Biography

Birth date: 19 July 1920
Birth place: Australia: New South Wales, Sydney
Death date: 25 March 1945
Death place: New Guinea: Dagua
Final rank: Lieutenant
Service number: NX24405 - Second World War, 1939-1945
Units:
  • 2/2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • 2/13th Australian Infantry Battalion

Albert Chowne, Victoria Cross recipient, was born in Sydney on 19 July 1920. He went to Chatswood Boys Intermediate High School and later Naremburn Junior Technical School. In 1935 he began work as a shirt-cutter at David Jones. Outside work, Chowne enjoyed sports, mainly tennis and rugby union, and was also a member of the scouts.

He spent a brief period in the 36th Militia Battalion before enlisting in the AIF in late May 1940. Chowne was assigned to the 2nd/13th Battalion as platoon and later company runner. The unit arrived in the Middle East in November 1940 and served at Tobruk for eight months the following year. During his time at Tobruk, Chowne transferred to the carrier platoon and was promoted to corporal. After Tobruk the 2nd/13th performed garrison duties in Syria where, in September, Chowne 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 before moving to Papua in July.

Chowne, now the mortar platoon sergeant, 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 in March that year. Having completed the jungle warfare training course at Canungra, Chowne was posted to a new unit, the 2nd/2nd Battalion, in October 1944. The 2nd/2nd was sent to New Guinea two months later.

Chowne brought a reputation for bravery and leadership to his new unit. In March 1945 he carried out a one-man patrol in daylight, at one stage entering an empty hut and rifling through the belongings of Japanese soldiers, one of whom he shot when he was discovered. Some who knew him believed that Chowne was destined to either win the Victoria Cross or be killed in action. Sadly both happened. On 25 March 1945, Chowne, seeing the leading platoon in his company's attack on Japanese positions run into trouble, left cover and charged the enemy. He managed to knock out two machine guns before being killed. Chowne's actions enabled the attack to continue and, according to his citation, paved the way for the 6th Division's advance on Wewak.

Chowne was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously and was buried in the Lae War Cemetery in New Guinea. A street in Canberra was named after him as was a community hall in Willoughby, Sydney.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Date of Death: 25 March 1945
  • Unit: 2/2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Recommended for: Victoria Cross
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Recommended for: Military Medal
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Military Medal
  • Unit: 2/13th Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945
  • Awarded: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: 2/2nd Australian Infantry Battalion
  • Conflict: Second World War, 1939-1945

Collection Items

Timeline

Date of birth 1920-07-19 Sydney, NSW.
Date and unit at enlistment (ORs) 1940-05-30 Chowne enlisted with the AIF and was assigned to the 2/13 Battalion.
Other 1940-11 The 2/13 Battalion arrived in the Middle East.
Date promoted 1941-09 Promoted to sergeant.
Date wounded 1941-10 Wounded in the leg at El Alamein.
Date returned to Australia 1943-01
Other 1943-07 The 2/13 Battalion arrived in Papua New Guinea.
Date commissioned 1944-01 Comissioned as a lieutenant.
Date of honour or award 1944-03-02 Military Medal.
Other units 1944-10 Chowne was posted to the 2/2 Battalion and he served with them in Papua New Guinea.
Date of death 1945-03-25 Killed in action in New Guinea.
Date of honour or award 1945-03-25 Posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross whilst serving with 2/2 Battalion, 16 Brigade, 6 Division as a Lieutenant. Chowne and the 2/2 battalion attacked an enemy position, near Dagua, which was holding up further movement towards Wewak. Chowne seeing the leading platoon was suffering heavy casualties charged forward, without awaiting orders, calling for the 2/2 battalion to follow him. Although he was mortally wounded during the battle, his actions helped result in the capture of the enemy position.