r Man: 1917 - 1945

Full text Prime Minister




On 8th September, 1944, the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) said -

"About 2 a.m. on 5th August, 1944, over 900 Japanese prisoners of war in a camp in Australia made an unprovoked mass attack upon their guards. The Japanese had armed themselves with mess knives, baseball clubs and other improvised weapons. They first set their sleeping buts alight and then rushed the fences of the camp. The Japanese had prepared themselves with extra clothing, gloves and padding for surmounting or passing through the wire fences. Those who escaped into an internal camp road endeavoured to break out of the gates at each end of the camp. Large numbers who escaped through the outer fence of the camp attacked and killed an Australian machine-gun crew, and attempted to storm the garrison quarters. These attacks were met by fire from the Australian guards, who showed excellent discipline and restraint throughout the incident. As the result of these events substantial numbers of Japanese were killed or wounded. The prisoners of war who escaped after the attacks had failed were subsequently recaptured; all but a small number by nightfall on the day of escape. During the search for escapees an Australian officer was brutally murdered by a party of Japanese.

"Eighteen of the twenty sleeping buts and two administration huts in the camp were burned to the ground. In burned huts incinerated bodies of Japanese were found. Many other Japanese committed suicide or were killed by their comrades inside and outside the camp.

“Total casualties sustained by the Japanese prisoners of war were: One officer killed, 230 other ranks killed or died of wounds or died by suicide, 1 officer wounded, and 107 other ranks wounded.

"A military court of inquiry was immediately appointed to investigate the matter. The court's report can be summarized as follows:-

"Firstly, that conditions at the camp were fully in accordance with the provisions of International Convention, that accommodation and rations for the Japanese were provided on the same scale as for Australian troops and that the camp was at all times open for inspection by the Protecting Power and International Red Cross Delegate. Such inspections had been made at frequent intervals.

"Secondly, that no complaints as to treatment had been made by or on behalf of the Japanese before the mutiny, that the mutiny was carried out according to a premeditated and concerted plan formulated by the Japanese and put into effect following a meeting secretly held in the camp at midnight.

"Thirdly, that the action of the Australian garrison in successfully resisting the attack averted a greater loss of life, that the attack by the Japanese was characterized by a suicidal disregard of life, that firing ceased as soon as control of the camp was assured and that adequate arrangements were made for treatment of the wounded, many of whom have since recovered.

"Fourthly, of the 231 dead Japanese it is found that 20 died by hanging and strangulation inflicted by the Japanese on themselves or on one another, 9 by suicide from stabbing, 2 by suicide under a train, 5 from a combination of self-inflicted wounds and gunshot wounds, and 12 from causes unknown but whose bodies were found in huts burned by the Japanese. Sixteen of the wounded showed evidence of attempted suicide.

"The extensive preparations made by the Japanese, the commencement of the mutiny during the hours of darkness and other attendant circumstances prove beyond all doubt that the responsibility for the incident rests entirely on the prisoners of war themselves, and that it was their intention to engage in suicidal combat with their guards.

"I am glad to be able to add that casualties among Australian personnel fortunately were light.

"In accordance with recognized practice the Australian Government has furnished a report on the mutiny to the representative o£ the Protecting Power for transmission to the Japanese Government."