Commemorating 80th Anniversary of the Cowra Prisoner of War Breakout

Published on 12 June 2024

Planning for the commemorations of one the most dramatic events of World War II in Australia, the August 1944 Breakout of Japanese Prisoners from the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp, are well underway said Chair of the Cowra Breakout 80th Anniversary Committee, Graham Apthorpe.

We are anticipating a large influx of visitors to town for the commemorative events this year, including several delegations of Japanese guests and dignitaries,” Mr Apthorpe said.

The Commemorative Mayoral Dinner, a key event within the program of events for the two-day period of commemoration, will be held on Sunday, August 4 at the Cowra Showground Pavilion, with special guest speaker, Her Excellency the Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales.

A delicious three course dinner showcasing local produce has been specially designed for the evening by talented local chefs, Patrick and Bobby from Club Cowra, which will be accompanied with exquisite local wines from Windowrie Estate.

We encourage everyone to purchase their dinner tickets as soon as possible, as this popular event is sure to be a sell-out. Tickets are available online at,” Mr Apthorpe said.

Other special events planned in the lead up to the 80th anniversary include the premiere of a new musical, Intertwined, written by Cowra composer/musician, Lusi Austin; Capturing the Homefront – a touring exhibition from the Australian National Maritime Museum at the Cowra Regional Art Gallery; a Peace Bell Ceremony and torch run; and a lantern parade from the Cowra Japanese Garden to POW Campsite which all the community are encouraged to attend.

The lantern parade will be followed by a special community event on the site of the Cowra POW Breakout, with performances by the cast of Intertwined, as well as Japanese soprano singer Atsuko Arai who will perform with some of Cowra’s school children.

At 1.30am on Monday August 5 – the time that the Breakout occurred 80 years ago – a special gathering will take place at the POW Campsite to offer solemn reflections on the human toll of the Breakout and its historical significance.

The traditional events and wreath laying will also take place at the Japanese and Australian War cemeteries later that morning,” Mr Apthorpe said.

The Breakout saw 1100 Japanese POW’s attack the perimeter fences of the Camp with more than 200 of the prisoners dying, hundreds more escaping, with three Australian guards and an officer also killed during the Breakout.

By remembering the past, we can learn from its mistakes, its successes, and the sacrifice of those who went before us. This is why the Breakout commemorations are so important to not only Cowra, but to the peoples of Australia and Japan,” Mr Apthorpe concluded.

For the most up to date information on the Cowra Breakout 80th Anniversary Commemorations and a copy of the program, please visit:

Tagged as: