Cowra Voices storytelling app was launched at the 75th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout in August 2019. Rod Hayes was asked to speak about Cowra Australian War Cemetery, which is location number nine and Cowra Japanese War Cemetery, which is location number ten on the app.


This audio interview with Rod Hayes, was recorded on 20 September 2018 In Cowra by Nikkei Australia’s Mayu Kanamori and Masako Fukui. This interview was recorded for the Cowra Voices geolocative storytelling app, created in 2019 and launched to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout. For more information, please refer to the Overview in this archive.

Rod Hayes  00:29

My name’s Rod Hayes, I’m the Cemetery Supervisor. I’ve been working for the Council for 20 years now. And part of my job is to help maintain all the Cemeteries but also the war graves there, which include the Australian and Japanese graves there.

Rod Hayes  00:46

Okay. My name is Rod Hayes. I’m the Cemetery Supervisor for Cowra Shire Council. I’ve been working with Cowra Council for 20 years, and part of my job is to help look after and maintain the war graves there, which include all the Australian servicemen and women, and also the Japanese, or their civilians buried there. And then also, the young fellows that broke out in 1944.

Rod Hayes  01:14

Yep, okay. Yeah, well, you could say I’m a local. I’ve been here since I was six weeks old. And I’ve been working – I’ve been living in the town for, for that period of time and have a family. And I’ve, over the years, had a little bit to do, because of the Japanese influence in town, if you like, because of the war graves there, and we’ve had a little bit to do with the Japanese. I’ve been fortunate enough myself to go to Japan on an exchange through work. So I was over there for two weeks. And then also, just recently this year, we’ve hosted a Japanese student at our house for three months. So and, obviously growing up you meet Japanese people in town, and we meet them through school through the exchange program. So you get to have that bit of a relationship. And obviously, meeting people like that gets you curious about other cultures and things as well. So you’ll learn a little bit about each other that way so. I’ve found that, you know, it’s a fortunate thing, a terrible tragedy to start with, but it’s been a fortunate thing, because, you know, you get to have that close contact, because so many Japanese people come to Cowra to visit.

Rod Hayes  02:23

So, I’ve found that, you know, out of tragedy, I suppose something good has come, that you learn other things. And then because you meet other people, you realise they’re just like you, they’re not just a, you know, a bunch of young fellows that have died in the war, and they’re all buried there. You get to meet the people that, you know, possibly some of their family and all in the relationships – you form relationships with the people you do meet. So I know a few people in Japan now and keep in contact with them. So it’s been a positive thing.

Masako Fukui  02:52

Do you want to tell us about your friendships with the Japanese people?

Rod Hayes  02:56

Yeah, well, I was fortunate to go to Japan for – on exchange through work. And then so the most or the best part of the experience I found was obviously seeing everything there is in Japan, but also just staying with the families there, actually being with the families and you know, experiencing first hand if you like, how they live, and what they eat, you know, where they go what they do on the weekend. So, you know, it was – I learned a lot.

Masako Fukui  03:20

What did you eat?

Rod Hayes  03:23

Ended up – I shouldn’t say we had some shark fin soup one night (laughter). Better not put that in there (laughter). They brought that out, and I didn’t realise – we’d been out for a little while. And we went out, you know, afterwards socialising and things, and then we were all gathered around a table, and they said, ‘oh, you’ve gotta try this’. And I said, ‘oh, okay’. And it looked beautiful. And I tried it. I should’ve asked I suppose beforehand, and I said, ‘oh, what is it’? And they said, ‘oh, it’s shark fin soup.’ So it’s, you know, but it’s a cultural thing, isn’t it? You know, so.

Masako Fukui  03:55

Did you like it?

Rod Hayes  03:56

I did actually, yeah, it was nice.  Yeah, so but yeah, I just, – and then some of the other things, I’ve sampled sake of course, different ones. And then the place I stayed at Joetsu, they actually, they had a priest there that introduced like wine into that area. So they have wines as well, and I tried some of those as well. So that was interesting. Yeah, very good.

Mayu Kanamori  04:22

How do you – tell me your typical day when you’re tending to the graves? What do you do, you know?

Rod Hayes  04:28

Well, we just, obviously, we go in there regularly and from the simple sorts of maintenance, so just mowing and maintaining it, making sure people will leave things there too. So flowers and trinkets – oh not so much trinkets, but flowers and those sorts of things. We just remove those on a regular basis to keep it tidy. And then through the years, you know, obviously there’s different things on there. Specialty sort of ANZAC Day, that’s a big one. So we always maintain it and keep it looking tidy, but then obviously when we have those sorts of things happening, and then just now there’s the Sakura Festival on, so there’s usually a bit of extra work to make sure that it’s up to a high standard. And there’s – and then, you know, apart from that, then you’ve got sort of longer term plans where, at the moment, we’re looking at the whole area there again to sort of freshen it up again, you know, with possibly new fencing. And so we’re sort of looking at it, if you like, from week to week and maintaining it that way. And then also longer term, maintaining the general appearance of it so that it’s up to a higher standard.

Mayu Kanamori  05:27

I know you maintain it. But I think, what I’d like to hear the details of maintaining it. You cut the grass, you mow the grass, you remove the rubbish.

Rod Hayes  05:39

All right.

Masako Fukui  05:39

Do you actually literally pick the weeds with your fingers? You know, that kind of detail.

Rod Hayes  05:44

Right down to that level. Okay. Okay.

Masako Fukui  05:46

What kind of stuff do people leave behind?

Rod Hayes  05:48

Okay then. All right. So we maintain the cemetery there. We come in, and we cut the grass regularly. So we mow it and then we also whipper-snip all the edges that require it. People leave flowers, they leave paper cranes, they leave you know, sake sometimes, bottles of different things on the – this is in the Japanese section. So you know, we leave them for a period of time, and then obviously, we have to take those away eventually as well. We prune the roses in winter, we  spray all the lawns to keep them you know, any pests or get rid of clover and that sort of thing as well. Mulch the gardens, put mulch in there, prune the bamboo back. It gets, you know, it sends out runners all the time. So we’ve got to keep maintaining it. It grows like wildfire through there, so we have to keep it sort of in – try and keep it in one area there rather than spreading out through the place. Yep, so.

Masako Fukui  06:44

Can we just go back to the Japanese graves? So the sake.

Rod Hayes  06:50

Sake yeah.

Masako Fukui  06:51

Can you tell us if they’re empty bottles or full bottles?

Rod Hayes  06:54

They’re full bottles, they’re left there. And we never drink them but we have opened the top when we’ve had to get rid of them and smell it, and see what it’s like. And it smells fairly strong. So fairly potent. Yeah. But we haven’t ventured into drink – try drinking it or anything like that. We wouldn’t do that. But yeah, so they always leave full bottles. And generally, it’s just sake, we think, because we can’t always read what’s on it. And then there’s, you know, looms of paper cranes. We haven’t counted those up, but I presume I think it’s the – what’s the legend 1,000 paper cranes? So, and they’re all various colours, they look quite good all together. But we eventually remove those as well. And then obviously, there’s wreaths and things as well, when there – after there’s events there or ceremonies. And they usually have where they’re from, so you can see different parts of Japan where – different, you know, if there’s a group from Japan, they come out and leave something there and you can see where they’re from. And then at times, we’ve also – there’s been ceremonies up there, we’ve had Buddhists, I think they were, have ceremonies there. And so they use various things there, smoke – I think they’d have – and they leave incense, there’s always incense left up there, too. So all those types of things that are very Japanese are left there.

Masako Fukui  08:22

So what’s the oddest thing that you found in the Japanese graves?

Rod Hayes  08:28

It’s unrelated to the Japanese what they’ve left, but I actually found a like, a little bag of – it must be like a trend to leave things in one spot. And then the next person comes along and leaves – takes something out of the bag, and puts something in that bag and leave something themselves. So it’s sort of like a, an exchange if you like. I didn’t know anything about those. But then I realised that people must do that. So it was buried in a particular spot there that they must communicate somehow to the next person where it is, and then they go on. It’s just a trinket, like a little, like a something out of a $2 machine or you know, a little it could be anything a badge, and there was a Scottish badge in one of them. So it’s just all different little trinkets, not of any value, but just left there. That was in the Australian section, but then out the Canowindra Road at the monument out there, where the officer was killed, there was one out there too. So I don’t know much more about it. That’s probably the oddest thing, because I didn’t realise that sort of thing – someone’s decided they were going to do it, and then all of a sudden it must have caught on and you know, there must be quite a few people doing it that travel around so.

Mayu Kanamori  09:43

Can we have other examples? Doesn’t have to be –

Rod Hayes  09:45

No, no, no.

Mayu Kanamori  09:46

Something you found that you – you arrived in the morning to do your work.

Rod Hayes  09:52

I’m just trying to think.

Masako Fukui  09:54

Might be something that might have moved you, or perhaps someone’s left a photo. I’ve often heard stories like that someone left a photo.

Rod Hayes  10:02

Yeah. Photos always touch you. Yeah, no, I haven’t seen anything like that. But I know we had it makes you –  there’s so many people, young men mostly buried there. And they’ve obviously all got a story. And when you maintain the area you never really realise all those stories. You don’t – you just sort of blind all that. But when you hear about a certain person, what they’ve done or, you know, the guy that blew the trumpet to set them off, and, you know, this big attack, and you realise that that’s his remains there. And that who – what he – even though it’s a small part of his whole life, that he was the one that blew the bugle that set off all that B reakout, that’s quite touching, I think. And then there’s other ones there, where there’s airmen, you know, unknown airmen buried there. And then you sort of think, well, you know, no one knows who they are, but they’ve got a story. And they’ve, you know, we’ve died in service for their country. But, you know, unfortunately, no one knows who they are and what their story is now. So it does make you think, when you look after it, about those, about what happens in war.

Mayu Kanamori  11:08

Do you have a special feeling? What, how does it make you feel that you look after these graves of people whose families (unintelligible)?

Rod Hayes  11:14

Well, well, I feel quite privileged to look after them, especially when you’re involved, you know, day to day, and then you hear these stories, and you realise that you’re the one that’s maintaining those areas and looking after them for not just for now, but into the future. And, you know, with tourists that come through Australians, mostly, you know, if they ask you certain things, then you can tell them a little bit about some of it if they’re really curious, you know. Some people just say, hello, and that’s it, but other people want to know. (phone sounds)

Masako Fukui  11:43

I’m sorry, that’s mine.

Rod Hayes  11:45

That’s alright. Yeah, well, one of the most touching things I’ve seen up there is when they came in for the Wakaomi remains. The family didn’t realise that during the war, that they knew that he’d obviously passed away in service, but they didn’t realise that he’d actually been captured, and then taken to Melbourne, and then he was ill there and died. But years later, they found out that his remains had been brought to Cowra. And they wanted to repatriate some of his remains. So they organised – it was quite a lot of organisation to get to that point. But cutting a long story short, they managed to do it, and so there was representatives from all over the place there from Japan, his family, the Australian War Graves Commission, Cowra Council, and everyone there. And then obviously, then it was a matter of hoping that it was accurate, where he’s buried there. And so there’s quite a long day, if you like, of getting to the remains, and then they, when they did find the remains, they took part of those remains in there. And then they had a ceremony there with a monk, I believe he was. And so that was very touching, because you’ve got all that emotion, raw emotion there at the time. So anyway, I mean, it was a good outcome for the family, part of his remains were taken back to Japan to his family. And then they didn’t want to take all his remains, because they felt that he should stay here also with the other Japanese buried here.

Masako Fukui  13:15

In Japan, we have all these things about spirits and burial, and all that sort of stuff is quite important. When you’re tending to those graves, and when you’ve been –  because you’ve been there for such a long time, is there a sense that you have some kind of sense of that in any way?

Rod Hayes  13:32

In my job, I’d like to say yes, but I don’t think about those sorts of things with the job that I do. So I know, it’s obviously a very special place, and I respect everything with that has to do with and also the rest of the cemetery. But, and I – but I try not to think about that side. You know, I don’t sit there and think about that too – I realise the importance of it. And I do think about it at times, but I don’t feel that, I don’t feel as if – I’m sure that – I think with my job, I can’t afford to feel that too much in some ways.

Masako Fukui  14:10

Feel what?

Rod Hayes  14:10

Oh, the spiritual side of it, you know, to sit there and think, is everyone watching me or is everyone you know, that sort of thing when you’re doing your work there. So that’s just my personal view. That’s how I get by with doing my job, you know. So, because if I think, it’s a bit of a danger if you start – in my job because you gotta go in there every day and do different things. And you know, if you’ve got a monument there that’s half broken, and you’ve got to scrape it all up and get rid of it, you don’t want to be thinking, am I offending the person too much. I mean, you know, it’s that balance, you know, you respect what you’re doing, but also you can’t let it get to you sort of thing you know. So I don’t get in there and sort of try to feel those feelings. (laughter)

Mayu Kanamori  14:56

So you don’t talk to those individuals?

Rod Hayes  14:58

No, no. And my, I mean, this is beside the point of what you’re talking about here a little bit. But I mean, my father’s passed on and he died in 2009, I was very close to him. And we’ve got a memorial tree for him. But when I’m at work, I don’t want to treat that as any other. I come out after work to see him if you know what I mean, I don’t go to it through work, you know. So when I’m at work, I work, and then after work, I can think about that side of things. So that’s how I, you know, work out here all the time. Yeah.

Mayu Kanamori  15:35

Do you have any specific stories you might want to tell when you’re at either the Indonesia graves or the Japanese graves, or the Australian graves? And you’re working in there, and someone walks in, and starts talking to you. Could be a tourist, or could be a family. Do you have any specific memories of or any stories relating to that?

Rod Hayes  15:57

It’s a little bit – I’m just trying to think, I’m sure there is. I’m just trying to think of a specific one, because we talk to people all the time.

Masako Fukui  16:04

I know, it’s awful when people put you on the spot.

Rod Hayes 16:06

Yeah. Yeah, no, no, there’s there would be I’m just trying to recall. The Japanese is a little bit different because oftentimes, I guess, you know, they don’t always approach you too much, I suppose. And it’s probably a language thing too in part. But I’m just trying to think of an instance. Usually with the Australian side of things a little bit more, because when you’re working there, you know, people come up and talk to you and I know a few different stories. And they always want to know which ones were the ones that were killed in the Breakout. So you sort of can point them out straight away. But I know, there’s some stories with some of the other fellows there that died, you know, because there’s a military camp here and they were  training so there’s guys that died through mishaps and things so you can start talking to them and, and tell them a little bit about it. As far as family goes, coming in and sort of telling you stories, I can’t think of a specific time where someone’s come in and sort of said to me, ‘oh, that’s my you know, my relative and they died this way,’ or whatever, just trying to think. It’s been 20 years I’m sure someone’s probably said something I just can’t think on the spot.

Masako Fukui  17:16

I’m also kind of interested in how, you know when you heard the story about the RSL guys.

Rod Hayes  17:23

I think that was a very mature approach and a very humane approach, to do that. Because I know, I’ve got family that served in the Second World War, and, you know, they, at the time, that was, you know, a lot of I suppose hatred as well around. So it would have been quite easy to say, ‘no, no, we’re not having anything to do with them’, you know, after the war and they were ex servicemen. But I think they were mature enough and had that humane approach to realise that they were just doing the best that they thought they could for their country as well. And obviously, they’ve been through a lot, both sides. And, you know, put that negative side of it all behind them and look to the positive side. Because I mean, obviously, it never changes history repeats itself over and over, doesn’t it? So you’ve got to if you want to progress as a culture or people then you need to be able to get past those sorts of things and you can’t – hatred’s a terrible thing, you know. If you hate someone or something, then it just can eat you up. And you don’t want that.

Masako Fukui  18:38

You know, Cowra, a small country town, dignitaries come? How does that feel, you know, what, what do you think about all of that, like –

Rod Hayes  18:47

Yeah, when there’s a big ceremony, at the war graves, you see a lot of you know, I guess dignitaries walking around and people dressed up very well. And, you know, and carrying wreaths, and there’s, you know, a lot of handshaking and then there’s usually – there could be speeches as well, like there’ll have speeches from various people. So there’s – and you can see that it’s important to those people that are there and it gives you a sense of how important that place is to, you know, to both sides, to Australia and Japan. And it’s an important link. And it’s important to remember what’s happened up there and it just highlights the friendship now that there is between Australia and Japan, out of that negative if you like, with the Breakout. So it’s a positive thing now.

Masako Fukui  19:48

We’re were just saying that as we were driving it’s so beautifully maintained all the time.

Rod Hayes  19:51


Masako Fukui  19:52

I kinda wonder if people know that it’s you and your team do that?

Rod Hayes  19:56

Well, we do get lots of compliments and you know, we’re, as I said, we’re quite pleased to be able to look after it. And, you know, it’s the office of Australian War Graves, you know, have a big hand in it, the Cowra Council and also the Japanese government, because they’re the three main bodies that look after that area and make sure that it stays, you know, in as good condition as it is. So there’s credit there from, you know, those three bodies, and then obviously, we’re the ones on the ground that get the time and the resources to put in it and actually get there and do the work, which we’ve got a good crew, and everyone realises the importance of keeping it all looking neat and tidy.

Mayu Kanamori  20:40

So I think like, when I think about it, you’re the one that’s on the ground, you’re the one that’s actually tending, and you know. Yeah, thanks to you.

Rod Hayes  20:50

Oh, yeah, I know, thank you. I mean, I always pass those compliments on too to the other fellows that work out here because we all get up there and, and maintain it. So there’s always a bit of work to do in there with the big gum trees that are like dropping branches every other day. And things blow you know, you can go in there one day and mow it and maintain it, have it looking beautiful and that afternoon, get a wind storm and it looks like you haven’t been near it for a week. So you know, and then you might have you know, even with ceremonies and things, we’ll prepare it a few days out like we have now and then we come back in and give it all another blow and tidy up like of the morning of the ceremony to make sure that it’s still tidy.

Mayu Kanamori  21:33

Can you tell us about your team? How many of you are there? You know, who you work with.

Rod Hayes  21:38

Yeah, okay, well, there’s three staff based out of the Cowra Cemetery full time. And they go through, maintain the grounds and do all the general maintenance as far as trees and things through there. And then there’s another garden crew that come through as well. And they help look after obviously the Gardens. They do that as well. But there’s a bit of sharing going on there. So if you see something needs doing you don’t wait until the garden crew come in. You just get in and do it.

Mayu Kanamori  22:09

Are you able to tell us anything from a gardening point of view, specifics about some of those trees, like that gum tree in the middle of that Japanese Cemetery, that’s been there for ages. It overarches and it’s almost as if for me, I look at it and think it’s protecting the cemeteries. How do you feel about that?

Rod Hayes  22:33

Okay, well, the gum trees that surround all the war graves up there, almost enclose it, and have it as its own private area. So even when you’re in there, it feels very private and quiet and peaceful. And then, you know, you can walk out of that almost into the rest of the cemetery. But that particular spot, it seems to be very private with the trees. And there’s some beautiful lemon scented gums in there, which have got a beautiful smooth trunk on them. And then you can hear the wind in the trees at different times, it’s quite touching. And then also you’ve got that combination there with some of the other varieties. So you’ve got the obviously bamboos’ very Japanese. So you’ve got that there with the Australian plants if you like, the eucalyptus and things and then you’ve got the bamboo and there’s Cotoneasters and Japanese Maples as well in there. So there’s that combination of plants in there from both countries.

Masako Fukui  22:34

Which is the most problematic of – as far as maintenance?

Rod Hayes  23:38

I would say the bamboo. Oh sorry, the most problematic plant in there I would say is the bamboo because it grows, it’s a grass. So basically, it just grows and especially in summertime, you’ve got the lawn and you go back in there and all of a sudden you’ve got a shoot from a bamboo. You haven’t been there for a couple of days and it’s already two feet high. So you know, it’s a real job to make sure that we try and contain it.

Mayu Kanamori  24:07

Why do you say for you, the sound of the gum trees in the wind is touching?

Rod Hayes  24:15

I think it’s touching because it’s just, it’s peaceful you know. There’s no other sounds you can hear. You can just hear the wind blowing through the trees there, it doesn’t –  the gum trees are the biggest trees there, so that’s why I’m saying it’s the gum trees. But you can just see the breeze at times through the trees and it just seems peaceful.

Rod Hayes  24:36

Well, it is just peaceful, you know, you go in there, once you’ve done the work and you know, there’s a fair bit of noise and activity with that. Then, you know, you go back through to make sure that it’s all okay before you leave and then that’s when you can –  sort of everything looks really at its best and everything’s where it should be and then you can you know, as I said, you can hear the wind at different times through the trees and it’s just seems really peaceful.

Mayu Kanamori  25:05

I’m sorry, there’s one more thing. I can’t remember the details either but that there was a fence or not fence, but growth, trees between the Japanese section and the Australian section. And there was a storm about five years ago that knocked it all down.

Rod Hayes  25:22

There was one tree, I think you’ll find it. It fell down between the sections. That’s the one I was sort of telling you about. Yeah. So I don’t think there was a row of trees. No, there was, is that what they told you?

Masako Fukui  25:35

Or is it the wall that collapsed or something?

Mayu Kanamori  25:38

Something between – there was a growth, a barrier between the two. And one day there was a storm and it all came down. And as a result, like something that was symbolic of the wall coming down is what we heard yesterday. I thought it was e trees or something that was (unintelligible).

Rod Hayes  25:55

Well, that’s probably this one I’m telling you about. It was just before Christmas, and a large lemon scented gum – on the Australia – gum on the Australian side fell over. And it fell onto the fence, which divided the Japanese and Australian sections, and it wrecked a few of the panels along there. And so then, obviously, it had to be all fixed up and repaired. But that’s what you’re talking about there.

Rod Hayes  26:25

Look, there’s another time there where there was a – some remains that an Australian veteran had taken from up in I think it was Balikpapan, up in the Pacific. And so years and years later, he must have felt pretty bad about having these Japanese remains, he’d actually brought some of them home. I don’t know how much but he actually brought some home. And so he must have felt pretty bad about later on in life, and he basically volunteered the fact that he had these. And in the end, they decided that they didn’t know whose remains they were but they thought the best thing to do was to bury them with honour here in the Japanese war graves here in Cowra. So they did that, they had a ceremony and there was a special area where those remains are interred. And then on the day, they had the ABC helicopter land right beside the war graves there and they filmed it all. And it was all on the national news. And that was – I mean, it was a terrible thing to start with I guess, but it was a nice end that he actually sort of owned up to doing something with those rather than just, you know, leaving it and forgetting about it. So that was a big thing up there when that happened. Did you – I don’t know if you’ve been told about that one. Yeah,

Mayu Kanamori  27:45

There’s a grave, there’s  plaque there (unintelligible)

Rod Hayes  27:47

Yeah, there’s right, there’s – oops, sorry –

Mayu Kanamori  27:50

On the very left hand side about two or three graves from –

Rod Hayes  27:53

That’s right. Yeah.

Masako Fukui  27:55

And the tree fell on that?

Rod Hayes  27:56

And the tree, no the bamboo grew out to that one (laughter).

Masako Fukui  28:01

And what is that symbolic of?

Rod Hayes  28:04

I guess he’s coming home to Japan isn’t he? If he’s got a bit of bamboo growing around, he could have been from the country and seen a lot of bamboo, or even from the city, I guess.

Masako Fukui  28:15

Can you say that again, so the bamboo actually grew to the?

Rod Hayes  28:18

Well, it has, the bamboo’s grown out to that. So the bamboo, the standard bamboo that’s nearby has actually sent runners out nearly every year, and it has shoots of bamboo coming up around it.

Masako Fukui  28:32


Rod Hayes  28:35

I guess that means that, you know, he’s come home to Japan in some ways. He’s got that. It’s almost the national symbol, I suppose for Japan in some ways, bamboo.

Masako Fukui  28:49

See I didn’t put words into his mouth (laughter).

Rod Hayes  28:52

No that’s right (laughter).

Mayu Kanamori 28:54

You’re better at this than me.

Rod Hayes 28:57

Yeah. Well, I’m sure you both have your moments with it hey.

Masako Fukui  29:01

Is there anything else?

Rod Hayes  29:03

Just trying to think if there are any other stories –

Masako Fukui  29:04

Mayu knows a lot about the graves because she’s involved in creating a database of all of the graves there. So she knows a bit, is there any other stories there?

Mayu Kanamori  29:17

There are stories, you know whether it’s the Wakaomi story’s really, I was there, when –

Rod Hayes  29:24

Were you there were you?

Mayu Kanamori  29:25

I was taking pictures, were you there?

Rod Hayes  29:27

I was there, yeah. That’s right, there you go, yeah

Masako Fukui  29:31

Such a good story.

Rod Hayes  29:32

It is , yeah, I found that really touching, you know, especially that ceremony at the end. I was pretty emotional about that.

Masako Fukui  29:40


Rod Hayes  29:41

I don’t know. I just think the way the priest was – I think the feeling that he’s putting out with it. You know how emotional he was and it was after that whole day of, I guess trying to establish and find the remains to start with because that was a bit of a trial. We started one position which was – they were fairly certain of where it was a bit not absolutely sure. So we sort of started in one area and then as the day went on had to work across and, and ended offline slightly to where the record says, but it was in the – generally in the right spot there. So I guess there’s that buildup of hoping to find something to start with. And then, eventually finding and then having the family there, some of the family as well. And it’s just, I think it’s touching, you know, when you see something like that.

Mayu Kanamori  30:27

I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, but I think you do need to say we started digging at 8:30 in the morning, because, you know, no one knows what was – from just we know what happened, but you never mentioned the word digging, so.

Rod Hayes  30:42

Yeah, that’s right. Well, you know, people don’t like to talk about those sorts of things generally.

Masako Fukui  30:48

So can say we, they started digging for the remains here –

Rod Hayes  30:52

Wakaomi isn’t it?

Mayu Kanamori  30:53


Rod Hayes  30:57

Yeah. So we started digging for the remains of Wakaomi at about 8:30 in the morning. And we had a location there, obviously, and records. But then you, basically, you’re trying to search for quite a small box in a reasonably large area there. So as we went on, and got further and further, and of course, we’re going very carefully as well, just to be respectful and careful of what we were digging up. And as the day went on, and hours and hours, we’re trying to find it and locate it. And in the end, you’re sort of wondering whether you’ll find it or not. And you’ve got the family there, so you feel the pressure in some ways of wanting to find these remains, but then you can’t find them if they’re not there. But in the end, we did find them and they were quite a way off, where we initially thought they were, but we found them. And then the family, they took some remains, and they left the rest there to stay with the Japanese – rest of the Japanese that are buried there as well. And as I said, it was the priest, it was quite touching. The priest held a ceremony when they got the remains out. The family were there and they were all very emotional. And I think it was very hard not to get in – because it’s such a long day and all that was involved, and prior all the work that was done to get to that point. And now it’s just quite emotional once it’s there and it’s done.

Masako Fukui  32:22

Can you just say what time the digging finished?

Rod Hayes  32:24

And the digging? I’m just trying to think now?

Mayu Kanamori  32:27

It was 4:30.

Rod Hayes  32:28

It was 4:30. It was a long day. Yeah. So there’s the digging was finished at 4:30 in the afternoon. And then they had a ceremony. I think that’s  how I remember it.

Mayu Kanamori  32:39

Yeah. Everything had to be put back together.

Rod Hayes  32:43

That’s right. Yeah.

Mayu Kanamori  32:44

And then I’ve been photographing that grave ever since and sending it back to that family, because the family – Because there was a  – you know, everything’s green lawn, except for that and they felt bad that they had scarred the beautiful Japanese Cemetery. And I keep documenting and sending the photo back saying it’s recovering, it’s recovering. And it almost has.

Rod Hayes  33:16

Yeah that’s right, yeah, that’s nice.

Masako Fukui  33:19

Has it recovered?

Rod Hayes  33:21

Well, I believe so. The grass, the kikuyu grass it’s very good at growing back over – grows quickly. And it’s irrigated up there. So it’ll get a good grass cover on it very quickly.

Masako Fukui  33:39

With the Japanese person digging right?

Mayu Kanamori  33:43

No, no, is the guy from the Australian War Graves.

Rod Hayes  33:48

And he was quite high up in the Office of the Australian War Graves too. I can’t think of his name, but yeah, he was in charge of the excavation and finding the remains.

Mayu Kanamori  34:00

If the remains weren’t there, that would have been a sensitive story.

Masako Fukui  34:04

Did you get scared that the remains weren’t be there?

Rod Hayes  34:07

Oh, yes I was. But not that I had, not that it’s anyone’s fault if you don’t come across the remains. You can’t make it up. But I was getting to the point where I thought I was wondering whether we’re going to find anything. And I was under the impression on the day that they were going to take all the remains. And I didn’t realise that they were only going to take some of the remains, which I thought that was the right thing to do. I thought it was very good of the family to do that. I think it was sensitive to the family and sensitive to the other people that are already buried up there as well.

Masako Fukui  34:45

As someone who doesn’t think much about the spiritual side of things, you’re very spiritual. You think a lot about it.

Rod Hayes  34:53

I do I do. But I guess that’s why when I’m at work, I try and not think about it.

Masako Fukui  35:00

Because why?

Rod Hayes  35:01

Because I guess it’d be too hard to do your job all the time. Like, as I said, when you’re repairing graves or doing certain things, and, you know, my job is that I bury people. And I know a lot of the people because they live in town. So I got to detach myself a little bit from it not not to be disrespectful or not think about it, but just to, I guess, for my own preservation in some ways and be able to do the job and do it well. So that’s why I have that slight detachment.


The Cowra Voices Audio Archive Project 2023

Cowra Council is the copyright holder of all the audio works in the Cowra Voices Audio Archive. If you would like to reuse or copy any of the materials in this Archive, please contact Cowra Council. Australian copyright law is set out in the Copyright Act 1968 (Commonwealth).

error: Content is protected !!