Sergeant Hajime Toyoshima was born on 29 March 1920 in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan. Graduating as a pilot in July 1941 Toyoshima was ranked as a Chief Petty Officer for the Imperial Japanese Navy. Sergeant Toyoshima participated in the first air raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942. Flying the A6M Zero, tail code B11-124 launched from the Japanese aircraft carrier Hiryu, Toyoshima became the first prisoner of war captured on Australian soil. On the way back to the carriers following the raid, he experienced engine trouble after being hit by the anti-aircraft fire sent up by the defenders and crash landed on Melville Island.
After completing his part in the bombing raid, Toyoshima was returning to the aircraft carrier group when his plane malfunctioned due to a single bullet-hole in the oil tank – damage that would have occurred during his strafing run. He was forced to crash-land on Melville Island.
Captured by a group of men led by Matthias Ulungura, returning from a hunting expedition on Melville Island, Toyoshima was disarmed and handed over to Sergeant Leslie J. Powell of 23 Field Company, Royal Australian Engineers. Toyoshima was subsequently transported to the prisoner of war detention camp near Cowra NSW.
During interrogation and process, Toyoshima gave a fake name and rank, identifying himself as Tadao Minami, as well as false details as to how he ended up on Melville Island. He was assigned the identification number POW.J910.1; becoming the first Japanese prisoner captured in Australia.
Toyoshima was imprisoned at No. 12 Prisoner of War compound, Cowra and remainder at the detention camp until his death during the Japanese uprising at Cowra on 5 August 1944. The Japanese prisoners were unhappy about the dishonour they believed they brought upon their families, country and themselves by being taken prisoner and not achieving an honourable death.
Australian authorities learned of a Japanese plot escape and decided to separate the Japanese from other prisoners and intended to transfer them to Hay Prisoner of War Camp on 7 August. The leaders protest the separation. This was seem as their opportunity to regain honour through a glorious death, and a few hours later, in the early hours of 5 August, Toyoshima sounded the bugle that started the breakout involving almost one thousand Japanese prisoners armed with homemade weapons. Four guards were killed, over one hundred prisoners were wounded and approximately 230 died, some killed during the breakout while others committed suicide to evade recapture.