'˜HMS Concord crew must get honour for its Cold War heroics'

DEMANDS are being made for the government to honour the heroics of a Portsmouth warship and her crew involved in a major Cold War episode.

Tuesday, 31st July 2018, 8:14 am
Updated Friday, 31st August 2018, 5:01 pm
HMS Concord

HMS Concord's crew risked life and limb during a daring rescue mission in China in 1949 '“ which was later hushed up by Whitehall amid fears of a political fallout.

The crew sailed into the River Yangtze during a bitter civil war to help the stricken frigate 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.

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Now, with today marking the 69th anniversary of the mission, a fresh campaign is being launched by veterans to honour the men of Concord '“ one which Portsmouth is being urged to back.

The bid is being led by Peter Lee-Hale, chairman of the HMS Concord Association and a former member of the ship's company between 1955 and 1956.

The 84-year-old, who as a 15-year-old celebrated the rescue on the playground of St Vincent College, is demanding his predecessors are honoured.

He said: '˜We want justice for the 1949 crew because they deserve it. They were wrongly denied this by (prime minister Clement) Attlee was concerned about losing trade with China.

'˜To say that the crew of Concord was not at risk or rigour is a total fallacy. They were just as in danger as anyone else.

'˜If your readers believe that our 1949 crew should receive the medal and clasp I would ask them to write to the prime minister and their MP and ask '“ no, demand '“ that these brave sailors get their much-overdue, just reward.'

Amethyst was caught up in the drama after being sent in to relieve HMS Consort, which had been acting as a guard ship to the embassy in Nanking.

A Communist shore battery opened fire on Amethyst, killing several members of the crew, including the captain, and crippling the ship.

The rescue mission was launched three months later, with Concord successfully saving the crew without suffering a single casualty.

For the best part of 50 years the government maintained Concord had never sailed in Chinese waters before finally admitting the ship's involvement.