b. 19/07/1920 Sydney, Australia. d. 25/03/1945 Dagua, Papua New Guinea.
Albert Edward Chowne (1920-1945) was born on 19th July 1920 in Sydney, seventh child of Balmain-born parents Arthur James Chowne, grocer, and his wife Frances Ellen, née Dalziel. The Chowne and Dalziel families were well known in the Willoughby district where Bert grew up. Educated at Chatswood Boys’ Intermediate High and Naremburn Junior Technical schools, he started work in 1935 as a shirtcutter at David Jones Ltd. Chowne played for Gordon Rugby Union Football Club, and also enjoyed scouting and tennis. He was 5 ft 9 ins (175 cm) tall, with brown hair, a fair complexion and hazel eyes.
Having served briefly in the Militia’s 36th Battalion, on 27th May 1940 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force; he described himself as a salesman, probably to avoid reserved-occupation status. From the outset, he showed initiative, beginning in the 2nd/13th Battalion as No.15 Platoon runner and soon advancing to company runner. Reaching the Middle East in November 1940, the battalion helped to garrison Tobruk, Libya, from April to December 1941. Chowne transferred to the carrier platoon and in September 1942 was promoted substantive sergeant. His actions in battle were always conspicuous. On 24th October at El Alamein, Egypt, he was wounded and admitted to hospital.
Returning to Australia in January 1943, the 2nd/13th moved to Papua in July. By then Chowne was mortar-platoon sergeant. Near Finschhafen, New Guinea, in the last days of September, he twice crawled forward to direct mortar-fire on enemy positions; for his deeds he was awarded the Military Medal. A comrade wrote of his ‘exceptional coolness and great courage’, and of his reluctance to boast; another recalled that ‘he never showed fear’. Next month Chowne was sent to Australia for officer-training. His family fondly remembered his arriving home in uniform to be godfather to his niece.
In January 1944 Chowne was appointed lieutenant. On 15th March that year at St Philip’s Anglican Church, Sydney, he married a Corporal in the Australian Women’s Army Service, Daphne May Barton, with whom he had worked at David Jones. After training in jungle warfare at Canungra, Queensland, he had the wrenching experience of being posted to a new unit: he joined the 2nd/2nd Battalion in October, two months before its departure for New Guinea.
On 25th March 1945 in the hills south-west of Dagua, Chowne rushed a Japanese-held knoll, later to bear his name. Ascending a steep, narrow track, he hurled grenades and silenced two machine-guns. Although mortally wounded, he reached the enemy’s fox-holes and killed two more soldiers before he died. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. Daphne heard of his death on 29th March, her birthday. In 1946 she received his decorations from the Governor-General, the Duke of Gloucester, and subsequently presented them to the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Chowne was buried in Lae War Cemetery. The Lieutenant Albert Chowne, V.C., M.M., Memorial Hall at Willoughby commemorates him.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA
BURIAL PLACE: LAE WAR CEMETERY, LAE, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.
PLOT QQ, ROW A, GRAVE 8
Kevin Brazier – Cemetery Map
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Medal Group at Australian War Memorial, Canberra.
Jason Daniels – Anzac Park Memorial, Townsville, Queensland.