Featherston prisoner of war camp
Featherston prisoner of war camp was a camp for captured Japanese soldiers during World War II at Featherston, New Zealand. It had been established during World War I as the largest military training camp in New Zealand. At the request of the United States, in September 1942 it was re-established as a P.O.W. camp. The commandant was Major R. H. Perrett, who was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel D.H. Donaldson in mid December, 1942. Medical services were provided by a 40-bed hospital, which saw its first patient on 18 August 1943. About 800 prisoners from the Battle of Guadalcanal were housed there, many of them conscripts.
The camp's most infamous event was on 25 February 1943 during a sit-in of 240 prisoners, who refused to work. The exact sequence of events is not known, but Lieutenant Adachi was shot and wounded by the camp adjutant. This led to the prisoners either charging or appearing to charge the guards, who opened fire with rifles and sub-machine guns. Thirty seconds later 31 prisoners were dead, with another 17 dying later of their injuries, and 74 wounded. On the New Zealand side, a ricochet from a burst of the gunfire killed Private Walter Pelvin; six others were wounded. A military court of enquiry exonerated New Zealand. It found that there were cultural differences in the camp, which led to the deadly actions and needed to be addressed. Among the issues was that the Japanese did not know that under the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, compulsory work was allowed. The event remains a testimony to cultural misunderstanding for the Featherston community today.
As the end of the war neared, the prisoners began to worry about their future position in Japanese society. In September 1944 they told a neutral inspector that provision needed to be made for them to return as honourable citizens, or that they be given asylum on a Pacific island. They said if something could not be done mass suicide might result. After the end of the war they also worried that they could be attacked in New Zealand over the conditions of Japanese prisoner of war camps. The prisoners embarked on 30 December 1945, travelling to Japan on two large American LSTs (tank landing ships).
- List of New Zealand disasters by death toll
- Cowra breakout
- Japanese prisoners of war in World War II
- Nicolaidi, Mike (1999). The Featherston Chronicles: A legacy of war. HarperCollins, Auckland. ISBN 1-86950-295-7.
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- The Featherston Incident, 25 February 1943
- Featherston Military Training Camp, World War I (eText)