take on a local pilot who knew the river. Without a pilot HMS Amethyst was vastly more likely to run aground or hit an obstacle.  Either would be disastrous, if she wasn't out of the river by dawn, she wouldn't stand a chance and the Chinese batteries would send her to the bottom.

The other concern was time.  HMS Amethyst had to wait until the moon had set, however that barely left enough time to make the journey.  If it came to a fight the sloop would be unable to fight free.  The earlier casualties had left the ship without much manpower, only one gun turret, and one of the AA guns could be crewed.

At 2209 Lt Cdr Kerans got a stroke of luck.  Another vessel glided past.  It was a passenger ship called Kiang Ling Liberation.  Seeing his chance Lt Cdr Kerans gave orders to hoist the anchor, three minutes later she slipped in astern of the passenger ship.  HMS Amethyst started showing the normal lights for a civilian ship at night, she also had panels of black cloth in place to disguise her shape.
After shadowing the passenger ship for about 15 minutes a volley of flares sprung up from the bank, casting a flickering light on the scene.  The lights also illuminated a Communist gun boat to port.  The gunboat opened fire at HMS Amethyst, but its tracers flew over the bows of the ship, and landed amongst a gun battery on shore, which responded.  With all this firing going on, the Kiang Ling Liberation doused her lights.  HMS Amethyst opened fire with her puny armament, and opened her throttles to maximum.  She passed within a mere 18 inches of the passenger ship as she steamed past.  In the course of the three way firefight, with confusion and tracer flying everywhere the Royal Navy sloop took a single shell at about the waterline.  However as she surged ahead into the darkness the crew looked astern and saw the Kiang Ling Liberation was a burning inferno and sinking fast.

Making a respectable 22 knots HMS Amethyst carried on down the river, at one point the Chinese spotted her and opened fire again, although several near misses splashed the decks with river water no further damage was sustained.

As she approached Kiang Yin a new hazard loomed.  The Chinese had created a blockage in the river by sinking several ships.  There was an opening, which was normally marked by two lighted buoys.  However as HMS Amethyst approached only a single light could be seen bobbing in the swell.  As Lt Cdr Kerans pondered what to do his hand was forced.  Out of the darkness a line of tracer spurted as another Chinese gunboat moved out to attack.  Again HMS Amethyst raced forward, narrowly missing the speeding gunboat as it tried to block her course.  Lt Cdr Kerans placed the buoy to starboard and the crew grimaced and waited.
 In the engine room the temperature was over 120 degrees and it was even hotter in the boiler room.  The crew slaving in the oven like heat wouldn't stand a chance if the sloop struck one of the blockade ships at 22 knots.  The side of the vessel would be torn open and they'd likely drown.  But again luck was on HMS Amethyst's side, and she passed through the opening in the blockade.

By 0242 in the morning HMS Amethyst was a mere 42 miles from the open sea, but her speed had dropped to 19 knots.  Suddenly out of the darkness an unlit Chinese junk appeared.  Unable to alter course in time there was a sickening crash.  After the shudder of the impact spread down the ship she carried on as if nothing had happened.  The unfortunate junk was sheared in two.

Finally at about 0500 HMS Amethyst began to approach Woosung.  Sited there was a fort with shore batteries to cover the entrance to the river.  The fort had several 6" guns emplaced, the fire-power of a cruiser!  One hit from those and it'd all be over.  The fort was obviously alert and awake, as its search lights were sweeping the river, hunting for HMS Amethyst.  To make matters worse the first cracks of light were beginning to appear in the east as dawn began.

At one point a beam passed close by, the peripheral light illuminating the ship, however there was no reaction from the fort. Suddenly HMS Amethyst was speared in the centre of a spotlight, glittering like the jewel she was named after.
HMS Concord
There was still no fire from the fort, although spotted and illuminated the fort at Woosung watched the battered sloop head out to sea. Backdropped by the morning dawn another ship could be seen ahead, the HMS Concord which was a Royal Navy destroyer.  At the sight of the destroyer Lt Cdr Kerans was able to signal:
"Have rejoined the Fleet south of Woosung. No damage or casualties. God Save the King."
Damage to HMS Amethyst
At Hong Kong a escort party had been formed and dispatched.  However Lt Cdr Kerans wasn't going to let the fact he only had 9 tons of fuel oil left stop him.  So he took on fuel from HMS Concord, and set off to meet the escort party.  At 1000 on the 3rd of August HMS Amethyst sailed into Hong Kong to wild cheers from all.
The Ships Company parade in London
 The story doesn't end there.  HMS Amethyst returned to the UK afterwards, and as all animals entering the UK are required to do, Simon was sent to quarantine.  However, despite the best possible care, he contracted an infection and died.  Simon was awarded the Dickens Medal for his service.
Able seacat Simon in playing with a vet in quarantine
In an odd twist I was chatting to some World of Tanks players from the North American server, and I mentioned what I was working on, expecting none of them to have a clue.  One did though, their grandfather was in command of the battery that first opened fire on HMS Amethyst!