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. Eulogized 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-publicized 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.
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Brian Izzard was a Fleet Street journalist, feature writer and news subeditor for many years, working latterly on the Daily Express and the Sunday Express. This is his third book, previous titles being Gamp VC: The Wartime Story of Maverick Submarine Commander Anthony Miers (2009) and Sabotage: The Mafia, Mao and the Death of the Queen Elizabeth (2012).
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