Sunday, June 12, 2022

REMEMBERING HEROES: ALBERT CHOWNE, VC

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Continuing the stories behind the names on the signs at the rest stops on the Remembrance Driveway, which goes from Sydney to Canberra.

The highway commemorates persons awarded the Victoria Cross by naming rest stops after him.

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the military honours system, awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy".

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to honour acts of valour during the Crimean War. The metal used to make every Victoria Cross medal has been made from cannons captured by the British at the siege of Sevastopol.
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Albert Chowne, VC (1920-1945)
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Location of rest stop:

Marulan NSW





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Early life

Chowne was born in Sydney. In 1935, he began work as a shirt-cutter with David Jones. In his spare time Chowne played rugby union and tennis, and took part in Scouting.
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Second World War

Chowne enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force in late May 1940 and served in the Middle East from November 1940. His unit later joined the North African campaign, defending Tobruk for eight months in 1941. During his time at Tobruk he was promoted to corporal.

After Tobruk Chowne performed garrison duties in Syria and was promoted to sergeant. He was wounded in the leg and hand at El Alamein the following month and spent three weeks in hospital. He returned to Australia with the battalion in January 1943.

In July, the unit was deployed to New Guinea campaign, taking part in the Battle of Finschhafen. Chowne, now commanding a mortar platoon, was awarded the Military Medal for twice crawling close to enemy positions to direct mortar fire. Regarded as exceptionally cool by his comrades, Chowne combined fearlessness with a self-effacing manner.

He was commissioned as a lieutenant in January 1944 and he married Daphne Barton, a corporal in the Australian Women's Army Service, in March that year.

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Victoria Cross action

On 25 March 1945 near Dagua Airfield in New Guinea, Chowne attacked an enemy position which was holding up further movement towards Wewak. Seeing that the leading platoon was suffering heavy casualties, Chowne rushed forward and knocked out two light machine guns with grenades and then, calling on his men to follow him and firing his sub machine gun from the hip, he charged the position. Although he was twice wounded in the chest, the impetus of his charge carried him forward 50 yards under intense machine gun and rifle fire and he accounted for two more of the enemy before he was killed.

Chowne was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

He was buried at the Lae War Cemetery, Lae, New Guinea. 


His VC is displayed at the Australian War Memorial.

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A further part of the story:

On 8 May 2015, Chowne's widow, Daphne Dunne, was in the crowd at the Sydney Opera House when Prince Harry was farewelled from Australia by the public at the end of a month-long deployment with the Australian Army. The prince recognised the VC medal in the cluster worn on Dunne's right breast, and approached her to discuss the medal as well as her own medals over her left breast.


The Daily Telegraph reported that Dunne had a conversation with the prince and "she told him how her first husband Lieutenant Albert Chowne died aged 25 in 1945 – just a year after they married – in a heroic attack on a Japanese machinegun post in Papua New Guinea. The red roses that Lt Chowne had arranged to be sent to his young bride on her birthday arrived just before the news he had been killed."

It went on to say: "She wed her second husband, Corporal John Dunne, who was captured in Malaya in 1942 and ended up in Changi POW camp ... (regarding the prince) In a show of affection as he leaned down towards her, she touched his face before he kissed her on the cheek."


Daphne Dunne died on 1 April 2019, shortly after receiving a birthday card from Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to celebrate her 99th birthday.
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Gallery:


From left to right : Duchess of Gloucester, Duke of Gloucester, Daphne Chowne, Arthur Chowne (Albert's father)

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