August 5 1944
On Saturday, 5 August 1944 Japanese
prisoners at Cowra staged a breakout that resulted in the deaths of 4
young Australians and 231 Japanese.
The camp, officially known as No.12
POW Group, was a complex of four individual camps separated by cross
roads. Each camp was originally built to house 1,000 prisoners.
No.12 POW Group, Cowra.
Earlier, on Friday 4, in accordance
with the Geneva Convention, notice was given of a transfer of all
Japanese prisoners below the rank of Lance Corporal from Cowra to the
Hay Prisoner of War Camp.
At 0150 hours on Saturday 5 August
1944 an unauthorized bugle was heard in camp B and immediately
thereafter up to 900 Japanese prisoners of war rushed from their huts
and attacked the fences of the compound. The outer fence was stormed in
two places, with the prisoners using blankets and baseball gloves to
minimize the damage inflicted by the barbed wire fencing.
Others set fire to eighteen of the
camps twenty huts while those incapable of activity committed suicide by
hanging or stabbing themselves, their bodies being burnt in the fires. Those
that did not want to become involved were murdered by their comrades.
Armed with a wide assortment of
weapons, including knives, one group attacked the crew of a Vickers gun
that was stationed outside the camp. Members of the 22nd Garrison
Battalion opened fire, causing a large number of casualties.
During the ensuring nine days 334
prisoners were retaken, of which 25 were dead. Of the dead, 11 were
found hanging from trees and two had been killed by trains.
In all, 231 Japanese POW's were killed
and 108 wounded. One Australian Officer was killed along with three
Australian other ranks, while four others were wounded.
This made Cowra the largest POW
breakout, eclipsing other well known Break-outs such as the "great
escape" from Stalag Luft III.