COWRA POW CAMPSITE

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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.

Today, the Cowra POW Campsite is full of interpretive signage to help you visualise what once stood in this picturesque part of Cowra. Stand under the replica guard tower and an audio presentation will bring the scene to life.

The POW Hologram Theatre, located within the Cowra Visitor Information Centre, tells the story of the Cowra Breakout and its aftermath. The story of Claire, the local girl, is an inspiration and the display simply amazing. A must-see for any visitor. Read what travel writer Bill Bryson had to say.

Cowra is also the home of Australia's World Peace Bell. Located in Civic Square, the Australian World Peace Bell is a replica of the one that stands in the forecourt of the United Nations Headquarters in New York as a reminder of the continual need for all nations to work for peace. The Australian World Peace Bell was awarded to Cowra in 1992 for its long-standing contribution to world peace and international understanding. It is the only World Peace Bell in the world that is not located in a city.

Cowra Japanese Garden is a simply stunning-5 hectare strolling garden, the largest of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The Garden was officially opened in 1979 and remains a place of peace and a symbol of reconciliation between Australia and Japan. The Garden is connected to the site of the Breakout and former Prisoner of War Camp by Sakura Avenue. Translating to Cherry Tree Avenue in English, this commemorative drive connects the Cowra Japanese Garden with the site of the POW Camp and continues to the Australian and Japanese War Cemetery. Additional monuments attributed to the Cowra Breakout include the Garrison Gates and Cowra Italy Friendship Monument.

Address: Sakura Avenue, Cowra NSW 2794  
Phone: 02 6342 4333
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


POW HOLOGRAM THEATRE

The P.O.W. Theatre is a 9 minute hologram that recounts the tragic story of the Cowra Breakout in 1944. The theatre is housed in a small tin replica of a Nissen hut found at the Cowra Prisoner of War Camp during World War II. The hologram tells the story of the Cowra Breakout through the eyes of Claire, a young Cowra local. The presentation is aimed at raising awareness of the historical significance of Cowra in modern military history and to encourage visitation to other local attractions and locations of historical importance.

This is a 'must see' for all visitors to the town. When the American travel writer Bill Bryson visited the town he watched the presentation three times!

The famous POW Hologram Theatre is the best place to start your historical journey through the Cowra region.

Open Time
Open daily from 9am - 5pm except Christmas Day.

Admission
Free. Donations are welcome for the upkeep of the POW theatre.

The story is inspirational and the display simply amazing.

Address: Visitor Information Centre, Mid Western Highway, Cowra
Phone: 02 6342 4333
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


WAR CEMETERY

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Established in 1964, this is the only Japanese War Cemetery to be retained in Australia. There are 523 graves at the Japanese War Cemetery, containing the remains of the 231 Japanese soldiers who were killed in the 1944 Cowra Breakout and all Japanese Nationals who died on Australian soil during World War II. Before 1964, the Japanese Cemetery had been cared for informally by members of the Cowra RSL Sub-Branch, who kept the lawns mowed and the weeds in check. This was done as a mark of respect for the fallen soldiers at a time when there were mixed feelings concerning the Japanese. Today, we encourage you to pay your respects at this solemn place.

Open Time: Accessible at all times and admission is free

Address: Doncaster Drive, Cowra NSW 2794
Phone: 02 6342 4333      
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


COWRA ITALY FRIENDSHIP MONUMENT

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Cowra’s connection to Italy is a powerful one forged through wartime and peaceful connections. The striking Cowra Italy Friendship Monument, which was unveiled in 1997, is a symbol of this unity on two fronts. Firstly, it commemorates the Italians who, during World War II, served on the side of the Allies, the Italian POW’s lodged at the Cowra POW Camp, and Italian and Australian service personnel who lost their lives for their country. Secondly, the Cowra Italy Friendship Monument, which you will find at the eastern end of Kendal Street, serves to celebrate the involvement of the Italians in the evolution of Cowra’s rich cultural environment. 

Open Time: Accessible at all times and admission is free

Address: Fred Arnold Park, Kendal Street, Cowra NSW 2794
Phone: 02 6342 4333      
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


GARRISON GATES

Resolutely standing guard within Cowra’s residential area, on the corner of Binni Creek Road and Amaroo Avenue, you’ll find the Garrison Gates. The brick structures mark the original entrance to the headquarters of the 22nd Garrison Battalion, the unit responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Cowra POW Camp. Today, the Garrison Gates are flanked by rosemary in a sign of remembrance and commemoration. Take a moment to stop by the gates on your way to Cowra’s other war-time monuments, they stand as one of the few physical remnants of the POW Camp that are still intact today.

Open Time: Accessible at all times and admission is free

Address: Binni Creek Road, Cowra NSW 2794
Phone: 02 6342 4333      
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


LONE PINE PARK

Connections to our past are a vital key to our future. In Lone Pine Park, opposite the Cowra Visitor Information Centre, you will find a tree that was propagated from a pine seed off the famous Lone Pine at Gallipoli. The story goes that at least two Australian soldiers pocketed cones and seeds from Lone Pine Ridge during those horror days of World War I. 

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On bringing these seeds back to Australia, they tended them and grew new trees in remembrance of their fallen comrades. One tree was presented to the Australian War Memorial and is now known as Lone Pine Tree, and the Cowra RSL Sub-branch also received a tree and planted it in what is now known as Lone Pine Park. The battles of Gallipoli, where Australia lost more than 2000 soldiers, remind us of the heroism and mateship that is ingrained in the Australian spirit. Take a moment to remember them at the foot of our tree of hope.

Open Time: Accessible at all times and admission is free

Address: Cnr Mid Western Highway & Lachlan Valley Way, Cowra
Phone: 02 6342 4333      
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


MILITARY & MIGRANT CAMPSITES

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The history of Cowra is marked by stories of the military and migrants from World War II. Between 1940 and 1945 some 80,000 Australian troops received basic training at the Cowra facility. After the war, the camp became home to between 17,000 to 19,000 immigrants who left war-ravaged Europe to make their home in Australia.

Whilst the campsite itself, on the eastern side of town, is now private land, a memorial has been erected in honour of the migrant families of Cowra in Europa Park, east of Cowra on the Sydney Road. There is also a memorial on Military Parade to mark the location of the Military Camp.

A collection of family stories from former residents of the Cowra Migrant Camp is recorded in ‘Australia, A New Country - A New Life’. Compiled by the Cowra & District Historical Society, the book is available at the Cowra Visitor Information Centre.

If you would like further information, please contact the Cowra Visitor Information Centre 02 6342 4333.

Open Time: Accessible at all times and admission is free

Address: Military Parade, Cowra NSW 2794
Phone: 02 6342 4333      
Fax: 02 6342 4563
Email: info@cowratourism.com.au


COWRA VOICES

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The Cowra Voices storytelling app was launched on August 3, 2019 as part of the 75th anniversary commemorations of the Cowra Breakout. The app aims to explore narrative connections between Australia and Japan, encouraging a deeper, more intimate engagement with Cowra’s history through audio/multimedia storytelling.

The app includes stories of the Wiradjuri elders, personal histories of people buried at the Cowra Japanese War Cemetery, and local stories of grassroots peace-building by members of the local Cowra community.

Cowra Voices was developed through a partnership between Arts OutWest, Nikkei Australia, Cowra Shire Council, Cowra Tourism, and Tokai University with support from ABC Central West and app developer Sazae.

The app is available for download on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

You can download the official brochure here.


PLACES OF PRIDE

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War memorials in every suburb, town, and city across Australia will now be connected via an Australian War Memorial initiative, Places of Pride.

The website, Places of Pride, is the National Register of War Memorials records the locations and images of every publicly accessible memorial in Australia, from cenotaphs, honour boards, and church shrines to memorial halls, pools, bowling clubs and tree-lined remembrance ways.

The interactive online register will be the basis of a stunning new display in the proposed expanded galleries of the Australian War Memorial.

Help to build the national register by uploading photos of the war memorials in Cowra to https://placesofpride.awm.gov.au.