TUESDAY MAY 12 COWRA
Another slow start to the day, meaning the elder one of us slept late, while the younger one exercised and fed dog, and breakfasted at my leisure. Brunch for one was early lunch for the other!
Drove into town and then on out to the Breakout Centre – a display about the attempted escape of Japanese POW’s in 1944 – located on the site of the former POW Camp. It is out of town a few kms, in farmland – rolling country. The prisoners probably didn’t appreciate it, but they had very pleasant scenery.
A replica of one of the guard towers stands near the car park. As we discovered, it rather spookily plays an information recording as one approaches – must be movement activated.
Little remains of the buildings and other structures that were there, as the facility was dismantled and mostly sold off, including some of the original land.
The Cowra POW Camp was much bigger than I had realized, both in area and in numbers contained. Although planned and built for 1000, it came to house more than double that number of prisoners. Another surprise was the mix of nationalities held there, not just Japanese but also Italians, Chinese, Koreans, some from the Dutch East Indies.
It was the Japanese who staged the outbreak. Given the psyche and culture of the Japanese soldier of the time, being captured was a major disgrace and source of shame. It was almost a duty to try to escape, or die trying. About 400 staged the breakout, about 230 of those were killed or committed suicide in the resulting conflict before the escapees were recaptured. Four Australian soldiers died.
By contrast, many of the Italian POW’s really liked the place ( especially many of those who were sent out to be farm labour in the district). So much so that they did not want to leave at all. Some of these Italian POW’s managed to escape too – not in 1944, but in 1946, well after the war’s end – to avoid being repatriated back to their homeland! The last of these escapees was not rounded up until 1950. Some of the Italian POW’s returned to Australia in the 1950’s, as migrants.
We walked around some of the paths through the old camp area, reading the various information boards.
Did some food shopping, then back to Bus.
Realised this afternoon that the lovely, lush, grassy area where we have been throwing a ball for dog and letting her have a run around, is in fact the area where the campground’s recycled sewage is sprayed! It smelt a bit after the sprinklers had been on. I was now a little concerned about the wisdom of ball retrieval on the area…
Tea was chicken noodle soup based chow mein. An old standby.
John was trying to adjust the TV aerial and the winding mechanism fell apart. I was just grateful that it was him trying to work it at the time, and not me! Since it was dark outside, and to fix it he would need a ladder and maybe some parts, and the thing could not now be wound down for travel, we agreed we’d have to stay an extra day, not leave tomorrow as planned. John went off to tell management, hoping our site would still be available, which it was. The very obliging park owner came back with John, bearing a TV cable to lend us for the night. Very nice of him.
It was a cold night.