Pirates, Merchants & Shipping on the North China Coast
Date: 16 October 2012Time: 10:30 AM
Finishes: 15 December 2012Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: Brunei GalleryRoom: Brunei Gallery Exhibition Rooms
Type of Event: Exhibition
By the early 1900’s the South China Sea was well known and reported on for acts of piracy against merchant shipping in it’s busy waterways, this exhibition of material drawn from the archives of John Swires & Sons held at SOAS looks at the piracy of merchant shipping on the North China coast and that of the SS Nanchang II on March 29th 1933. Prior to the Nanchang affair, piracy was hitherto unknown along the northern coast of China.
The event was widely reported on in the press of the time with accounts of how the British officers and 37 Chinese crewmen on board the Nanchang were caught off guard when two seemingly-innocent fishing junks suddenly swept alongside, disgorging a motley assortment of armed pirates, who swarmed on deck firing indiscriminately.
The pirates quickly looted the cabins of anything they could carry away and returned to their junks - taking with them the four remaining British officers (First Officer Clifford Johnson, Second Officer Bill Hargrave, Second Engineer Archie Blue, and Third Engineer Frank Pears). The attack lasted twenty minutes. Its after-effects were to last five long months and the Nanchang incident was to become the most celebrated piracy the China coast had ever known.
A diary account of their capture and period of imprisonment was kept by Clifford Johnson before their subsequent ransom and release after five months following the payment of a ransom, and the release of 26 Chinese prisoners, relatives of one of the bandits.
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