THE anniversary of the Prisoner of War Breakout will be remembered in Cowra this weekend with a number of commemorative events scheduled for sites which feature in the story of one of Australia’s most tragic military confrontations.
On August 5 1944 more than 1100 Japanese prisoners of war staged a mass escape attempt from the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp.
In the ensuing clash, the only land battle fought on Australian soil during World War Two, 231 Japanese died and 107 were wounded.
There were 334 prisoners who escaped into the surrounding countryside and were recaptured over the ensuing nine days.
Three Australian camp guards were killed during the breakout and seven were wounded while an officer from the nearby military training camp was killed late on August 5 while attempting to re-capture a group of POWs.
“The Cowra Breakout is one of the most tragic events in Australian military history and it is appropriate we reflect on what occurred on that cold and frosty night 68 years ago,” Cowra Breakout Association President Lawrance Ryan said.
The Breakout Association has planned a two day commemoration of the event and has extended an invitation for all central west residents to attend.
Commemorations begin at 4.15pm today with a brief ceremony in Squire Park, located in Cowra’s main street, where a bronze sculpture remembers the four Australian’s who died during the breakout.
The ceremony will be followed at 6pm by an ecumenical church service at St Raphael’s Catholic Church.
Tomorrow marks the actual anniversary of the breakout and a series of commemorative events will be held at sites with a direct link to the various aspects of the breakout story.
The activities commence at 9am with a wreath laying at the POW campsite.
Further wreath layings will be held at the Doncaster Memorial on Canowindra Road at 9.45am and at Garrison Gates on Binni Creek Road at 11.30am.
This year the ceremonies in the Australian and Japanese War Cemeteries have been re-scheduled for 2pm so that a group of visiting school students, who are travelling from Sydney on the day, can be part of the event.
The wreath laying in the Japanese War cemetery will be followed by a traditional Buddhist memorial ceremony.
“The Cowra POW Breakout is a tragic event.
“It is only right that we remember those men, both Australian and Japanese, who died at Cowra in the service of their countries,” Mr Ryan said.
“However, equally important is our recognition of the friendship, reconciliation and respect that exists between the people of Cowra and the people of Japan today, largely because of the actions of members of the local RSL Sub-branch who began the task of maintaining the Japanese graves immediately after the end of WW2.”
The Breakout Association members look forward to welcoming locals and visitors to this year’s commemorations.