British Commonwealth Forces Korea

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British Commonwealth Forces Korea
Indian, British, New Zealand and Australian soldiers in Korea 1951.jpg
Indian, British, New Zealander and Australian soldiers in Korea, c. March 1951.
Country United Kingdom
 New Zealand
Allegiance United Nations
TypeRapid reaction force
Garrison/HQ1st Commonwealth Division

British Commonwealth Forces Korea (BCFK) was the formal name of the British 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 units. Some Commonwealth units and personnel served with United States and/or other UN formations, which were not part of BCFK.[1]


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.[2] 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.

Two Australian Army soldiers enjoy some recreation time at a sandbagged Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes (NAAFI), Korea, 1952

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For example, No. 2 Squadron, South African Air Force was part of the US 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing in Korea, flying P-51s and F-86s.
  2. ^ Jeffrey Grey, The Commonwealth Armies and the Korean War: An Alliance Study. Manchester University Press ND, 1990, ISBN 0719027705, 9780719027703, p. 110

Further reading[edit]

  • Farrar-Hockley, Anthony (1990). The British Part in the Korean War Volume I: A Distant Obligation. London: HMSO. ISBN 0116309539.
  • Farrar-Hockley, Anthony (1995). The British Part in the Korean War Volume II: An Honourable Discharge. London: HMSO. ISBN 011630958X.
  • Lansdown, John R. P. (1997). With the Carriers in Korea: The Naval and Air War in SE Asia, 1950-1953. Wilmslow, Cheshire: Crecy Publishing Ltd. ISBN 0-947554-64-5.

External links[edit]

Royal Engineer pictures of the Korean War