The Cowra Breakout
By Mat McLachlan
Published by Hachette
RRP $34.99 in paperback | ISBN 9780733647628
‘At the bugle signal, nearly 1000 Japanese prisoners spilled from their huts and roared with ferocious fervour as they charged towards the wire. At the same time prisoners knocked over the blazing braziers in their huts …. Within minutes most of the huts were ablaze.’
And so began the Cowra Breakout.
By August 1944, over a thousand Japanese prisoners of war were interned in a special constructed facility in Cowra in central New South Wales.
On the icy night of August 5th, they staged one of the largest prison breakouts in history, launching the only land battle of World War II to be fought on Australian soil.
Five Australian soldiers and more than 230 Japanese POWs would die.
Mat McLachlan has meticulously reconstructed the detail of what led up to the breakout and its aftermath of enquiries and cover ups.
It is in many ways, a tale of negligence and complacency, and of authorities too slow to recognise danger before it occurred – and too quick to cover it up when it was too late.
Among the acknowledgements, Mat McLachlan reserves special praise for the people of Cowra for keeping the history of this significant event alive. Among the leaders of this commitment is local historian Graham Apthorpe, whose book The Man Inside: The Bloodiest Outbreak was published in 2017, also assisted McLachlan with research for this book.