Australian war widow who kissed and cuddled Prince Harry during his royal visits – dies aged 997 min read

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Australian war widow Daphne Dunne – who won Prince Harry’s heart during his royal visits Down Under – has died aged 99 just days after receiving a birthday card from the Duke of Sussex and Meghan Markle.

Ms Dunne’s daughter Michelle Haywood revealed last Friday she had been suffering from a long bout of pneumonia but that the royals had comforted her during difficult times. 

She passed away at the Sydney Adventist Hospital on Monday, three days after her birthday, with Ms Haywood and one of her granddaughters by her side.

‘She fought as hard as she could but it just got too much,’ Ms Haywood said. ‘It’s just so sad. You always want that little bit more.’ 

Prince Harry first spotted a replica Victoria Cross pinned to Mrs Dunne’s chest at the Sydney Opera House after he completed a deployment with the Australian Defence Force in 2015.

They met again in 2017 during a rainy Invictus Games launch event, before Harry introduced Ms Dunne to his new wife Meghan Markle outside the Opera House during the royal couple’s visit to Sydney last year. 

When Harry met Daphne: Prince Harry meets war widow Daphne Dunne, then 98, outside Sydney Opera House. She received a personalised card from him for her 99th birthday

When Harry met Daphne: Prince Harry meets war widow Daphne Dunne, then 98, outside Sydney Opera House. She received a personalised card from him for her 99th birthday

Prince Harry meets war widow Daphne Dunne for the second time in Sydney on June 7, 2017

Prince Harry meets war widow Daphne Dunne for the second time in Sydney on June 7, 2017

Daphne Dunne's first meeting with Prince Harry at the Sydney Opera House on May 7, 2015

Daphne Dunne’s first meeting with Prince Harry at the Sydney Opera House on May 7, 2015

DAPHNE AND HARRY 

MAY 7, 2015: Prince Harry and Daphne Dunne meet outside the Sydney Opera House after he spots her wearing a replica Victoria Cross. 

JUNE 7, 2017: The pair catch-up and share a hug at an Invictus Games launch event. 

OCTOBER 16, 2018: Prince Harry introduces Ms Dunne to his new wife Meghan Markle outside the Opera House. 

On Friday Daphne appeared on the Today Show where reporters read out Prince Harry’s birthday message live on air. 

‘Dear Daphne, my wife and I send our warmest wishes to you on the occasion of your 99th birthday on Friday,’ the card read.

‘We hope you have a wonderful celebration surrounded by family and friends and that you’ve managed to escape hospital.  

‘Congratulations on reaching this important and impressive milestone before your centenary year next year. 

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‘Happy Birthday Daphne. 

‘Best wishes, Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.’ 

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote to Daphne Dunne to mark her 99th birthday last week

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex wrote to Daphne Dunne to mark her 99th birthday last week

Prince Harry introduced Meghan to Daphne Dunne during the couple's royal tour of Australia in 2018

Prince Harry introduced Meghan to Daphne Dunne during the couple’s royal tour of Australia in 2018

Ms Dunne spent her birthday with Ms Haywood, grandchildren Katie and Charlie, and nieces Denise, Robyn and Lynette.

‘She had the most beautiful day, surrounded by so much love and colour and flowers,’ Ms Haywood said.

‘Everyone that walked past her hospital room was just blown away. No one could believe it was a hospital room.

‘The staff were amazing. They made mum’s last few days beautiful.’ 

Ms Haywood, who is the daughter of Ms Dunne’s second husband, said on Friday: ‘Meghan and Harry have gotten mum through this terrible illness she’s had.’

‘She’s still very unwell and I think the card they’ve sent means so much. I think it will be the thing that gets her through.’ 

Ms Dunne’s first husband Albert Chowne was killed during a raid on the Japanese in Papua New Guinea on March 25, 1945.

He received the Victoria Cross for his bravery.

‘I would rather he had remained ordinary and alive’: The heartbreaking story behind war widow Daphne Dunne’s special bond with Prince Harry – and her terrible loss

Mrs Dunne's first husband Albert Chowne was killed during WWII

Mrs Dunne’s first husband Albert Chowne was killed during WWII

By Stephen Gibbs 

Daphne Dunne captured the hearts of millions when she caught up with Prince Harry in Sydney last year for another smooch – the third time the pair has met in three years. 

But behind those charming images of the duke and the 98-year-old war widow is a tale of young love, extraordinary bravery and terrible loss.

Prince Harry first spotted a replica Victoria Cross pinned to Mrs Dunne’s chest at the Sydney Opera House after he completed a deployment with the Australian Defence Force in 2015. 

‘He asked me about the Victoria Cross,’ Mrs Dunne said back then. ‘He said he recognised that and wanted to know all about it.’ 

The original VC, awarded to Mrs Dunne’s first husband Albert Chowne, is in the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra along with decorations including a Military Medal also awarded to Chowne in World War II.

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Chowne was one of just 20 Australians to receive the Victoria Cross – the Commonwealth’s highest award for battlefield bravery – during World War II. 

Prince Harry spent 10 years in the British Army, serving twice in Afghanistan. It is that shared military history and the young royal’s interest in war veterans that has endeared him to Mrs Dunne. 

‘He does a lot for everyone but he seems to dote on soldiers that have been wounded… that’s the reason,’ she said last year. ‘It doesn’t matter about me, he helps make them feel a bit better.’ 

Lieutenant Albert Chowne was just 24 when he was killed in action in New Guinea in 1945

Lieutenant Albert Chowne was just 24 when he was killed in action in New Guinea in 1945

Albert Chowne was born in Sydney on July 19, 1920 and attended Chatswood Boys Intermediate High School and later Naremburn Junior Technical School. 

In 1935 he began working as a shirt cutter at David Jones where he would meet Daphne May Barton.

Chowne played tennis and rugby union and spent a brief stint in the 36th Militia Battalion before enlisting in the AIF on May 27, 1940. 

He was initially assigned to the 2nd/13th Battalion as platoon and later company runner.

The unit arrived in the Middle East in November 1940 and Chowne served at Tobruk for eight months the following year. While there, Chowne was promoted to corporal. 

After Tobruk his battalion performed garrison duties in Syria where Chowne was promoted to sergeant. He was wounded in the leg and hand at El Alamein and spent three weeks in hospital. 

Chowne returned to Australia with the battalion in January 1943 before moving to New Guinea in July. He 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,’ according to the AWM. 

He was commissioned as a lieutenant in January 1944 and married Daphne, a corporal in the Australian Women’s Army Service, on March 15 that year at St Philip’s Anglican Church in Sydney.

After completing jungle warfare training course at Canungra in south-east Queensland, Chowne was posted to the 2nd/2nd Battalion in October 1944. 

His unit was sent to New Guinea two months later. ‘Chowne brought a reputation for bravery and leadership to his new unit,’ the AWM website states. 

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‘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.’

The Governor-General presented Albert Chowne's Victoria Cross at Admiralty House in 1947

The Governor-General presented Albert Chowne’s Victoria Cross at Admiralty House in 1947

Daphne Chowne was presented with Albert Chowne's Military Medal in 1947 as his next of kin

Daphne Chowne was presented with Albert Chowne’s Military Medal in 1947 as his next of kin

On March 25 1945, the leading platoon in Chowne’s company ran into trouble attacking a Japanese position near Dagua. Chowne left cover and charged the enemy. 

In the ensuing action he ascended a steep, narrow track and managed to silence two light machine guns with grenades as he fired his sub-machine gun from his hip. 

Under intense fire and twice wounded in the chest, Chowne continued to charge a Japanese foxhole and took out two more enemy before he was killed. He was 24.

Chowne’s bravery enabled the attack to continue and, according to his VC citation, paved the way for the 6th Division’s advance on Wewak. 

Daphne turned 24 four days after her husband was killed. A bunch of red roses Chowne sent to mark her birthday arrived just before news of his death. 

‘I am proud for him but it doesn’t make up for everything,’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald in September 1945. ‘I would rather he had remained just ordinary and was alive. He was a wonderful man and a grand husband. 

‘I have no plans for the future. It is all dead to me now.’ 

The Governor-General, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester – the Queen’s uncle – presented Albert Chowne’s VC to Daphne at Admiralty House in 1947 and she subsequently presented it and his other medals to the AWM. 

Daphne later married Corporal John Dunne of the 2nd/29th Battalion, who had been captured in Malaya in 1942 and was imprisoned at Changi. 

Albert Chowne was buried in the Lae War Cemetery. A street in Canberra was named after him, as was a community hall in Willoughby on Sydney’s lower north shore.