893.00/7616: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State

379. 1. A conversation with British Legation has confirmed following information: Two British gunboats and an armed merchant ship manned by 4 naval officers and 60 bluejackets were heavily fired upon and compelled to retreat down river after an unsuccessful attempt to release two British merchant vessels which were being illegally detained at Wanhsien by General Yang Sen. Commander and 3 other officers of armed merchant ship, British marines, killed [Page 625] and it is believed 13 other British enlisted men of the force wounded. During the course of the engagement the British vessels fired into the town causing apparently considerable damage by fire. A French gunboat was hit by Chinese shore batteries during fighting. British Minister expressed considerable apprehension lest reprisals be taken against officers of merchant vessels held by Yang Sen, not all of whom apparently succeeded in escaping during the engagement.

2. Sir Ronald Macleay22 yesterday intimated that the naval authorities might renew with larger force the attempt to release these vessels.

  1. British Minister in China.