British Commonwealth Occupation Force

The British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) was the British Commonwealth taskforce consisting of Australian, British, Indian and New Zealand military forces in occupied Japan, from 21 February 1946 until the end of occupation in 1952. At its peak, the BCOF comprised about 40,000 personnel, equal to about 25% of the number of US military personnel in Japan.

AWM019422 Yokosuka
30 August 1945. Yokosuka Naval Base, Tokyo Bay. Commander Yuzo Tanno hands over the keys of the Yokosuka Naval Base to Captain H. J. Buchanan, Royal Australian Navy. Buchanan led the first British Commonwealth party to go ashore in Japan.
General Eichelberger inspects the Australian Guard of Honor at Kure, British Commonwealth Occupation Force Headquarters
General Robert L. Eichelberger inspects the Australian Guard of Honour at Kure.

History and role

Whilst US forces were responsible for military government, the BCOF was responsible for supervising demilitarisation and the disposal of Japan's war industries.[1] The BCOF was also responsible for the occupation of the western prefectures of Shimane, Yamaguchi, Tottori, Okayama, Hiroshima and Shikoku Island. They were also supported by the Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma). BCOF headquarters was at Kure.

For most of the occupation period Australia contributed the majority of the BCOF's personnel. The initial BCOF presence included the Australian 34th Brigade; the 9th Brigade, 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force (J Force); and BRINDIV, a British/Indian division of two brigade groups: the British 5th Infantry Brigade Group (from 2nd Infantry Division in India), and the 268th Indian Infantry Brigade. Major General David Cowan commanded BRINJAP Division from 1945 to 1947. The position of commanding officer was always filled by an Australian: Lieutenant General John Northcott, February to June 1946; Lieutenant General Horace Robertson, June 1946 to November 1951, and Lieutenant General William Bridgeford from November 1951 until the end of the occupation.

5th Gurkha Rifles, Japan 1946
May 1946. The 2nd Battalion, 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles marching through Kure soon after their arrival in Japan.

The British Pacific Fleet initially provided most of the naval forces. The air contingent, known as BCAIR, initially comprised the Royal Australian Air Force's No. 81 Fighter Wing, flying P-51 Mustangs, four Spitfire squadrons (including No. 11 and No. 17 of the Royal Air Force and No. 4 of the Indian Air Force), and No. 14 Squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force flying F4U Corsairs.

During 1947, the BCOF began to wind down its presence in Japan. However, BCOF bases provided staging posts for Commonwealth forces deployed to the Korean War, from 1950 onwards. The BCOF was effectively wound-up in 1951, as control of Commonwealth forces in Japan was transferred to British Commonwealth Forces Korea.


  1. ^ British Commonwealth Occupation Force 1945–52, AWM

Further reading

  • Singh, Rajendra (1958). Post-War Occupation Forces: Japan and South-East Asia. Delhi: Combined Inter-Services Historical Section (India & Pakistan) India, Orient Longmans [distributor]. OCLC 518916.

External links

268th Indian Infantry Brigade

The 268th Indian Infantry Brigade is an infantry formation of the Indian Army, previously of the British Indian Army.

34th Brigade (Australia)

The Australian 34th Brigade was an Australian Army brigade. The brigade was formed in late 1945 following the end of World War II as part of the Australian contribution to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan. In late 1948 it was renamed the 1st Brigade.

5th Infantry Brigade (United Kingdom)

The 5th Infantry Brigade was a regular infantry brigade of the British Army that was in existence since before the First World War, except for a short break in the late 1970s, until amalgamating with 24th Airmobile Brigade, in 1999, to form 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Australian Army Medical Women's Service

The Australian Army Medical Women's Service (AAMWS) was an armed services organisation which existed from 1942 until 1951.

Growing out of the St John Ambulance Voluntary Aid Detachments, it was formed in December 1942 and its members served as nurses in military hospitals in the Middle East, Australia and, with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, in Japan. In 1951, the AAMWS was merged into the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps.

Australian Army Nursing Service

The Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) was an Australian Army Reserve unit which provided a pool of trained civilian nurses who had volunteered for military service during wartime. The AANS was formed in 1902 by amalgamating the nursing services of the colonial-era militaries, and formed part of the Australian Army Medical Corps. During World War I, more than 2,286 women joined the AANS AIF for overseas service. Hundreds more served in the AANS AMF on home service in Australia. After WWI, the AANS reverted to a Reserve. The AANS was mobilised again during World War II, and many of its members served overseas. Following the war several AANS nurses were posted to Japan as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. The service was renamed the Royal Australian Army Nursing Service (RAANS) in November 1948 and became part of the regular Army the next year. In 1951 the RAANS achieved corps status, and became the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps.

British Commonwealth Forces Korea

British Commonwealth Forces Korea (BCFK) was the formal name of the Commonwealth army, naval and air units serving with the United Nations (UN) in the Korean War. BCFK included Australian, British, Canadian, Indian, and New Zealand. Some Commonwealth units and personnel served with United States and/or other UN formations, which were not part of BCFK.In 1950, Australian units based with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan were among the first UN personnel to be deployed in South Korea. After the administrative support role of BCOF in Japan to the fighting forces in Korea had been decided in November 1950, the title BCFK appeared. The position of BCFK Commander-in-Chief was always held by Australian Army officers, the first being Lieutenant General Sir Horace Robertson. Liaison between the Commonwealth C-in-C and the UN high command was provided by a subordinate headquarters in Tokyo.

By the time BCFK came into being, the Commonwealth armies had formed the 1st Commonwealth Division (in July 1951) and British and Canadian Army personnel predominated at the operational level in the Commonwealth land forces. Lieutenant General William Bridgeford took over from Robertson in October 1951, and he was later succeeded by Lieutenant General Henry Wells. Wells was succeeded by Lieutenant General Rudolph Bierwirth in 1954.

The Royal Navy usually had at least one aircraft carrier on station during the war. Five British carriers: Glory, Ocean, Theseus, Triumph, and Unicorn (a maintenance and aircraft transport carrier) served in the conflict. The Royal Australian Navy provided the carrier HMAS Sydney. The RN, RAN and Royal Canadian Navy also provided many other warships. The Royal New Zealand Navy deployed a number of Loch class frigates throughout the war.

The RN carriers provided the only British fighter planes to take part in the war. On 9 August 1952 a propeller-driven Sea Fury, piloted by Lieutenant Peter Carmichael of No. 802 Squadron, based on HMS Ocean, shot down a MiG-15 jet fighter, becoming one of only a handful of pilots of propeller planes to have shot down a jet.

The only front-line unit from a Commonwealth air force to serve under BCFK was Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) No. 77 Squadron, which initially flew P-51 Mustang fighters and later converted to Gloster Meteor jets. British and Canadian aircrews also served with the RAAF. The only Royal Air Force contribution was a wing of Short Sunderland flying boats based at Iwakuni in Japan.

HMAS Bataan (I91)

HMAS Bataan (D9/I91/D191) was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). Laid down in 1942 and commissioned in 1945, the destroyer was originally to be named Chingilli or Kurnai but was renamed prior to launch in honour of the US stand during the Battle of Bataan.

Although not completed in time to see combat service during World War II, Bataan was present in Tokyo Bay for the official Japanese surrender, and made four deployments to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. In 1950, while en route for a fifth Occupation Force deployment, the Korean War started, and the destroyer was diverted to serve as a patrol ship and carrier escort until early 1951. A second Korean tour was made during 1952. Bataan was paid off in 1954, and sold for scrap in 1958.

Horace Robertson

Lieutenant General Sir Horace Clement Hugh Robertson, (29 October 1894 – 28 April 1960) was a senior officer in the Australian Army who served in the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War. He was one of the first graduates of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, to reach the ranks of major general and lieutenant general.

During the First World War, Robertson served with the 10th Light Horse in the Gallipoli Campaign, including the disastrous Battle of the Nek, where much of his regiment was wiped out. He later participated in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign, where he captured a Turkish Army general, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

During the Second World War, Robertson led the 19th Infantry Brigade at the Battle of Bardia and accepted the surrender of the Italian Navy at Benghazi. Later, he commanded the 1st Armoured Division in Western Australia. In the final weeks of the war he commanded troops in the closing stages of the New Britain Campaign and the Aitape–Wewak campaign. At the end of the war, he accepted the surrender of Japanese Lieutenant General Hatazō Adachi.

Following the war, he commanded the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in the Occupation of Japan and the British Commonwealth Forces Korea in the Korean War. Robertson was a key figure in establishing the Australian Armoured Corps. Its headquarters in Darwin is named Robertson Barracks in his honour.

J Force

J Force (sometimes referred to as "Jayforce") was the name given to the New Zealand forces that were allocated to the British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) which occupied Japan following the end of the Second World War. The force was deployed between 1946 and 1948, after which it was disbanded and its personnel repatriated to New Zealand.

John Northcott

Lieutenant General Sir John Northcott (24 March 1890 – 4 August 1966) was an Australian Army general who served as Chief of the General Staff during the Second World War, and commanded the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in the Occupation of Japan. He was the first Australian-born Governor of New South Wales.

Northcott joined the Australian Army as a reservist in 1908, before becoming a regular officer in 1912. On duty in Tasmania when the Great War broke out in 1914, he joined the 12th Infantry Battalion, a unit from that state. He was wounded in the landing at Gallipoli on Anzac Day and invalided to Egypt, the United Kingdom, and ultimately Australia, taking no further part in the fighting. After the war, Northcott served on a series of staff posts. He attended the Staff College, Camberley and Imperial Defence College and also spent time overseas as an exchange officer with the British Army and as a military attaché in the United States and Canada.

During World War II, Northcott was attached to the British 7th Armoured Division in the Middle East to study armoured warfare, returning to Australia in December 1941 to organise the new 1st Armoured Division. In March 1942, he assumed command II Corps. In September 1942, he was appointed Chief of the General Staff. As General Sir Thomas Blamey's principal non-operational subordinate, he was responsible for administering and training the wartime army. After the war, he served as commander of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in the post-war Occupation of Japan. He retired from the Army in 1946 to become the Governor of New South Wales.

No. 11 Squadron RAF

No. 11 or XI Squadron (sometimes featuring an 'F' to represent its historic fighter role (No. 11(F) or XI(F) Squadron)), is one of the oldest fighter squadrons of the Royal Air Force: continuing the traditions established by the similarly numbered Royal Flying Corps squadron, established in 1915. After a history of equipment with numerous different aircraft types, the squadron most recently operated the Tornado F3 until 2005 when it was disbanded. It was reactivated in 2006 to operate the Typhoon F2, receiving its first aircraft (serial number ZJ931) on 9 October 2006.

No. 14 Squadron RNZAF

14 Squadron RNZAF is a squadron of the Royal New Zealand Air Force. In 2015 the squadron was re-raised and equipped with 11 Beechcraft T-6 Texan II. A new aerobatic display team called the Black Falcons was also formed using the new aircraft. They replaced the RNZAF display team known as the Red Checkers.

No. 17 Squadron RAF

Number 17 Squadron (sometimes written as Number XVII Squadron), currently Number 17 (Reserve) Test and Evaluation Squadron (TES), is a squadron of the Royal Air Force. It was reformed on 12 April 2013 as the Operational Evaluation Unit (OEU) for the Lockheed Martin F-35B Lightning II.

No. 4 Squadron IAF

No. 4 Squadron (Oorials) is a fighter squadron and is equipped with MiG-21Bison and based at Uttarlai AFS.

No. 82 Squadron RAAF

No. 82 Squadron RAAF was a Royal Australian Air Force fighter squadron that operated during World War II and its immediate aftermath. It was formed in June 1943, flying Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawks and, initially, Bell P-39 Airacobras from bases in Queensland and New Guinea. The squadron became operational in September 1944, and undertook ground attack missions against Japanese targets in the Pacific theatre. Following the end of hostilities, No. 82 Squadron was re-equipped with North American P-51 Mustangs and deployed to Japan, where it formed part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. It remained there until October 1948, when it was disbanded.

Rape during the occupation of Japan

Rapes during the occupation of Japan were war rapes or rapes committed under the Allied military occupation of Japan. Allied troops committed a number of rapes during the Battle of Okinawa during the last months of the Pacific War and the subsequent occupation of Japan. The Allies occupied Japan until 1952 following the end of World War II and Okinawa Prefecture remained under US governance for two decades after. Estimates of the incidence of sexual violence by Allied occupation personnel differ considerably.

Robertson Barracks

For the Robertson Barracks, Norfolk, England see Robertson Barracks, NorfolkRobertson Barracks is a major Australian Army base located in the Northern Territory of Australia within the suburb of Holtze in the Municipality of Litchfield about 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) east of the Darwin city centre. The barracks was built during the 1990s. The Barracks is home to the 1st Brigade and the 1st Aviation Regiment. Robertson Barracks has a helicopter airfield, similar to Holsworthy Barracks. The barracks was named after Lieutenant General Sir Horace Robertson, commander of the 1st Armoured Division and 6th Division during the Second World War, and later Commander in Chief British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan.

Royal Australian Army Service Corps

The Royal Australian Army Service Corps (RAASC) was a corps within the Australian Army. Formed on 1 July 1903, in the aftermath of the Federation of Australia, it was initially known as the Australian Army Service Corps (AASC) and subsumed the functions that had been undertaken by various organisations within the colonial forces. In 1948, the Royal prefix was bestowed upon the corps. The corps served in World War I, World War II, as part of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, Korean War, Malayan Emergency and the Vietnam War. The RAASC was disbanded on 31 May 1973.After the disbanding of the corps, responsibilities for transport, air dispatch and postal functions were assigned to the newly formed Royal Australian Corps of Transport (RACT) and responsibilities for foodstuffs and petroleum, oil and lubricants (POL) were assigned to the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps (RAAOC).

Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma)

The Women’s Auxiliary Service (Burma) (WAS(B)) was formed on 16 January 1942 and disbanded in 1946. The WAS(B)s were a group of British and Australian women who manned Mobile Canteens for the troops of Burma Command in World War II. They moved through Burma with the British Fourteenth Army living in dangerous and uncomfortable conditions, sleeping in bombed out, rat infested houses or tents with their stores and equipment brought in by air. They improvised stoves from old ammunition boxes. They were evacuated from Myitkyina on the last plane, and from the Battle of Imphal during the siege, but returned as soon as the Japanese retreated, eventually reaching Japan with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force. Many were mentioned in dispatches. General Slim later 1st Viscount Slim, Commander of the 14th Army known as the "Forgotten Army", said of them "They showed the highest standard of devotion and courage."


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