A Forgotten Blackpool Sailor

Earlier this week I watched  ‘Yangtze Incident’ for the umpteenth time and have been captivated by the story since I was a boy. As a boy in the 1950s I took every opportunity to visit showings of war films at the local cinema. Films I can still watch as though for the first time: Dam Busters, Battle of the River Plate, Cockleshell Heroes, Odette, Colditz, Cruel Sea, Malta Story, Yangtse Incident, and others.  (The name ‘Yangtse’ and ‘Yangtze’ are interchangeable) Whilst working in Blackpool in the late 1960’s I worked with the mother of a young lad, killed during the ‘Yangtse Incident’, George Winter. She described in detail how she had a premonition of Georges death. I don’t think she ever got over it.

No. 818706, Able Seaman George Winter RN, of the British warship HMS ‘Amethyst’. In April 1949, Amethyst was to relieve HMS ‘Consort’ at Shanghai, via the Yangtse River. A few days into the journey, she was attacked and fired on by Communist Chinese shore-based artillery. In the attack, the ship was substantially damaged, eventually running aground on Rose Island in the river. With many casualties among the crew and ships officers, Amethyst was under regular bombardment for several weeks, before making a dash for safety, under cover of darkness.  Although the main story belongs to Amethyst, there were several other ships involved.  All in all, a real ‘Boys Own’ story.

George died of his wounds, age 19 whilst being transported under cover of darkness when the ship’s wounded were being secretly evacuated to a land-based hospital in Shanghai, with help from Chinese locals.  Wounded on the first day of the attack, he died two days later. He is buried in a lonely grave, without any of his shipmates, in Hungjao Road Cemetery, Shanghai, China. He is remembered on the Blackpool Cenotaph and Highfield School memorial.

In 1939, his parents Philip and Annie Winter are living in Knightsbridge Avenue, South Shore, Blackpool. Annie died in 1969, his father in 1967. George’s back story and life as a Sailor are not known, indeed I’ve had great difficulty in gathering information on him. The list of ‘Sources’ below is testament to that.

I have no direct connection with George, nor his family. I was simply intrigued by his mother’s tale and love of the film.  If you know of the family, or better still have a photograph, I’d be delighted to share the research with you.

MPC Jun 2021

Sources and Further Reasearch:

Response to enquiries about ‘George Winter’ at: https://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/great_britain/pages/sloops/hms_amethyst_u16_message_board_1_25.htm

Grave details at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/172026852/george-winter

Basic personal details: http://www.patriotfiles.com/archive/navalhistory/xDKCasAlpha1945%20-presentS.htm

Births Marriages and deaths at: HTTP://wwwfreebmd.org.uk

Death details at: http://veterans.mod.uk/roll-of-honour.php?SerialNo=N7785

The Yangtse Incident Report to Parliament at: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1949/apr/26/the-yangtse-incident

1939 Registration, via Ancestry.co.uk

Naval General Service Medal (Yangtze Clasp) entitlement.

Description of the whole incident and George Winter briefly mentioned in Izzard, B., ‘Yangtze Showdown: China and the Ordeal of HMS Amethyst’, Seaforth Publishing, available on Google Books

Brief coverage of the Incident in: Western Morning News, Monday 25 April 1949, p 1 Col 3: ‘Cease-fire for Amethyst refused by Communists: Plymouth casualties in shelled frigate.

 

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