HMS Amethyst

HIT TeamLaunched in 1943, HMS Amethyst was a “modified” Black Swan-class “sloop”, (or Frigate after WWII). In the late 1940s, the ship and her crew made their mark on history. 

Whilst transiting the River Yangtze in April 1949, Chinese Communists mistook the ship as one belonging to the enemy Nationalists and opened fire, inflicting significant damage and 19 fatalities (including the ship’s Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Skinner). The ship ran aground on a sandbank, at an angle that rendered the firing capabilities of the two forward turrets useless.

Whilst the politicians and media argued about who was to blame for starting the engagement, Amethyst was stranded for months in unbearable conditions of heat and an increasing population of rats and cockroaches. With rapidly dwindling food and fuel supplies, Commander John Kerans, the British Naval Attaché in China (played by Richard Todd in the film Yangtse Incident), arrived from Nanking and took command of the ship. On 30 July 1949, Kerans decided to make a night-time bid for escape. 

Once again the ship took heavy fire, but on 31 July, at 05:00, the Amethyst rendezvoused safely with the destroyer HMS Concord. After refit and additional operational duties, Amethyst’s final duty was to appear in the Yangtse Incident film. On 19 January 1957, she was towed into Plymouth’s Sutton Harbour, coming to a final stop on Marrowbone Slip, where she was broken up.

This Augmented Reality project is designed to visualise the Amethyst’s final resting place, next to the China House Pub and Restaurant (itself an historic building, dating back to the 1600s), and to draw attention to what must have been a spectacular sight—a 1350-ton, 283-foot long Frigate laying silent in a small harbour which was, at the time, more used to welcoming fishing trawlers and sailing ships.