Location 10: Cowra Japanese War Cemetery – 10.1 Who’s Buried here

Tadao Minami’s Story (Audio: 3 min 52 sec; 3.7MB)


Tadao Minami is perhaps the most well known of all the prisoners of war buried here. He signalled the prisoners to escape by blowing his bugle – the start of the Cowra Breakout. During the escape, he was shot and seriously injured. Yet he lit up a cigarette, had a smoke, then proceeded to cut his own throat. This story is now the stuff of legend, and his life is immortalised in a number of books, films, TV programs, and plays. But Tadao Minami, which literally means ‘a man with loyalty in the south’, is a false name he gave himself at the time of his capture to avoid giving his real name, which was Hajime Toyoshima.

Hajime was born on Shikoku Island on March 20th, 1920. He joined the Navy when he was 18, and initially trained in the signals unit. But Hajime wanted to fly. He completed his pilot training just in time to fly one of the famous Zero fighter planes in the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941. His next mission was Darwin – February 19th, 1942. Hajime took off in a Zero from an aircraft carrier stationed in the Timor Sea. But he was shot down, crashing on Melville Island off the coast of the Northern Territory. Wounded but alive, he was found by some Aboriginal women, gathering bush food. They camped with him overnight before handing him over to authorities. That was when Hajime Toyoshima became Tadao Minami, the very first Japanese prisoner of war in Australia. Hajime was taken to Hay internment camp in NSW, where in six months, he managed to learn English. He practised his English talking with the Australian guards. So in 1943, when he was moved here to Cowra, his language skills and knowledge of Australia made him a natural camp leader.

As the war progressed, the Japanese compound became increasingly overcrowded. So authorities considered moving some prisoners to other camps. And talk of this move became the trigger for the Breakout. In the early hours of August 5th, 1944, Hajime blew the bugle, a signal to about 1000 prisoners to break out. Four Australians and 234 Japanese died as a result of this mass escape. Hajime was one of them.

Hajime Toyoshima, also known as Tadao Minami, rests here in Cowra. His bugle rests in Canberra in the Australian War Memorial.

Written by Dr Keiko Tamura
Read by Kuni Hashimoto

Producer/Sound Design: Masako Fukui

Music Credits: Impact Lento by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) CC by 3.0

Photo Credits: Photo 1: Hajime Toyoshima, aka Tadao Minami’s grave plate in the Japanese War Cemetery; Photo by Mayu Kanamori

Photo 2: Hajime Toyoshima, aka Tadao Minami’s bugle, which signalled the start of the Breakout; AWM REL/04058

Photo 3: Hajime Toyoshima, aka Tadao Minami before the Pacific War, 1941; Wikipedia









英語原文 田村恵子 PhD
朗読 橋本邦彦

音楽: ケビン・マクラウドの「インパクト・レント」 (incompetech.com) CC by 3.0

プロデューサー: 福井真佐子

写真: 写真1: 南忠男こと豊島一の墓標。カウラ日本人戦争墓地にて(撮影:金森マユ)

写真2: 南忠男こと豊島一の突撃ラッパ。脱走の合図として用いられた(AWM REL/04058)

写真3: 南忠男こと豊島一。太平洋戦争前の1941年(Wikipedia)


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