Cromer War Memorial since 1945

Cromer War Memorial since 1945

In memory of the men and women of
Cromer who have given their lives
during Military Service since 1945

There is more on the story behind the plaque here:-…

Able Seaman Edgar G Harrison………………………………..Yangtse River 1949

AB Edgar Harrison was the son of Mr and Mr James Harrison of Roseberry Road on Suffield Park.

The 29-year-old Cromer fishermen served with the Royal Navy for six years, including the second world war, and rejoined for another four years afterwards.

He was killed on April 21 1949 in the Yangtse Incident in China, when his ship, the cruiser HMS London, went to help the frigate HMS Amethyst, which was being shelled by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army in the Yantse river, where it was sailing to (bring) supplies to a British Embassy and found itself caught up in civil war.…

Thursday, 21 April 1949
CHINESE CIVIL WAR, Yangzte River crossed on this date,
The Yangzte Incident.

HMS London, heavy cruiser, Chinese Communist shore gunfire
ARKELL, James H, Leading Seaman, C/JX 804754, killed
ELLWOOD, Arthur W, Able Seaman, C/JX 371567, killed
FOLEY, James P, Able Seaman, D/JX 552734, killed
HARRISON, Edgar G W, Act/Able Seaman, C/JX 174555, killed
JARVIS, Lawrence H V, Marine, CH/X 43488, killed
JONES, Sidney O, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 818150, killed
LANE, John C, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 815537, killed
PULLIN, William G, Able Seaman, C/JX 319158, killed
ROPER, Alec B, Petty Officer, C/JX 153283, killed
SHELTON, Harry, Able Seaman, C/SSX 818928, killed
STOWERS, Patrick J, Chief Petty Officer Writer, P.MX 59958, killed
WALSINGHAM, Stanley W A, Ordinary Seaman, C/SSX 661463, killed

Saturday, 23 April 1949
HMS London, shore gunfire
WARWICK, Geoffrey G, Ordinary Seaman, C/JX 820226, DOW

Casualties continued into May.

Following the grounding of the Amethyst and the shooting up of the Consort in its attempt to rescue her, next into action was the London and the Black Swan.

Down at the mouth of the Yangste, FO 2i/c, Vice-Admiral Madden with his Flag in London, and with Black Swan in company, was on his way to Shanghai for St. George’s Day celebrations, and he decided that on the chance that the action had been an isolated one of trigger-happy Communists, he must make the attempt to reach and relieve Amethyst. During the night Amethyst received a signal ordering her to be in a certain spot more or less where she was anchored, and under way at a certain time next morning, but in fact, the relief force didn’t appear, so some time later they anchored again. London and Black Swan had started up river, Black Swan leading, but had soon run into so much trouble that FO 2i/c had to give up the hope of reaching Amethyst, and they turned and went down river again, receiving even more damage in the process.…

Towards the end of April 1949, H.M.S. Consort, a destroyer, was at the Chinese city of Nanking acting as guard ship, i.e. looking after the interests of the local British population and if necessary, to provide protection for them. At this time, China was in the middle of a civil war and Communist forces were advancing on a broad front towards the Yangtze River. Before they were to make the crossing, the frigate H.M.S. Amethyst was due to replace the Consort. Amethyst was proceeding up river when Communist gun batteries suddenly fired on her. Severe damage was sustained, making it necessary to come to anchor in the river. Gunfire then stopped. In an attempt to perform a rescue, Consort left Nanking and steamed towards Amethyst, but she also came under attack and, being damaged, had to pass the Amethyst.

Meanwhile, H.M.S. London was visiting the port of Shanghai when a signal was received reporting the above. The ship immediately set sail in company with a frigate, H.M.S. Black Swan into the Yangtze with a view to providing assistance to the Amethyst. Large Union Flags were displayed around the upper deck, but despite our peaceful intentions, we were aware of what had already happened and the ship was prepared for action. The Sick Bay was made ready to receive battle casualties. That evening, a meeting with Consort took place in the river. Her casualties were transported to the London’s sick bay, their injuries treated, then all but one were returned to their ship, which continued down river. This meeting gave us some idea of what was to come.

The next morning passage was continued. My “Action Station” was the upper deck, where I was to perform first aid. This was a very exposed location, apart from the 8” gun turrets, the remaining guns had very little protective armour. Before long the ships became the target of shore based guns of various types. After passing one battery, another would be waiting round the bend in the river. The firing was intense. Our guns returned fire, but our 8” main armament was not designed for such short range combat, and there was little room for the ship to manoeuvre. Heavy damage was sustained and I soon became very busy. Shells were exploding around and behind the gunners and others employed on the upper deck – a thought crossed my mind that shells do not recognise a red cross!

Before Amethyst could be reached, the Captain decided that to proceed further would be suicidal and the order was given to return down stream. Again the gauntlet of shore batteries had to be passed and many gallant deeds were performed. Each man relied upon his shipmates to do his duty efficiently. Many were wounded and for at least the next three days the Sick Berth Staff were kept fully occupied attending to them and there was little sleep.

Fifteen of my shipmates were killed in this action, men who we had been with in the close confines of a ship, for the past 18 months – there was a common bond that increased during the time of danger. At our annual reunion church service, we remember these men.

At 1000 on the 20th April, heavy fire was opened on the Amethyst by the Communists in the vicinity of Rose Island. She was immediately and repeatedly hit on the Bridge and in the Wheelhouse, became out of control and still under heavy fire, grounded on Rose Island. London, wearing the Flag of Vice Admiral Madden, Second in Command, Far East Fleet, received Amethyst’s report at 1100. She was then approaching the Yangtze Entrance Lightship on passage to Shanghai. Lower Deck was cleared, and the situation was explained to the Ship’s Company. Then began the work of preparing the ship for possible action. There was much to be done. The Lovely London was looking her best that morning. Her awnings were spread, her brightwork was shining, her illumination circuits were partly rigged ready for celebrations on St. George’s Day. To strip her for action was a big task, both mental and physical.

We steamed on to Woosung, embarked two Chinese Pilots and Mr. Sudbury, a Whangpoo Pilot who also knew the Yangtze well, and continued up the Yangtze to Kiang Yen where we anchored for the night at 1900. Events had moved during the afternoon, Consort had steamed at full speed from Nanking to Amethyst’s assistance. She too had been heavily fired on, and suffered damage and casualties. She was forced to abandon her attempts to tow Amethyst off and came down to Kiang Yin. She, and Black Swan, who had come down from Shanghai secured alongside us. Both ships were fuelled and our Medical Staff spent a busy night attending to Consort’s wounded.

At 0615 on the 21st April we weighed, steamed 10 miles up the river and anchored again. Black Swan came with us, Consort returned to Shanghai. During the night, Amethyst had managed to get herself off and was now at anchor above Rose Island. All attempts to get in touch with Communist Headquarters had failed. At 1000 the Admiral decided to go up in London and attempt to bring the Amethyst down. Black Swan was to come as far as Beaver lsland and give covering fire if necessary.

Let us be clear on this point. To steam a 10,000-ton Cruiser past determined and well trained shore batteries in confined waters without prolonged and heavy preliminary bombardment is not a sound operation of war. But we were not at war with the Communists; the strength and efficiency of the batteries were not known and there was a good chance that the Communists would have realised their mistake in firing on British warships on the previous day, and would not fire at all. All the chances had been carefully weighed and we were prepared to give as good as we got if the opposition was determined.
At 1026 with the Ship’s Company at Action Stations, we weighed and proceeded up the river at 25 knots. Large Union Jacks had been rigged on the front and sides of the Bridge and on the sides of the Hangars. They flew also from four Yardarms on the foremast and two on the Mainmast. This galaxy of bunting was completed by a large white flag at the Foremast head and an ensign at the peak. There could be no doubt in the mind of any man familiar with the British National Flag or the usage of the White Flag as to the Ship’s Nationality or Peaceful Intentions.

At 1036, ten minutes after we had weighed, fire was opened from the North Bank. We were hit immediately by projectiles of 75 mm and 105 mm calibre. The firing continued for four minutes in spite of heavy and accurate counter-fire from the eight inch, four inch and close range weapons. After passing this battery, there was a lull till 1104 when it started again. Casualties and damage were becoming severe, particularly on the bridges, hangars and four inch Gun Decks. At 1106 a burst on the Bridge wounded the Captain and Officer of the Watch, mortally wounded the Navigating Officer and killed the Chinese Pilot. Damage to instruments and communications on the bridge were severe. We were now 19 miles from Amethyst’s position, the bridge was temporarily out of action and the navigation of the river at high speed from the after conning position and without a Chinese Pilot was clearly impracticable.

It was clear that, in the doubtful event of our reaching Amethyst, the return trip escorting her at slow speed was foredoomed to failure. The time for withdrawal had come and the wheel was put hard-a-starboard. By great good fortune we were between two batteries, neither of which could bear on us while we turned. At 1114 we were safely round and regaining the centre of the Channel and, shortly after this, the bridge was able to take over from the After Conning Position again. Five more actions took place during the passage down the river. Each time the pattern was the same – a burst of fire from the Bank, quickly followed by our return fire. It was not a pleasant action to be in: the range was never more than 1,500 yards and hits were frequent and inevitable. The opposition consisted of 4 in. gun batteries well dug in, but plainly visible on the bank, and of anti-tank weapons of 40 mm calibre which fired high velocity armour piercing shot, which were capable of damaging 8 in. Gunhouse Armour and piercing Turret Trunking. These guns were well camouflaged and impossible to spot and it was they who caused most of our casualties. The last battery ceased fire at 1340. We had been under heavy fire for a total of 48 minutes, spread over a period of three hours. Our casualties were thirteen killed, fourteen seriously wounded and about 45 lightly wounded. Two of the seriously wounded unhappily died later.

It is difficult to assess the damage and casualties inflicted on the opposition, but at least eight direct hits with 8 in. H. E. Shell were obtained on the 4 in. batteries at an average range of 1,500 yards. In addition, 4 in. air bursts and close range direct fire must have caused many casualties in the target area. The Communists themselves admitted two hundred and fifty killed. Altogether we fired 155 rounds of 8 in., 449 rounds of 4 in. and 2,625 rounds of Close Range Ammunition.

Space does not permit the telling of the many stories of good and gallant work by parties and individuals of all departments and in every part of the ship. Nowhere did we find a weak link. The matter is best summed up by the following excerpt from the Captain’s Official Report:

"All damage to the ship was quickly and efficiently dealt with by the Damage Control Parties, whose performance I consider to be outstanding, taking into consideration the difficulty of providing realistic training in these duties.

The bearing and conduct of the Ship’s Company, a large proportion of whom are very young and were experiencing action for the first time, was beyond praise. As an instance, the 4 in. Gun Crews and Supply Parties suffered 38% casualties, who were instantly replaced as they fell. These guns continued in action throughout and fired a total of 449 rounds."

We secured at Holt’s Wharf, Shanghai, that evening. Of the next few days of unremitting work patching the damage and clearing up the debris of battle, some memories stand out. The funeral of the dead from London, Consort and Amethyst at the Hung Jau Cemetery: Shanghai Cathedral packed to the doors for the Memorial Service on the following day: perhaps, above all, we will remember the overwhelming kindness and help of the American Navy in placing their Hospital Ship Repose at our disposal and assisting us in every possible way.

Posted by Moominpappa06 on 2013-06-08 16:27:46

Tagged: , Cromer , Cromer St Peter and St Paul , Norfolk , England , UK , In memoria , Dulce et Decorum est , War Memorial , Edgar Harrison , HMS London , 21/04/1949 , 21st April 1949 , Anthony Warnes , 15/05/1954 , 15th May 1954 , Stephen Bolger , 1 Para Special Forces Group , 30/05/2009 , 30th May 2009

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