793.94/11623: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

626. The British Ambassador77 called upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday morning to protest most emphatically against attacks by Japanese machine guns and field pieces upon British naval vessels Ladybird and Bee as well as British merchant vessels, all in [Page 499] the vicinity of Wuhu on the Yangtze. Facts as reported to the British Embassy here are that Ladybird suffered four direct hits, one rating killed, one seriously wounded and several minor injuries including flag captain. Bee fired upon but no damage. Chief of Staff on Bee protested strongly to Colonel Hashimoto, temporarily senior Japanese military officer at Wuhu, who “made futile excuses but admitted that firing at warships was his mistake and that Japanese had orders to fire at every ship on the river”.

In protesting to the Minister for Foreign Affairs the British Ambassador, after explaining what had happened, suggested that a probable explanation was contained in the admission of the Japanese commanding officer at Wuhu that he had received instructions to fire at every ship on the Yangtze, which meant either that the assurances of the Japanese Government that they would protect noncombatants could not be relied upon, or else that the Japanese military authorities in China were disregarding their instructions.

Craigie added that “British public opinion was bound to take a most serious view of this incident” and urged that the Japanese Government should make a suitable apology as soon as possible.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs called in person on the Ambassador the same afternoon and expressed apology and regrets on behalf of the Japanese Government.

Repeated to Peiping for Hankow.

  1. Sir Robert L. Craigie, British Ambassador in Japan.