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Yangtze Showdown (ePub)

China and the Ordeal of HMS Amethyst

Maritime > Naval Maritime > Seaforth Publishing

By Brian Izzard
Seaforth Publishing
File Size: 13.0 MB (.epub)
Pages: 276
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781473854956
Published: 18th February 2015


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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 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 hero with feet of clay – 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.

This extremely detailed well structured account is mostly told through the eyes and actions of the participants at all levels and is hard to put down. If you only read one book on the Yangtze incident this should be it and it is highly recommended.

Military Historical Society

Cover to cover a really good read. This is the story of the Yangtze incident in the round, the military and political machinations prior to, during and after the event. If you know the gung-ho 1957 film with hero Richard Todd then prepared to be shocked by the truth. There are action heroes a plenty but there are also ‘politicos’ who are anything but heroes.
The first sentence of the book is ‘A couple of shells whistled overhead and a group of sailors on board HMS Amethyst came to the same conclusion “They couldn’t hit a barn door”. The story goes on with the same engaging vitality. As for the Chinese hitting barn doors I remember newspaper photographs at the time rechristening HMS Amethyst as HMS Pepperpot.
Supporting the text are two useful maps and an informative set of photographs. Also the set of five appendices complete the information given in the story.
Well researched and beautifully written this book will be informative to military buffs and students of cold war politics. But more than those people we highly recommended it to the much wider audience of anyone who enjoy a good read.

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Clash of Steel

An intriguing tale of intelligence failure, military over-confidence and a hero with feet of clay.

Ships Monthly, March 2017

As feature in.

Navy News

Yangtze Showdown is well written, with several gripping battle pieces, for a good sea story and a look inside the early days of the Cold War.

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Strategy Page

This latest volume is almost certainly the most deeply researched book about the Yangtse Incident...

... There are now very few of the original
‘49-ers’ still remaining; whether from Amethyst, Consort, London, or Black Swan, but I dare say that they and their sons and grandsons would personally be very interested in reading this book.

The Naval Review, May 2016 - Bill Evershed

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.

Brian Izzard's book provides a well-written, very readable account of this incident. His research has been thorough and includes both first-hand accounts by survivors and reference to primary source material not expected to be released before 2030.

Warship annual - Jon Wise

Retells the story of a classic piece of post war naval adventure in a highly readable and well researched manner.

Scuttlebutt Edition No51

I THOUGHT all had been written about this famous incident but the author has proved me wrong. Brian Izzard was a Fleet Street journalist and his treatment of the topic is soon apparent. He has written two previous books so he has his eye in for popular history.

Izzard makes some extravagant claims which, while entertaining, have to recede into the mists of time. Tabloid approaches are meant to entertain, for what good is any story without a conspiracy theory or more within? Despite that, it is a readable and enjoyable book and I doubt if too many former naval types will object to his coverage. For he gets it right, as he explains what a fighting ship and navy culture is all about. This includes the obvious, which might be restated, including: leadership, morale, training, tactics and every facet which keeps a man of war at sea to combat an enemy...

... A brief book review does not allow for a comprehensive survey of this masterly work. It is a book that should be read and not left to any minor survey by another. This account is gripped with tension and it is hard to put down as you want these people to win through, as they surely did. It was a finely run thing and their escape down the river is the feat of legends which will forever be celebrated throughout the endless history of the Royal Navy. Many officers and men were killed or were grievously maimed in the on-going life of the incident. We should not forget Amethyst did not suffer alone, and recall that personnel aboard HM ships Consort, London and Black Swan also suffered fatalities with many wounded. HMS Concord also had a key role and the author suggests that an official decision not to award its crew the Naval General Service Medal with clasp “Yangtze, 1949” was an inadequate response to a warship which was equally prepared to enter harm’s way.

Before reading the book, have a quick look at the appendices. They note the ships which took part, listing those killed and wounded, decorations awarded, including a useful timeline of main events which one can put into acute perspective. The book evidences voluminous sources and a comprehensive bibliography.

Australian Naval Institute

As seen in...

Warship World

'This is the definitive story of this 1949 event known as the Yangtze incident.'

Herald Express

Yangtze Showdown retells the story of a classic piece of post war naval adventure in a highly readable and well researched manner.

Warship World

A very well written and researched book that should not be missed.

Sea Breezes
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