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BRITISH PACIFIC FLEET - December 1945 to June 1946


Transcribed by Don Kindell

HMS Anson in Hong Kong, believed 1945 
(Paul Whiteing, click to enlarge)

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China, East Indies, Australia & New Zealand Stations September 1939 to March 1942


  Areas of Operations (click to enlarge). Only some locations in text are shown  


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Extracted from ADM199/1478


Office of the Commander in Chief,

British Pacific Fleet


10th June 1946





Be pleased to lay before Their Lordships my final dispatch which continues that dated 6th December 1945 numbered 1340/BPF/1780/OPS (n.b. “Preparation of Naval Occupation Forces for China Coast).

2.  It covers the period of my departure from Australia to set up my headquarters at Hong Kong, until the transfer of the command to Vice Admiral Sir Denis Boyd at Singapore on 11th June 1946.

3.  During this period the main tasks undertaken have been the continued transport of R.A.P.W.I., the reduction of the Australian Base, the reductions in the Fleet, the establishment of B.C.O.F. in Japan, and the difficulties wit the Chinese government in obtaining clearances for His Majesty’s Ships to visit Chinese Ports.  All these matters are described in the dispatch.

4.  Over and above these problems was the necessity of keeping a contented fleet in conditions were the natural reaction of most officers and men was a desire to get home to their families in peace-time England, of which many had seen so little during the years of war.

5.  To achieve this I endeavoured to make sure by constant planning ahead that the relief of Age and Service Groups was punctually carried out; that the ships were kept continuously on the move to make life interesting; that the ships returning to the United Kingdom were informed of their date of departure as early as possible to give them something to look forward to; and that I and my Flag Officers constantly visited ships, big and small, and talked with and to their officers and ship’s companies.

6.  As a result I am sure that a good spirit prevails and I leave the Fleet with confidence that my successor will find this is so.

7.  Nevertheless, there is not yet a feeling in the Fleet that they have settled down to a peacetime foreign station routine.  There is, of course, still much to be done, but I do not think one will get such a feeling until the fleet is reduced to its peacetime number, and every officer and man who left England before the surrender of Japan, has had a chance to go home.

8.  This I think is amply illustrated by the meager response to the extended service scheme and by the many applications from active service ratings to transfer to Hostilities Only engagements or to purchase their discharge.  I do not believe these are founded on a lasting desire to leave the Navy permanently, but to a short sighted, though natural, urge to get home by any means, which if it does not success will not unduly dismay them.  The concessions recently granted by Their Lordships to enable men to return home who have seen little of their families during the war, will do much to help through the realization that their case is appreciated.

9.  I am at the moment of writing returning to England in H.M.S. DUKE OF YORK and shall strike my Flag on arrival at Plymouth on 11th July.  Though the period of my command of the British Pacific Fleet has not been without difficulties, I am grateful to Their Lordships for their support and understanding under conditions of much difficulty at home, particularly during the period of our part in the Pacific War, when the country was recovering from the vast strain on its resources necessitated by the defeat of Germany.

                                                                                                            (Sgd) Bruce Fraser







Enclosure to Commander in Chief, British Pacific Fleet’s

Letter No. BAF.11/6 of 10th June 1946



During the period under review there has been a steady reduction in the strength of the Fleet, covering all classes of ships.  Further reductions already planned will reduce the Fleet to its post war strength by October 1946.

2.  The promulgation to the Fleet of the reductions as they have been decided, has largely helped to keep the ships’ companies contented, as ships longest abroad have been the first to go home.  Except for the cruisers all the ships who have seen service in the British Pacific Fleet from its first operations have gone home or are going shortly.  The cruisers have not been so fortunate and those who have no definite date of departure in sight have the prospect of continuing on abroad and seeing ships who left England after the war was over in the Pacific, going home before them.

3.  I have represented the case of the cruisers to Their Lordships with suggestions to reduce the time abroad of these ships.  I feel it is most important that reasonable and definite dates should now be given and if cruiser crews are not available, that fast minelayers should be used temporarily.


4.  In conjunction with the reduction of the size of the Fleet, the relief of Age and Service Groups has gone steadily forward.  With the Fleet at one time spread over half the Pacific, careful planning and close cooperation with the Drafting Authority was essential.  Reliefs for personnel of ships in Japanese Waters had at tone time to travel 15,000 miles from England to join their ships.

5.  As far as possible ships were given spells in rotation at Sydney, not only for leave and recreation but to enable the Drafting Authority to adjust the complements.




6.  After the first few weeks following the end of the war, it was clear that the main sphere of activity of the British Pacific Fleet was centred on the China Coast and Japan.  After my visit to Hong Kong in September, 1945, arrangements were put in hand to prepare accommodation.

7.  With my departure from Sydney it was necessary to establish an authority there to carry on the affairs of the Fleet in Australia.  Vice Admiral (Administration) therefore moved from Melbourne to Sydney at the same time as I moved to Hong Kong.  Vice Admiral (Administration) was given an operational role as well as his administrative one, and was appointed Flag Officer Southern Area for this purpose.

8.  On 1 December, I sailed from Sydney in DUKE OF YORK with a small staff, the remainder travelling in REAPER.

9.  Three days were spent in Singapore on passage, and I arrived at Hong Kong on 21st December 1945.



10.  Towards the end of 1945 the Admiralty had indicated that it desired that the British Pacific Fleet Drafting Pool should be moved from Sydney to Ceylon.

11.  Although the advantage of reducing the long haul from England to Sydney would mean a reduction in shipping requirements, it was obvious there were disadvantages in this move if made prematurely.  At the end of 1945 and during the first month of 1946 the flood of Age and Service Group reliefs was in full spate.    The size of the fleet was still considerable and the movement of personnel correspondingly great.  To move the drafting pool meant a drafting moratorium of about three weeks, and it was a question of whether more harm than good would be done by a move at this time.  It was really a matter of timing.

12.  The latter part of April and beginning of May was eventually decided on for the move.  This was later that the Admiralty had hoped for, but was earlier than the British Pacific Fleet Drafting Authority would have preferred.

13.  The planning of the move to Ceylon was a complicated operation which entailed tieing the British Pacific Fleet to a predetermined programme over a period of weeks while the move was taking place so that drafting at Sydney would continue until the last possible moment.

14.  The move was completed without mishap except that VICTORIOUS was carrying the major portion of the drafting pool was damaged by weather crossing the Great Australian Bight and could not proceed beyond Fremantle without repairs.  Fortunately, INDOMITABLE outwardbound for Sydney arrived Fremantle shortly afterwards and she quickly turned round and sailed for Ceylon with the VICTORIOUS load.

15.  Early May, Commodore B.L. Moore hoisted his broad pendant in H.M.S. GOULD at Colombo as COMBRAX, British Pacific Fleet.  Drafting has again been resumed and although it is early to comment, there does not appear to have been any dislocation in the Age and Service Group reliefs during the period of the move.



16.  The closing down of facilities for the British Pacific Fleet in Australia was closely connected with the reduction in the size of the fleet, particularly carriers, the rehabilitation of Hong Kong and Singapore, and the move of the drafting pool.  The latter effected the actual reduction of personnel in Australia as the machinery of the drafting office was required to draft personnel to England.  The drafting pool could not, therefore, leave Sydney until the number of personnel in Australia had been greatly reduced.

17.  Vice Admiral (Administration) and Flag Officer, Naval Air Pacific organized the closing down in Australia which has now been completed with the departure of INDEFATIGABLE from Sydney on 9th June 1946.  There is a small rear party left in Australia to deal with stores, etc.

18.  Vice Admiral Rivett-Carnac, BC, CBE, DSC, hauled down his flag as Vice Admiral (Administration) on 27th April and Rear Admiral R.H. Portal, CB, DSC, hauled down his flag as Flag Officer, Naval Air Pacific 29th April 1946.




19.  Preliminary preparations were put in hand in November and December by the Commander in Chief, East Indies, to form a Naval Port Party for the establishment of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force.

20.  On December 14th, Kure was selected as the port of entry for the British Commonwealth Occupation Force, and early in January the Port Party under Captain J.A. Grindle, C.B.E. sailed from Ceylon in GLENEARN for Hong Kong.  On 21st January clearance for the Port Party to land at Kure was obtained from S.C.A.F. and GLENEARN with various auxiliaries in company arrived at Kure on 1st February.

21.  The first task of the Port Party was to take over the Port Directorate from the United States Navy.  This was not completed, however, before the first echelon of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force had arrived.

22.  Although the disembarking of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force went according to plan, the Naval Officer in Charge, Kure, had many difficulties to contend with, not the least being the weather.  Lack of skilled Japanese labour slowed down the erection and equipping of the Naval shore establishment, and it has been necessary to retain GLENEARN as headquarters and accommodation ship for the Port Party until the beginning of June.

23.  Besides operating the port through which the British Commonwealth Force is supported, the Naval Officer in Charge, Kure is responsible to COMNAVJAP for the turn round of a number of Japanese repatriation ships running to Hiroshima and the cataloguing and destruction (n.b. original document reads “distribution”, but is scored out in pen and corrected) of enemy naval equipment within the area of the British Commonwealth Force.



24.  A force, known as Force “T” and consisting of a battleship or cruiser and two or three destroyers has been maintained in Japanese waters under the operational control of COMINFIFTHFLEET and later COMNAVJAP on the withdrawal of the former.  The force has been commanded by a Flag Officer and has been based primarily on Yokohama.  In addition the Royal Australian Navy has maintained a force of two destroyers, sometimes augmented by a cruiser in Japan.  These ships have formed part of Force “T” and have been dependant on the British Pacific Fleet for supply.

25.  The United States Navy has been systematically reducing its forces in Japan, and at the end of the typhoon season when ships will return to Hong Kong our forces in Japan are likely to be reduced correspondingly.



26.  As early as September 1945, it was clear the movements of His Majesty’s Ships on the China Coast and visits to Chinese ports were going to be resisted by the Chinese government if they could find some excuse for doing so.  This attitude, which still holds, arises, I think, from a desire to exercise the new found sovereignty of China.   The fact that their behavior is frequently discourteous and boorish to an ally in war, and that their own people suffer from the Government’s refusal to accept our assistance in many ways cuts no ice with them.  The impression that one has is that Kuomintang would rather see a large number of Chinese people suffer than accept assistance or cooperation of Great Britain.  To cede the latter would be to give up the ideal of sovereignty of China.

27.  Up to the end of 1945, it was possible without much difficulty for His Majesty’s Ships to visit Chinese ports to assist in evacuation of internees.  When I arrived at Hong Kong in December 1945, I was visited by our Naval Attache who pointed out that our reason for visits of His Majesty’s Ships to Chinese ports was now wearing then and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was beginning to say that they could not understand what our ships were doing in Chinese ports, particularly Shanghai, for such long periods.

28.  An aide-memoire was therefore prepared for the Naval Attache setting out the reasons why we wished to send ships to Chinese ports.  I also issued a Memorandum to Flag and Commanding Officers setting out the object of the British Pacific Fleet in Chinese waters.  These two papers were forwarded to the Admiralty under cover of Commander in Chief, British Pacific Fleet’s No. 673/BPF/01/19 of 18th April 1946.

29.  The main feature which the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to have disliked is the maintaining of His Majesty’s Ships at Shanghai which savoured somewhat of a garrison.  These ships on the other hand have done good work maintaining good relations with the Chinese at Shanghai, assisting and encouraging the British Community and firms, who are having great difficulty keeping going, and keeping up our end vis a vis our American ally.  Every difficulty has been put in the way of changing these ships round and maintaining age and service group reliefs, and the matter came to a head on 15th May when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Chinese had fundamental objections to the presence of His Majesty’s Ships at Shanghai, and followed this up shortly after with a blank refusal to allow TRAFALGAR to visit the port.

30.  It was on account of this thoroughly unsatisfactory state of affairs that I decided to visit Nanking.

31.  The delay in my arrival at Nanking due to the grounding of NEWFOUNDLAND in the Yangtze was unfortunate as I was not able to have talks with all the Chinese officials whom it was arranged I should see, as they were unable to put off their programme 24 hours owing to other engagements.  On the other hand it enabled me to bring up two destroyers with me, thus increasing the strength of the squadron.

32.  Although my reception of the various Chinese officials I met was always cordial I did not feel on my departure that much had been accomplished.  However, by the time I had returned to Hong Kong, the Chinese Government had agreed to the visit of TRAFALGAR to Shanghai, and the way had been opened to further visits to Nanking and also to Hankow.

33.  It was a source of some satisfaction that NEWFOUNDLAND was the first cruiser of any nation to visit Nanking since the war and the first warship to salute the Chinese government there.

34.  During the exchange of signals over His Majesty’s Ships at Shanghai, the Chinese Government extended a cordial if somewhat impractical invitation to our ships to visit North China during the summer months.  Tsingtao and Wei Hai Wei have been ruled out by them but we are offered limited use of Chinwangtwo and Peiteho, neither of which are suitable as the former has very limited berthing space and the latter is an exposed roadstead.

35.  After the visit of TRAFALGAR to Shanghai there will be a period with no British Warship at this port.  It remains to be seen whether this will make the Chinese Government more amenable to our requests for visits in the future or will be taken as a sign of weakness and our movements on the China Coast will be made more difficult.  It is however, certain that the absence of a British warship at Shanghai will be felt by the British Community and our Chinese friends there.

36.  I attach a copy of the farewell letter that I wrote to the Generalissimo as I did not see him to say goodbye.



37.  The next planned R.A.P.W.I. lift was of Europeans from North China, Peking, Tienstin, and Tsingtao.  HIGHLAND CHIEFTAN was detailed for this work.  On her arrival in Hong Kong it was found that her accommodation was totally inadequate for the job.  The ship was detained for a week while the Dockyard made a fine effort and got her ready.  The lift was 222 women and children in cabins and standees and 211 on troop deck.  In addition 718 males slung in hammocks.  The ship was visited in Hong Kong on the southerly voyage and the R.A.P.W.I. appeared happy thanks largely to the efforts of 25 naval ratings who had been embarked to look after the women and children, and of the ship’s officers.

38.  After this left, roughly 1,000 R.A.P.W.I. remained who were content to take any later lift which might offer.   The chance came with STRATHMORE who had taken a British Occupation Force lift to Kure.  Arrangements were made for SWIFTSURE to collect the remainder of the R.A.P.W.I. from Tsingtao and BIGBURY BAY from Tangko and both ships rendezvous with STRATHMORE at Shanghai on 23rd March.  Some alarm was caused by an outbreak of measles in STRATHMORE, but the ship managed to disinfect herself and arrived on e day later.  On arrival at Hong Kong, 108 were transferred to AORANGI for Australia.

39.  All remaining R.A.P.W.I. in China were warned that this was the last organized lift and that after this they must shift for themselves.

40.  One final lift of displaced persons was carried out towards the end of May when the hospital ship EMPIRE CLYDE, accompanied by WHIMBREL, in two voyages brought some 2500 Hong Kong Chinese back to Hong Kong from Hainan.  These people were the remnants of a much larger labour force deported by the Japanese during the war.

41.  This was the end of a very considerable undertaking by the Fleet during which some fifty thousand people, released prisoners of war, Dominion soldiers and Airman due to demobilization and internees of many nationalities were assisted in reaching their homes.  It was work well in keeping with the traditions of the Royal Navy.

                                                                                                                        Bruce Fraser, Admiral


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