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                                                   74th BIRTHDAY

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EXCERPT FROM AUGUST: JAPANESE POW’s AT COWRA

On Saturday August 5th, military authorities announced that a number of Japanese prisoners had escaped from the Cowra camp, in central-southern NSW, at about 2am. They warned local residents that the men were on the loose, and urged them not to give any form of assistance to them. The number of escapees was not specified.

By Monday morning, these authorities proclaimed via the radio, that everyone had been re-captured, and assured people that the menace had gone away. 

To almost all Australians, including those in Cowra, this activity seemed like a minor incident, one that was to be expected near a camp of 4,000 Axis prisoners of war. The truth of the matter, though, was that on that Saturday morning, 545 Japanese escaped from the camp, and flooded out into the surrounding country-side. Though they were armed with makeshift weapons, but no guns, they were under instructions not to harass civilians in any way, and indeed they did not.  They were chased by the soldiers from the camp, and it took ten days to capture them all.

Over this time, 231 of them were either killed or committed suicide, and 108 wounded. Those still living were shipped back to camp.

During the initial break-out, two Aussie soldiers manning a  Vickers machine-gun fired into the approaching body of escapes. They were overcome and killed, but not before Private Jones hid the bolt from the gun. This stopped the Japs from turning the gun onto Australian troops. The two heroes, Privates Jones and Hardy, were awarded the George Cross posthumously as a result of their actions. A total of four Australians were killed during the incident....


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 ABOUT THIS SERIES   …  But after that, I realized that I really knew very little about these parents  of mine They had been born about the start of the Twentieth Century, and they died in 1970 and 1980. For their last 50 years, I was old enough to speak with a bit of sense.  I could have talked to them a lot about their lives. I could have found out about the times they lived in.  But I did not.  I know almost nothing about them really. Their courtship? Working in the pits? The Lock-out in the Depression? Losing their second child? Being dusted as a miner? The shootings at Rothbury? My uncles killed in the War? Love on the dole? There were hundreds, thousands of questions that I would now like to ask them.  But, alas, I can’t. It’s too late.

 

Thus, prompted by my guilt, I resolved to write these books. They describe happenings that affected people, real people.  The whole series is, to coin a modern phrase, designed to push the reader’s buttons, to make you remember and wonder at things  forgotten. The books might just let nostalgia see the light of day, so that oldies and youngies will talk about the past and re-discover a heritage otherwise forgotten. 

Hopefully, they will spark discussions between generations, and foster the asking and answering of questions that should not remain unanswered.