Chief of Navy Vice Admiral Tim Barrett has joined Chief of Staff, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Admiral Yutaka Murakawa, to commemorate the lives lost in the ‘Cowra Breakout’ during the Second World War.
Admiral Murakawa was undertaking a counterpart visit to Australia, following on from Prime Minister Abe's recent visit and travelled to Cowra to pay his respects at the Japanese War Cemetery.
Over nine days 334 Japanese prisoners of war were recaptured and returned to the camp in rural New South Wales, but the incident resulted in the deaths of 234 Japanese prisoners and three Australian soldiers. Those who died are interred in adjacent Australian and Japanese cemeteries in the town.
A further 108 Japanese and three Australians were wounded.
The admirals visited Cowra to commemorate the loss of life, honouring those who died and recognising the ongoing relationship between the two Defence forces, laying wreaths and being briefed on the shared history of the region.
“Our relationship with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force has strengthened considerably in recent years through enhanced training and exercises, increased personnel exchanges and deepened cooperation on maritime security,” Admiral Barrett said.
“Both Australia and Japan benefit from the opportunity to practice high level warfare skills with open exchanges of ideas and operating procedures to further enhance our skills and interoperability to aid regional security.”
On the night of 5 August 1944, prisoners armed with knives and improvised clubs, rushed from their huts and began breaking through the wire fences of the Prisoner of War Camp in the town. Sentries opened fire but several hundred prisoners escaped into open country, while others who remained set fire to the camp buildings. The people of Cowra have since fostered a strong relationship with Japan, tending to the cemetery and maintaining a Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre since 1979.