RIVERINA MP and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said today he was proud and honoured Federal Parliament had paid tribute to those killed in 1944’s Cowra Breakout and their families.

Mr McCormack organised for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Anthony Albanese to deliver Indulgence statements at the start of Question Time to mark the 75th anniversary of the breakout.

Mr McCormack said the breakout of 1,000 prisoners in Camp B of No. 12 Prisoner of War (PoW) Compound outside of Cowra on 5 August, 1944, claimed the lives of 231 Japanese soldiers and four Australian soldiers and was a significant day in Australia’s military history. Another 108 Japanese soldiers were wounded.

“This was a terrible loss of life and our prayers and thoughts even to this day are with the families of all these fallen men,” Mr McCormack said.

Mr McCormack said the respect and honour shown to the fallen Japanese by the people of Cowra over the years had had led to their town becoming a beacon of international understanding and a model of healing.

Mr McCormack will attend a Mayoral dinner in Cowra on Sunday, one of many events in the town over four days which will mark the milestone anniversary.

Other activities include a street parade, a lantern procession to the historic PoW compound and an ecumenical church service.

There will be a gathering at the compound at 1.30am on Monday, 5 August, to mark the exact time of the breakout, followed by a wreath-laying service at 9am, while there will also be wreath-laying ceremonies at the Australian and Japanese war cemeteries at 10am.

The PoWs who died in the breakout and Japanese soldiers who died in other parts of Australia during World War II were respectfully interred in the Japanese War Cemetery, the only military cemetery for Japanese soldiers outside their home country.

The Cowra Japanese Garden and Cultural Centre, a living testament of friendship between our two countries, was designed by Japanese architect Ken Nakajima and established in 1977.

Mr McCormack paid his respects to the four Australian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice either during the fierce battle at the compound or during the frantic search for escapees which followed.

Private Benjamin Hardy (aged 45), Private Ralph Jones (43) and Private Charles Shepherd (31) were killed at the compound during the breakout, while Lieutenant Harry Doncaster (38) was killed during the nine-day attempt to recapture escaped PoWs.

Pte Hardy and Pte Jones were posthumously awarded the George Cross Medal in 1950 and the citation in the London Gazette read: “They met their deaths in the true British spirit of sacrifice for their country.”

“These four men selflessly sacrificed their lives, their futures, in order to protect the people of Cowra, and the people of Cowra have responded by forever honouring their heroic deaths,” Mr McCormack said.

Mr McCormack thanked the Cowra community for leading the healing between Australia and Japan after the end of WWII and paid tribute to the work done by the Cowra Breakout Committee, led by chairman Graham Apthorpe, in organising the annual commemoration.

Shane Manning