D.S.M. London Gazette 16.5.1927 'The King has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the following Decorations and awards to Officers and men of H.M. Navy and the Mercantile Marine, in recognition of their services at Wanhsien, Yangtze River, China on 5 September 1926, and the connected events'.
This excessively rare award was granted for gallantry during the Civil War in China, the above London Gazette announcing two D.S.Cs, two C.G.Ms and four D.S.Ms, in addition to 28 'Mentions'. The action stemmed around the attempted rescue of two Butterfield and Wire Line Steamers, following an incident in which another of the Company's Steamers, the Wanlu, had got into difficulties with General Yang Sen's soldiers at Yunyang, the Chinese claiming that two Sampans had capsized as a result of her wash - several soldiers were drowned and apparently many thousands of dollars lost. Despite a contrary statement from the Wanlu's Captain, in which he denied the charges and stated that his ship was boarded by Chinese soldiers and was fired on while afterwards endeavouring to escape, General Yang Sen - one of Wu Pei Fu's supporters - ordered reprisals in the form of the seizure of two other vessels of the Butterfield and Wire Line, namely the Wanhsien and Wanting.
As a result, the Royal Navy sent to their rescue the Gunboats Cockchafer and Widgeon, in company with the Steamer Kiawo, which latter vessel was owned by Matheson & Co., but had been taken over by the Royal Navy and manned by four Officers and 60 Ratings, Able Seaman Image among them. Arriving at the the port of Wahnsien, where the two Steamers had been held and boarded by 300 Chinese soldiers and the Mercantile Marine Officers locked in their cabins, the R.N. came under a very heavy fire from Chinese artillery and machine-guns, but replied in kind and managed to effect the rescue of the incarcerated Officers before beating a hasty retreat - sadly a Mr. Johnson, who was Chief Engineer of the Wanting, was drowned while attempting to swim away from his captors. Given the scale of the action, the R.N's casualties were high, not least among the crew of the Kiawo, who had three Officers and four Ratings killed, and one Officer and eight men wounded, no doubt as a result of their gallant attempt to board one of the captured Steamers. The Cockchafer too had run into problems, her Captain and five men being wounded. Their combined bravery was not lost on their Lordships, who signalled the C.-in-C., China:
'Having received your telegraphic report of the expedition to Wanhsien on Sunday 5 September, Their Lordships, while deeply regretting the loss of valuable lives and the number of casualties suffered, note that the traditional gallantry of H.M. Service was fully sustained by all Officers and Ratings who took part in the hazardous expedition which resulted in the extrication of H.M.S. Cockchafer from her dangerous position and the rescue, with one exception, of the British Mercantile Marine Officers of the two Steamers. Their Lordships desire that an expression of their warm appreciation may be conveyed to all Officers and Ratings concerned'.
Petty Officer Francis Herbert Image, D.S.M., was born in Willesden, Middlesex in October 1904. At the time of the China Incident in 1926, he was serving as an Able Seaman in H.M.S. Mantis and, no doubt, was one of those who volunteered to man the Steamer Kiawo in her daring enterprise to effect the rescue of the Chinese-held British Mercantile Marine Officers. Image, moreover, was among the wounded (The Times refers). He died in December 1958, aged 54 years.