This plaque near State Highway 2 outside Featherston is part of a small memorial garden that marks the site where 48 Japanese prisoners of war and one guard were fatally shot on 25 February 1943.
Transcript of the haiku on the plaque:
Behold the summer grass
All that remains of the
Dreams of warriors.
Attention was given to the problem of repatriating POWs long before 1945. A New Zealand repatriation unit was established in the United Kingdom under the command of Major-General Howard Kippenberger late in 1944.
The prospect of liberation was a key to POWs' morale. But a great many had no intention of passively awaiting the arrival of Allied forces, an attitude that was reinforced by the recognition that it was a POW's duty to attempt to escape.
The incarceration of most New Zealand army POWs began in transit camps where facilities were rudimentary in the extreme. Generally little more than holding pens, they were invariably overcrowded, lacked shelter, and had insufficient ablutions for large numbers of men.
Most of New Zealand's Second World War POWs were captured in the European theatre in the early stages of the war. Only about 100 New Zealand servicemen fell into Japanese hands, mainly airmen or seamen attached to the Royal Navy or Royal Air Force.
Because there was so little of it, food played a very important part in a POW's life. The International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva provided food parcels to POWs from those countries which were signatories to the 1929 Geneva Convention.