Percy Cherry

Captain Percy Cherry VC (1895-1917, 21yo)

Percy Herbert Cherry was born on 4 June 1895 at Drysdale, Victoria. Upon completion of school he worked as an apple-picker in Tasmania. In 1913 was commissioned into the 93rd Infantry Regiment.

On 15 March 1915 Cherry enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force and was posted to the 26th Battalion. He was considered too young to be an Officer and sailed to Egypt as a Quartermaster Sergeant. In August 1915, at age 20, he was made a Company Sergeant Major where he served at Taylor's Hollow and Russell's Top in Gallipoli. Cherry was wounded in December and evacuated but a week later he returned and was promoted to Second Lieutenant.

After attending a machine-gun school in 1916 he was transferred to the 7th Machine-Gun Battalion and sent to France. He commanded the company's 1st Battery at Fleurbaix, Messines and on the Somme until 05 August when he was wounded in a duel with a German officer at Pozières. After sniping at each other from their shell-holes, both officers fired together and both were wounded, the German mortally. When Cherry went to him he was given a package of letters which he promised to post; his opponent's dying words were 'And so it ends'. Cherry was promoted Lieutenant on 25 August and resumed duty on the Somme in November; next month he was made a temporary Captain and transferred back to the 26th Battalion as a Company Commander. Unpopular at first, for he was 'a little martinet on parade', he was soon to gain the respect of his men for his leadership in action.

Cherry's rank was confirmed in February 1917 and at Warlencourt on 1-2 March he took part in an attack on Malt Trench. When he and his men found a small gap in the enemy wire, he rushed two machine-gun posts, capturing one single-handed and turning the gun on the fleeing Germans before being wounded himself. He was to receive the Military Cross for this gallant episode, though the award was not announced until the day of his death and he never knew of it. On 26 March 1917 his battalion was ordered to storm the village of Lagnicourt. Cherry's company encountered fierce opposition and after all the other officers had been killed or wounded, he 'carried on with care and determination … and cleared the village of the enemy'. The Germans counter-attacked and the battle raged all day long. Though wounded in the leg, Cherry remained at his post and in the late afternoon was killed by a shell.

Cherry was buried at Quéant Road cemetery, Buissy. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, an honour for which his Battalion Commander had recommended him for 'bravery beyond description'.

Albert Chowne

Sergeant Albert Chowne VC, MM (1920-1945, 24yo)

Albert Edward Chowne was born on 19 July 1920 in Sydney. At the completion of school he worked as a shirt-cutter at David Jones and also played for the Gordon Rugby Union Football Club.

Chowne briefly served in the Militia's 36th Battalion, and on 27 May 1940 enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force where he served with the 2nd/13th Battalion. In 1941 the battalion helped garrison Tobruk and Libya and post this Chowne was transferred to a carrier platoon. In September 1942 he was promoted to Sergeant and later in October 1942 at El Alamein he was wounded and admitted to hospital. In January 1943 the battalion returned to Australia and by July found themselves in Papua where Chowne had been promoted as the 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'. In February Chowne returned to Australia for officer training.

On 25 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. For his actions he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Chowne was buried in the Lae war cemetery. In 1946 his wife received his decorations from the Governor-General where she presented them to the Australian War Memorial.