BCOF - Supplementary Information and Anecdotes

 

The task of BCOF

When the army troops landed the weather was shocking, the barracks had no windows, heating or lighting, but the Australians, well known for scrounging, soon were comfortable. During March 1946, the 34th Brigade commenced duties such as disarmament and disposals, security and surveillance, patrolling and searching, supervision of elections and police, locating military equipment, plant, narcotics and black market raids. Each battalion took its turn, with other countries, for garrison and guard duties on the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo. Members of the British Commonwealth Base Force engineers, ordnance, signals and medical all played their part in bomb disposal, bridge and barracks buildings, telecommunications, looking after the sick, transport and running BCOF.

 

When the army troops landed the weather was shocking, the barracks had no windows, heating or lighting, but the Australians, well known for scrounging, soon were comfortable. During March 1946, the 34th Brigade commenced duties such as disarmament and disposals, security and surveillance, patrolling and searching, supervision of elections and police, locating military equipment, plant, narcotics and black market raids. Each battalion took its turn, with other countries, for garrison and guard duties on the Emperor's Palace in Tokyo. Members of the British Commonwealth Base Force engineers, ordnance, signals and medical all played their part in bomb disposal, bridge and barracks buildings, telecommunications, looking after the sick, transport and running BCOF.

The duties of the Air Force included surveillance patrols, prevention of smuggling of goods and illegal entry (in conjunction with ground and naval forces), weather reports, transport to and from Australia and guard duties. There was also a small naval force known as HMAS Commonwealth based at Kure with the duties of clearance of jetties, docks, wrecks, destruction of Japanese vessels, adjustment and running of dock facilities. A large number of Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force service women saw service in hospitals in Japan, and Australians 

(Adapted from Shinbun Issue 41)

Australian families

In December 1946, Cabinet approved the despatch of families of Australian servicemen to Japan when housing and medical facilities became available. The first group of families reached Japan on 1 June 1947.

The main family housing area was located on a disused Japanese air strip fronting the Inland Sea at Hiroshima, in the 34th Australian Infantry Brigade area. Here a considerable township grew up with bungalows and two- or four-apartment dwellings. Chapels, a school, shop and cinema were included in the development. Japanese contractors carried out the work and furniture was obtained from Japanese sources. To give variety, different types of houses were interspersed, and the changing shades of pastel colouring of plaster walls and roofs made a cheerful and bright picture. My wife, on being consulted regarding the future name of the area, immediately asked what was the Japanese for ‘Rainbow Village’. Niji Mura it therefore became and still remains.

(Adapted from Major General R. W. L. Hopkins. History of the Australian Occupation in Japan, 1946-50, page 109, in Royal Australian Historical Society Proceedings, Vol 40 No 2, 1954)

Accommodation 1947

As the force settled down in permanent locations, it became possible to provide amenities on a scale more suitable for the conditions. It must be remembered that our troops were forbidden to fraternise or enter Japanese houses, hotels or places of entertainment, and were voluntarily doing a job thousands of miles from home.

This move, together with the provision of sports grounds, a club and theatre, and the sight of new buildings under construction made a tremendous difference to the outlook of all ranks. Units developed a keenness and smartness, and set an example that was outstanding in any company.

(Adapted from Shinbun Issue 36)

Leave

Leave in Japan was the next most important thing for the welfare of the troops. Steadily, hotels were taken over to give BCOF troops access to historical and cultural places at Kobe, Kyoto, at Nikko with its temples and winter sport; at Kawana with its golf, riding and sea air; and in Tokyo. Even so, the demand far exceeded the supply, and many of those who returned early to Australia saw little of the famous resorts and lovely countryside of Japan.

(Adapted from Major General R. W. L. Hopkins, History of the Australian Occupation in Japan, 1946-50, page 108-109)

Secret societies

When the Emperor told his people to ‘bear the unbearable’ in August 1945, there were still some who refused to accept his direction. Fortunately, the majority of Japanese, having endured war since 1931, followed the old Japanese proverb ‘the willow branch but bends beneath the snow’ and accepted the foreign occupation for the moment, with thoughts for the future.

However, out there were fanatics looking for victims. Sergeant Tom Kerr, a member of my unit, was found dead in a street, poisoned.

(Adapted from Shinbun Issue 40)

Civilian crime

There were fewer than 1,000 civilian arrests in the Australian area in three years. By far the greater majority of the cases related to illegal possession and the taking and disposing of Occupation Force goods. Many of the cases were petty offences. There was a remarkable lack of crimes of violence against the personnel of the Occupation Force throughout the whole of Japan.

(Adapted from Major General R. W. L. Hopkins, History of the Australian Occupation in Japan, 1946-50, page 112)

How were Japanese war brides received in Australia?

When Gordon Parker married a Japanese girl, ‘Cherry’, early in the occupation of Japan, he stirred up considerable concern amongst the army and Australian politicians.

Not long after Gordon and Cherry's marriage, other BCOF members applied, thereby forcing the Australian Government to develop a policy with regard to foreign marriages. By 27 March 1952, the Australian government had authorised the admission of Japanese wives of Australian servicemen and ex-servicemen into Australia, provided they were approved by the Australian Embassy in Japan.

Kure Municipal Police screened all girls to ensure that they were not:

  • communists
  • prostitutes
  • holders of a criminal record
  • from a family with signs of hereditary insanity.

In addition they had to pass a thorough medical test that included a full x-ray and blood test. If tuberculosis or any other serious illness was present, they were denied access until totally fit.

The examination and investigation was considered more stringent than that required for any other migrant.

The average age of wives was 22, and only 49 of the 150 couples had, or were about to have, children. In 22 out of the 150 cases, both parents (of the bride) were dead. Of the remainder, the parents of only 14 objected to the marriage. Only in one case did the Japanese police request non-approval of the marriage, because the parents were strongly opposed to the marriage.

‘Whether Australia should ban the admission of Japanese wives is a matter for eventual discussion, but until that decision is made those wives who do come to Australia - lawfully and at the invitation of their Australian husbands - should be treated decently, with a special effort on the part of returned men to make them feel comfortable. If only to offset the inevitable hostility from that small section of the community who, in addition to not having travelled beyond their own shores, have a way of attacking any person who does not conform to their own pattern and way of life.’

(Adapted from Returned Services League, Mufti, December 1952.)

 

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