The 67th in Yokohama, Japan, 1864

By the mid-19th Century Japan, like China, had for long presented a closed door to Europeans. In 1858, the United States, by threats of force, had induced Japan to admit diplomatic and consular representatives, a concession then extended to Britain, France and other countries. However, it was deeply unpopular within Japan and every effort was made to restrict the facilities granted.

Attacks on foreigners were frequent. In July 1861 the British Minister’s residence at Yokohama was assaulted, and in August 1862 28 of the 67th under Lieutenant Alfred Price were sent to reinforce the small force guarding the Legation. However, relations between the western powers and Japan continued to be strained all the time the detachment remained in the country. Although it did not have to repel an attack, its position was always precarious and the Legation, like all those of the European powers, was virtually besieged.

In August 1863 the British decided to teach the principal offender, the Prince of Satsuma, a lesson and a naval squadron bombarded his residence at Kagoshima.Despite this the anti-foreign agitation continued unchecked with the result that two companies of the 2/20th were sent to relieve Price’s party. Then, in July 1864, three companies under Major Dugald Miller reinforced the 2/20th at Yokohama, two more following in August.

In September a squadron of British, Dutch and French ships forced the Straits of Simonoeski to bring into line another leader of the anti-foreign faction, Choshin, Prince of Nagato, who had been responsible for many outrages. The operations involved landing parties being sent ashore to complete the destruction of the batteries that the naval guns had silenced.

The detachment of the 67th took no part in this action, instead remaining at Yokohama until December 1864. Its presence there had a salutary and sobering effect on the anti-foreign faction. On leaving Japan for Hong Kong the detachment was warmly thanked by the authorities for its ‘valuable aid during an anxious period of service’, ‘its good conduct and discipline having twice specially elicited the warm approbation of H.M.’s Plenipotentiary’. British troops had without fighting on many occasions prevented what might easily have been serious trouble. The 67th’s services in Japan may be reckoned among them.