Australian Prisoners in the Asia-Pacific

Maps: Sites of capture and places of internment

Locations in South East Asia where Australians were captured

Australian prisoners of the Japanese were captured at many locations across South East Asia and the South West Pacific.

Nearly 15 000 were captured in Singapore; over 2700 on Java and the remainder in smaller groups on Ambon, Timor and New Britain. In addition some 300 men who survived the sinking of the HMAS Perth in the Battle of Java Sea in late February 1942 were taken prisoner. So too were women of the Australian Army Nursing Service who were sunk near Sumatra while trying to escape from Singapore in February 1942

This map shows the major locations in South East Asia and the South West Pacific where Australian prisoners of the Japanese were captured. The map identifies from west to east Malaya and Singapore (where nearly 15 000 were captured) and Java, then Ambon, Timor and New Britain further east. Banka Island, where survivors of the sinking of the Vyner Brooke came ashore is marked, as is the Sunda Strait, between Sumatra and Java, HMAS Perth and USS Houston were sunk.

Main sites of capture of Australian POWs: map description

The three oceans, the Pacific to the north, the Indian to the west and the Coral Sea to the east mark the extent of the map, with Thailand to the north west and northern Australia marking the foot of the map. All except Thailand and Papua (below northern New Guinea) and Australia have been identified as areas occupied by Japanese forces.

Locations where Australians were interned

In 1942–45 the Japanese regularly moved Allied POWs around the Asia–Pacific region to meet their wartime needs.

While some Australians—on Ambon, Singapore, Java and Sumatra—remained more or less where they had been captured, most were moved to other locations. These included Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, Borneo, Hainan Island, Formosa (now Taiwan), Japan, Korea and Manchuria. Australian experiences of captivity were therefore very diverse.

Places of internment of Australian POWs: map description

The map marks the major locations in South East Asia where Australian prisoners of the Japanese were interned. The map extent is marked by Manchuria, Korea and Japan in the north, Burma in the west and northern Australia in the south.

Places of internment are marked in a number of locations throughout Japan. In the north, Korea, Manchuria and Formosa (now Taiwan) also housed places of internment for POWs.

To the south, Hainan Island, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, French Indochina, Johore and Singapore each had places of internment as did Borneo, Sumatra and Java. Extending south-east, locations in Ambon, Timor and New Britain are also marked.

Last updated: 8 October 2021

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), Australian Prisoners in the Asia-Pacific, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 16 October 2021,
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