The escape plan for the battered HMS Amethyst presented a great many risks. First of all, she would have to navigate an unknown river at night. Normally the ship would take on a local pilot who knew the river. Without a pilot HMS Amethyst was vastly more likely to run aground or hit an obstacle. Either would be disastrous, if she wasn't out of the river by dawn, she wouldn't stand a chance and the Chinese batteries would send her to the bottom.
The other concern was time. HMS Amethyst had to wait until the moon had set, however that barely left enough time to make the journey. If it came to a fight the sloop would be unable to fight free. The earlier casualties had left the ship without much manpower, only one gun turret, and one of the AA guns could be crewed.
At 2209 Lt Cdr Kerans got a stroke of luck. Another vessel glided past. It was a passenger ship called Kiang Ling Liberation. Seeing his chance Lt Cdr Kerans gave orders to hoist the anchor, three minutes later she slipped in astern of the passenger ship. HMS Amethyst started showing the normal lights for a civilian ship at night, she also had panels of black cloth in place to disguise her shape.
Making a respectable 22 knots HMS Amethyst carried on down the river, at one point the Chinese spotted her and opened fire again, although several near misses splashed the decks with river water no further damage was sustained.
By 0242 in the morning HMS Amethyst was a mere 42 miles from the open sea, but her speed had dropped to 19 knots. Suddenly out of the darkness an unlit Chinese junk appeared. Unable to alter course in time there was a sickening crash. After the shudder of the impact spread down the ship she carried on as if nothing had happened. The unfortunate junk was sheared in two.
Finally at about 0500 HMS Amethyst began to approach Woosung. Sited there was a fort with shore batteries to cover the entrance to the river. The fort had several 6" guns emplaced, the fire-power of a cruiser! One hit from those and it'd all be over. The fort was obviously alert and awake, as its search lights were sweeping the river, hunting for HMS Amethyst. To make matters worse the first cracks of light were beginning to appear in the east as dawn began.
At one point a beam passed close by, the peripheral light illuminating the ship, however there was no reaction from the fort. Suddenly HMS Amethyst was speared in the centre of a spotlight, glittering like the jewel she was named after.
"Have rejoined the Fleet south of Woosung. No damage or casualties. God Save the King."
|Damage to HMS Amethyst|
|The Ships Company parade in London|
|Able seacat Simon in playing with a vet in quarantine|