The Anglo-Japanese Alliance (日英同盟)

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was the military alliance concluded in the late Meiji Period between Japan and Great Britain. The first Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed on January 30, 1902, and went into immediate effect. Then the alliance was renewed and extended for the second (1905) and the third (1911), and lapsed on August 17, 1923. It had been the basis of Japan's diplomatic policy until the end of World War I.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was signed at the mansion of Lord Lansdowne (today's The Lansdowne Club) in London, Britain, by Tadasu HAYASHI: the Japanese Minister to Britain, and Petty-Fitzmaurice: British foreign secretary.


Britain had wanted to keep Russia in check, which had not withdrawn troops from Manchuria since the Boxer Uprising. However, there was a limit to what Britain alone could do to maintain their rights and interests in China. Therefore Britain dismissed their conventional policy of 'splendid isolation' and tried to negotiate with Germany first, and then approached Japan which had played a lively part in the Boxer Uprising. In Japan Hirobumi ITO, Kaoru INOUE and so on were trying to find a way to compromise with Russia, but, on the other hand, Aritomo YAMAGATA, Taro KATSURA, Takaaki KATO and so on, who judged that sooner or later conflict with Russia would arise, advocated alliance with Britain. Finally, negotiations on the Russo-Japanese entente broke down, and the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was concluded after negotiations by the foreign minister Jutaro KOMURA. Japanese representative at the time of signing was Tadasu HAYASHI, the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and British representative was Foreign Secretary Petty-Fitzmaurice.

The contents of the first Anglo-Japanese Alliance were the following obligations: if either contracting party of the alliance became involved in a war with another country, the other party would maintain neutrality and prevent other countries from joining in the war, and, if either party became involved in a war with two or more countries, the other party would participate in the war to help the ally. In addition, in secret negotiations, Japan informed Britain of its plan to go into the war with Russia by itself, and Britain promised to maintain friendly neutrality. In 1904, two years after the conclusion of the treaty, the Russo-Japanese War broke out. Britain, putting on a show of being neutral, supported Japan very much with espionage activities, go-slow strikes against the Russian navy and so on.

In the second Anglo-Japanese Alliance, they agreed to each other's interests: Britain's privileges in India and Japan's sovereignty over Korea, and also stipulated equal opportunities in Qing. The treaty also required that, if either party of the alliance became involved in a war with one or more countries, the other party participate in the war to help the ally (the offensive and defensive alliance).

The third Anglo-Japanese Alliance exempted the United States of America from the countries to fight with. This provision was contradictory to the provision for automatic participation in the war so that there was no expectation of its substantial effect, but it was added at the request of the US which was increasing its vigilance against the three countries: Japan, Britain and Russia. Japan, based on the third Anglo-Japanese Alliance, participated in the World War I as a member of the Allies.

In 1919 after the world war, the interests of both parties clashed in the Paris Peace Conference, creating a problem for the future especially by the rejection of Japan's proposal for abolition of racial discrimination in the drafting of the Covenant of the League of Nations. In 1921 the Washington Conference was convened against the background of the infringement on the Covenant of the League of Nations, opposition to the renewal of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance both in Japan and Britain, the US's desire for abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance due to its clash of interests with Japan, and the cooperative policy of the Japanese Government toward the US. In this conference the Four-Power Treaty was concluded between Japan, Britain, the US and France, and at the same time, it was decided that the alliance not be renewed, so that the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was dissolved and absorbed into the new treaty in 1923.


1901: Negotiation began on October 16. Before the conclusion of the alliance, Hirobumi ITO had conducted negotiations on the Russo-Japanese entente, but it resulted in failure.

1902: The Anglo-Japanese Alliance was concluded on January 30.

1904: The Russo-Japanese War started.

1905: The Russo-Japanese War ended. The Taft-Katsura Agreement was concluded on July 29. The revised treaty of the alliance was signed in London on August 12. The Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty was concluded on September 5.

1907: The Triple Entente was formed between Britain, Russia and France. The first Russo-Japanese Agreement was signed on July 30.

1909: The Sino-Japanese Agreement on Manchuria and Jiandao was signed on September 4.

1910: The second Russo-Japanese Agreement was signed on July 4. Japan annexed Korea.

1911: Xinhai Revolution broke out. The new Japan-US Commerce and Navigation Treaty was signed on February 21 for Japan to regain tariff autonomy. The revised treaty of the alliance was signed in London on July 13.

1912: The Republic of China was founded. The third Russo-Japanese Agreement was signed on July 8.

1914: Japan declared war against the German Empire on July 13 to participate in World War I.

1915: Japan made the Twenty-one Demands on China.

1916: The fourth Russo-Japanese Agreement was signed on July 3.

1917: The Russian Revolution broke out.

1918: The Siberia Intervention was conducted. The German Revolution broke out in November. World War I ended.

1919: The Paris Peace Conference was held.

1921: The abrogation of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance was decided by the Four-Power Treaty between Japan, the US, France and Britain.

1923: The alliance lapsed on August 17.

The Anglo-Japanese Alliance and World War I

Japan, based on the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, joined in World War I as a member of the Allies. By declaring war against the German Empire, Japan, in no time after its entrance into war, captured and occupied the leased territory of Jiaozhou which Germany had gained from China in the Triple Intervention after the Sino-Japanese War, and the South Sea Islands which had been gained from Spain in the 19th century.

In the latter half of the war, the chances were against the Allies on the European front, so that the Allies, including Britain, requested the dispatch of Japanese army to Europe. The Japanese Government refused the request for the dispatch of the army saying that it was difficult to maintain military depots in such distant places. However, as operations by the German and Austrian navy to destroy sea traffic with U-boats and armed merchantmen grew in intensity and Germany and Austria began unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917, navy ships of the Allies were made to suffer serious damage, so that Britain requested Japan to dispatch a destroyer fleet to the Mediterranean and a cruiser fleet to the Cape of Good Hope. At first, the Japanese Government was reluctant to dispatch fleets to Europe because it would not yield any immediate profit. However, encouraged by the aggressive attitude of Imperial Japanese Navy and in order to secure rights and interests in the territories under Japanese occupation: the leased territory of Jiaozhou and the South Sea Islands, it dispatched successively, since February 7, 1917, the first special duty fleet of Imperial Japanese Navy to the area around Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope, the second special duty fleet to the Mediterranean, and the third special duty fleet to the area around the South Pacific Ocean and the east coast of Australia.

Above all, the second special duty fleet which was dispatched to the Mediterranean performed brilliant exploits. The fleet, based on Malta, served in the Mediterranean as escorts for navy ships of the Allies until the end of the world war, escorting a total of 788 vessels including 21 British warships, and about 700 thousand navy personnel. In addition, it rescued 7,075 people from the ship which had been struck by lightning. The massive transporting operation,' in which Imperial Japanese Navy served as escorts, enabled the Allies to send the troops in Africa from Alexandria (Egypt) to Marseille (France) successfully to recover from inferiority in the Western Front.

Above all, in less than a month after the operation began in the Mediterranean on April 9, 1917, the destroyers Matsu and Sakaki engaged in rescue work on May 3 for a British transport ship, the Transylvania, which had been attacked by a German submarine U-boat. Deflecting U-boats' attack with torpedoes still going on, it saved 1,800 out of 3,266 British military officers, soldiers and nurses. Before then, British navy ships engaging in rescue work met with a disaster in the secondary attack, in which 6,000 people died, so that they made it a rule not to rescue ships attacked and damaged by U-boats even if they were close. It was a death-defying rescue work in such circumstances, and, since then, Imperial Japanese Navy had a rush of requests for escorts. The officers of the both destroyers were later decorated by George V, King of Britain.

However, a month later, on June 11, the destroyer Sakaki was attacked by a U-boat of Austrian navy. Because the torpedo hit the powder magazine, Sakaki instantly exploded and was blown off, leaving only a third of the ship: the machinery room at the rear. 59 people including the captain lost their lives in this attack.

The second special duty fleet had 78 fallen soldiers, including 59 of the destroyer Sakaki. A year after Sakaki's disaster, the memorial monument for the fallen soldiers was built in the then British navy cemetery in Malta. The fact that the best place, the back part of the British navy cemetery, was offered to the memorial monument shows how much British Navy was thankful for the remarkable service of Imperial Japanese Navy in those days.

The memorial monument was damaged by the bombing in German army's encircling operation of Malta during World War II, losing a forth of it in the upper part. The monument had been left in the state of ruin for a long time, but it was rebuilt in 1974 to be restored to the original state.

[Original Japanese]