Cowra War CemeteryDoncaster Drive Cowra
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Following World War 2, the camp was dismantled and the last prisoners of war expatriated to their respective homelands. While the events of the Cowra Breakout and the experiences of Australian prisoners of war have left uneasy feelings for many, the sixty years since the breakout have seen Cowra develop into a ‘Centre of World Friendship'. The town's residents boast a very positive relationship with their old enemies, the Japanese. Those Japanese and Australians who died on Australian territory lie peacefully in the Cowra War Cemetery , which was opened in 1963, under the care of the local authorities. In 1979, Cowra's beautiful and scenic Japanese Gardens were established, signalling the strengthening relationship between Japan and Cowra. Recently, Cowra was honoured with the gift of a bronze Peace Bell, one of only seven worldwide and the only one in Australia . This rare gift was made as a tribute to the spirit of friendship and peace which has developed between the Japanese and the Cowra community.
Visitors to Cowra today can view the relic foundations of the prisoner of war campsite and traverse the avenue of cherry blossom trees, which links the Cowra War Cemetery and Japanese Gardens to the site. It is a tribute to the depth of cross-cultural goodwill that the flower of international friendship has bloomed from such tragic origins.
Lieutenant Harry Doncaster became the only Australian killed in the roundup, when he was attacked and murdered by Japanese eleven kilometres north of Cowra. In total, two hundred and thirty one Japanese soldiers and officers were killed. One Japanese officer and one hundred and seven other Japanese soldiers were wounded. Four Australians had died, including Private Shepherd, who was slain during the breakout in an area near the top end of Broadway. Four others were injured. The leaders of the breakout had ordered that no civilians be harmed, and they were true to their word.
The Australian War Cemetery was developed in the early stages of World War 2 as a result of the establishment of the Cowra POW Camp on one side of Cowra and the Military Training Camp on the other side. These two military establishments were operated independently and co-operated as required on security and staffing matters.
There are thirty three graves with the first death in July 1941 and the last in March 1947 when troops were still in place in Cowra after the war. The majority of deaths were due to illness. One training accident with a prematurely exploding mortar round claimed three lives. There are ten graves from the POW Camp including the three guards who were killed during the breakout and twenty two from the Military Training Camp including the officer also killed during the breakout roundup of Japanese POW. There is also the grave of a young Royal Air Force Corporal killed after the war in a motor cycle accident.
The Australian War Cemetery is under the control of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as part of the Departments of Veterans Affairs.