Cowra Breakout: 80th Anniversary Heritage Display


7 July to 11 August 2024

Eighty years ago, on 5 August 1944 just before 2am a mass breakout of Japanese prisoners of war from No. 12 Prisoner of War Camp, Cowra took place resulting in the loss of 234 Japanese and five Australian lives. One more Australian soldier would die after being accidentally shot some days later.

While there are no photographs of the actual breakout of Japanese prisoners of war this special display features photographs and heritage items relating to the Cowra POW Camp and the Cowra Breakout.

Most significant is the bugle (now a part of the national collection at the Australian War Memorial) used by Japanese fighter pilot Hajime Toyoshima to signal the beginning of the mass breakout of Japanese prisoners-of-war from Cowra POW Camp. The other object on display that epitomises the spirit of humanity is the jug used by Mrs May Weir to serve tea to escaped Japanese prisoners of war who appeared at the Weir family property, ‘Rosedale’, before they were returned to the camp by the Army after the Breakout.

Cowra in 2024 is a place of reconciliation between these former enemies in World War II. The 80th Anniversary of the Cowra Breakout serves as a poignant reminder as well as an occasion for commemoration of the enduring friendship between Cowra and Japan. Cowra Regional Art Gallery acknowledges the Australian War Memorial, the WB & ME Weir Trust, Lawrance Ryan and Graham Apthorpe, Chair, Cowra Breakout 80th Anniversary for their support.

Image credit: The bugle used to signal the start of the Cowra Breakout. Courtesy Australian War Memorial