Cowra – an interesting WW2 history for Japanese


typical example of town planning that is destroying these NSW towns

After a trip that has passed through some great old Australian towns that have ( by law) preserved their historical buildings and the integrity of making the towns look as much as possible as they once were it is a shame to see the beginning of the end as I have moved closer to Sydney. Temora , Young and now Cowra are good examples. They still have the best of the old buildings , churches etc but the new has been allowed to be built alongside the old. This photo above illustrates my point. In this land rich rural environment there are ample opportunities to place ugly gas stations away from heritage buildings.

An interesting history here as in WW2 Cowra was a site for a very large internment and POW camp for alien nationals – mostly Italians and Japanese , Koreans and some from the Dutch east indies. There were 1100 Japanese prisoners who considered their situation as shameful thus desperate and untenable. They decided to make a mass breakout over the wire. A bugle call on the evening of 4th August 1944 started the unfolding nightmare. Some 20 or so Japanese committed suicide in the barracks which were then set on fire. Other sacrificial Japanese dressed as heavily as they were able , lead the charge throwing blankets and indeed themselves against the wire , making themselves living climbing frames for others scaling the high wire. The Australian guards had a machine gun which was bought to bear however it was overcome by the sheer mass of surging Japanese. Some guards were killed – think 4 Australians died. 231 Japanese were killed and a further 107 wounded. 334 managed to escape , but it was only a matter of a week or so before they were all rounded up again. The Japanese escapees had no hope of real escape and the record shows many were looking to die.Information about the escape remained top secret for 6 years – fearing that the Japanese could use this information on our own boys in POW camps in Asia. Some atrocities also occurred with records of Japanese being shot and or hung from trees in the roundup period. Apparently 2 Japanese waited for the morning train from Sydney – lying on the tracks .

long after the war ( 1979) it was decided to build an extensive Japanese Garden on a hill overlooking the town. A famous Japanese garden architect – Ken Nakajima was commissioned and the beautiful garden sits in a 5 hectare park.

I cycled up the long 10% gradient hill – as the rain started. Was worth the effort – very well done- a credit to the town of Cowra.



Japanese Gardens in light rain- in a pergoda shelter I met a family with a little girl having her 8th birthday – Amelia. ( Milla to her Mum ) Photo with her little sister

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