The Cowra Breakout

The Cowra Breakout

At 1.50 am on the clear moonlit night of August 5, 1944, the largest Prisoner of War breakout in modern military history occurred at Cowra. More than 1000 Japanese prisoners launched a mass ‘suicide attack’ on their guards, Australian soldiers of the 22nd Garrison. To the Japanese, the disgrace of capture could finally be overcome by dying in armed battle.

Armed with crude weapons, four groups each of approximately 300 Japanese threw themselves on to barbed wire fences and into the firing line of Vickers machine guns. Protected only by baseball mitts, blankets, and coats and using their comrades as a human bridge to cross the tangled barbed wire, more than 350 Japanese clawed their way to freedom.

All escapees were captured during the following week. A total of 107 POWs were wounded, 234 prisoners died along with 5 Australian soldiers.

From the tragedy of war and the Cowra Breakout came a long-lasting friendship between the people of Cowra and the nation of Japan. There is much in Cowra today which serves as a reminder to these events.

Explore the many historical sites below and immerse yourself in our history.

When the War came to Cowra

The Cowra Breakout Association are excited to announce the completion of a new project funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Veteran Affairs ‘Saluting Their Service’ program.

When The War Came To Cowra is a historical video depicting life at Number 12 Prisoner of War and Internment Group.


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    Visit Cowra acknowledges the Wiradjuri People as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and reside, and pay our respects to Elders past and present.