Neville Howse

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Major General The Honourable
Sir Neville Howse
Minister for Defence
In office
16 January 1925 – 2 April 1927
Prime Minister Stanley Bruce
Preceded by Eric Bowden
Succeeded by William Glasgow
Minister for Health
In office
24 February 1928 – 22 October 1929
Prime Minister Stanley Bruce
Preceded by Stanley Bruce
Succeeded by Frank Anstey
In office
16 January 1925 – 2 April 1927
Prime Minister Stanley Bruce
Preceded by Herbert Pratten
Succeeded by Stanley Bruce
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Calare
In office
16 December 1922 – 12 October 1929
Preceded by Thomas Lavelle
Succeeded by George Gibbons
Personal details
Born (1863-10-26)26 October 1863
Stogursey, Somerset, England
Died 19 September 1930(1930-09-19) (aged 66)
London, England
Resting place Kensal Green Cemetery, London
51°31′43″N 0°13′27″W / 51.5286°N 0.2241°W / 51.5286; -0.2241
Nationality English Australian
Political party Nationalist Party of Australia
Spouse(s) Evelyn Pilcher
Children Everil, Neville, Evelyn, John, Alison[1]
Occupation Doctor, soldier, politician
Military service
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1900–22
Rank Major General
Commands Director General of Medical Services
Australian Army Medical Corps

Second Boer War
First World War

Awards Victoria Cross
Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight of the Order of Saint John
Mentioned in Despatches
Sir Neville Howse, 1928
Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Major General Sir Neville Reginald Howse, VC, KCB, KCMG (26 October 1863 – 19 September 1930) was a senior Australian Army officer, surgeon, politician, and a British-born Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC), the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. The medal recognised his rescue of a wounded man in 1900 while under rifle fire in the Second Boer War, and was the first VC to a soldier in the Australian services. He later served as the Director General of Medical Services for the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War, and was elected as the federal Member for Calare in 1922 representing the Nationalist Party. He held several portfolios—including Defence (1925–27) and Health (1925–27 and 1928–29)—before he lost the seat in the 1929 federal election. Aged 66, he died of cancer in 1930 while undergoing medical treatment in London.

Early life[edit]

Born in Stogursey, Somerset, England, Howse was educated at Freelands School, Taunton. He then studied medicine at London Hospital, before migrating to New South Wales largely for health reasons, and established his first practice in Newcastle, and then another in Taree. After undertaking postgraduate work in England, Howse returned to Australia in 1899 and settled in Orange.[2]

Military service[edit]

Howse served in the Second Boer War with the Second Contingent of the New South Wales Army Medical Corps, Australian Forces, arriving at East London, Eastern Cape, in February 1900[3] as a lieutenant.[4]

On 24 July 1900, during the action at Vredefort, South Africa, Howse saw a trumpeter fall, and went through very heavy cross-fire to rescue the man. His horse was soon shot from under him, but he continued on foot, reached the casualty, dressed his wound, and then carried him to safety. For this action, Howse was awarded the Victoria Cross. The award was gazetted on 4 June 1901 and the original citation reads:

The King has been graciously pleased to signify His intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers, Non-Commissioned Officer, and Soldier, for their conspicuous bravery in South Africa, as stated against their names :—

New South Wales Medical Staff Corps, Captain N. R. House [sic]

During the action at Vredefort on the 24 July 1900, Captain House went out under a heavy cross fire and picked up a wounded man, and carried him to a place of shelter.[5]

Howse was subsequently promoted to captain on 15 October 1900.[6]

He thus became the first recipient of the Victoria Cross serving in the Australian armed forces; his medal is on display at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.[7] The Second Contingent left South Africa via Cape Town on 13 December 1900 on the S.S. Orient,[8] however Howse had been invalided to Britain on 28 November 1900.[9] Howse subsequently returned to Australia at the end of February 1901.[6] Following the gazetting of his VC, Howse was presented with the medal in a ceremony at Victoria Barracks, Sydney on 4 December 1901. Also at the ceremony were Captain A. Heathcote and Sergeant J. Paton, prior recipients of the VC for actions during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, who had subsequently migrated to New South Wales.[10]

Howse returned to South Africa as a major with the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in command of the Bearer Company, arriving at Durban in Natal on 17 March 1902. Following service in Natal, Orange River Colony and Western Transvaal (attached to Colonel A.W. Thornycroft's Mounted Infantry Column), at the conclusion of the war he became seriously ill. He was again invalided to Britain on 6 July 1902,[11] with the remainder of the AAMC contingent departing for Australia on 8 July 1902.[8] Howse eventually returned to Australia in November 1902.

In 1905 Howse married Evelyn Pilcher in Bathurst, and was twice elected to serve as mayor of the City of Orange. When the First World War began, Howse was appointed principal medical officer to the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to German New Guinea, with the rank of lieutenant colonel.[12]

Following his time in New Guinea, he was appointed Assistant Director of Medical Services 1st Australian Division. During the Gallipoli Campaign he took charge of evacuating wounded men from the beach in the campaign’s opening days. In 1917 at the Dardanelles commission, he described the arrangements for dealing with wounded men at Gallipoli as inadequate to the point of 'criminal negligence'. He was Mentioned in Despatches for his service in this campaign.[13]

In September 1915 he was given command of ANZAC medical services and in November became director of the AIF’s medical services, with the rank of surgeon-general.[14] When the Australian Imperial Force moved to France, Howse took up a position in London, overseeing medical services in France, Egypt and Palestine. At the beginning of 1917 he was promoted to major general.[15]

Howse was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1915 King's Birthday Honours,[16] was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 22 January 1917,[17] and appointed Knight of Grace of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem[18] and Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1919.[19] From 1921 to 1925 he was Director-General of Medical Services.

Later life[edit]

He resigned from the army and won the federal seat of Calare for the Nationalist Party at the December 1922 election. He held several ministerial portfolios, including Defence, Health, and Home and Territories, but he was defeated at the October 1929 election.[20] In February 1930, Howse travelled to England for medical treatment for cancer, but died on 19 September 1930, and is buried at Kensal Green Cemetery, London. His son, John Howse, was member for Calare from 1946 to 1960.

A statue by Peter Dornan depicting Howse's act of bravery is on display at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Melbourne.

A postage stamp commemorating Howse was issued by Australia Post in 2000.

A one dollar coin designed by Wojciech Pietranik commemorating the centenary of Howse's feat of arms was issued by the Royal Australian Mint in 2000.

He was a freemason.[21]

Honours and awards[edit]

Ribbon for Victoria Cross Ribbon for the Order of the Bath Ribbon for the Order of St Michael and St George Ribbon for the Order of St John

Queens South Africa Medal 1899-1902 ribbon.png 1914 Star BAR.svg British War Medal BAR.svg Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg

Ribbon Description Notes
Victoria Cross (UK) ribbon.png Victoria Cross (VC) gazetted 1901[5]
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.png Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) gazetted 1917[17]
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) gazetted 1915[16]
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) gazetted 1919[19]
Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Knight of Grace of the Order of St John gazetted 1919[18]
Queens South Africa Medal 1899-1902 ribbon.png Queen's South Africa Medal[22] with 6 clasps:[23] CAPE COLONY, JOHANNESBURG, DIAMOND HILL, WINTERBERGEN, SOUTH AFRICA 1901 and SOUTH AFRICA 1902
1914 Star BAR.svg 1914–15 Star[24]
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal[24]
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg Victory Medal[24] with Oak Leaf for Mentioned in Despatches[13]


  1. ^ Braga 2000, p83.
  2. ^ Braga 2000, p34.
  3. ^ Braga 2000, p53.
  4. ^ "No. 27863". The London Gazette. 12 December 1905. p. 8902. 
  5. ^ a b "No. 27320". The London Gazette. 4 June 1901. p. 3769. 
  6. ^ a b Braga 2000, p59.
  7. ^ Lindsay 2003, p52.
  8. ^ a b Murray 1911, p16.
  9. ^ "Shipping Records Dec 1900". Anglo Boer Retrieved 15 September 2008. 
  10. ^ Tyquin 1999, p24.
  11. ^ "Shipping Records Jul 1902". Anglo Boer Retrieved 15 September 2008. 
  12. ^ "First World War Service Record – Neville Reginald Howse". National Archives of Australia. Retrieved 8 October 2014. 
  13. ^ a b "No. 29251". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 August 1915. p. 7668. 
  14. ^ "No. 29393". The London Gazette. 7 December 1915. p. 12199.  Surgeon-general.
  15. ^ Braga 2000, p240.
  16. ^ a b "No. 29202". The London Gazette (Supplement). 22 June 1915. p. 6112. 
  17. ^ a b "No. 29916". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 January 1917. p. 923. 
  18. ^ a b "No. 31380". The London Gazette. 3 June 1919. p. 7064. 
  19. ^ a b "No. 31395". The London Gazette. 6 June 1919. p. 7425. 
  20. ^ "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  21. ^ Famous &/or Notable Australian Freemasons
  22. ^ "Howse VC". Digger history. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  23. ^ Braga 2000, p76.
  24. ^ a b c "First World War service record of Neville Reginald Howse". National Archives of Australia. p. 2. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Eric Bowden
Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
William Glasgow
Preceded by
Herbert Pratten
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Stanley Bruce
Preceded by
Stanley Bruce
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Frank Anstey
Preceded by
Charles Marr
Minister for Home and Territories
Succeeded by
Aubrey Abbott
Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Thomas Lavelle
Member for Calare
Succeeded by
George Gibbons