The Japanese War Cemetery in Cowra is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (C.W.G.C.) site. It contains the remains of all Japanese prisoners of war (POWs) who died in Australia during the Second World War. This includes those involved in the Cowra Breakout, other internees, and those involved in the battle of Darwin. The land was ceded to Japan in 1963.
The focal point of the cemetery is a Japanese stone garden. There are also memorial trees and an information panel, containing details of the POW camp and the breakout.
Also on site is the Cowra War Cemetery, which contains the graves of Australian Second World War veterans.
Japanese War Cemetery
Cowra War Cemetery
The Australian War Cemetery and the Japanese War Cemetery
The Australian War Cemetery and the Japanese War Cemetery have their origins in Cowra's experience of the Second World War.
During the 1940s, two army establishments were situated in Cowra. A major infantry base, located on the Sydney Road on the eastern side of Cowra, supplied reinforcements for the 2nd AIF. Around 80,000 troops passed through that Camp and soldiers who died from training accidents and illness are buried here. One grave is that of a member of the Royal Air Force killed in a motorcycle accident just after the war.
In a separate location to the north east of the town, the No. 12 Prisoner of War and Internment Group was constructed. Known as the Cowra POW Camp it initially held Italian POW and later Japanese POW, some of whom were Korean and Chinese. The Camp also held Indonesian civilians and merchant sailors who were interned on behalf of the Dutch Government, the controlling authority in the Dutch East Indies.
The Australian War Cemetery also contains the graves of Privates Ralph Jones (George Cross), Ben Hardy (George Cross), and Charles Shepherd, who were killed during the Cowra Breakout in the early hours of 5th August 1944 together with Lt. Harry Doncaster who was killed later that day while attempting to recapture Japanese to the north of Cowra.
Italians who died in the Cowa POW Camp were originally buried in Cowra, but after the war, their remains were taken to a cemetery for Italian POWs and internees at Murchison in Victoria. Indonesians who died in Cowra are buried in the General Section of the Cowra Cemetery. A refurbishment of those graves with the construction of a monument took place in 1997.
Japanese who died prior to the Breakout were originally buried in marked graves in this general location but after the Breakout in 1944 the graves were consolidated into a distinct area. After the war, members of the local RSL cared for the Japanese graves as well as the Allied graves. In 1963, the Japanese Government submitted a proposal to the Australian Government for a Japanese War Cemetery, which was agreed. All other Japanese who died during the war, civilians and military alike, including Japanese Airmen either shot down or crashed over northern Australia, had their remains brought to Cowra. Other Japanese remains for the Second World War have been interred here since then.
Further information and displays are available at the POW camp site and the Cowra Visitors Information Centre.
The Australian War Cemetery and the Japanese War Cemetery are maintained by Commonwealth War Graves through the Australian Government's Department of Veterans Affairs.
This sign was made possible through the financial assistance of Mr Ryutaro Hashimoto, Former Prime Minister of Japan.