Military Wiki
Major General The Honourable
Sir Neville Howse
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)
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 Soldier, politician
Military service
Allegiance Australia Australia
Service/branch Australian Army
Years of service 1900–22
Rank Major General
Commands Director General of Medical Services
Australian Army Medical Corps
Battles/wars Second Boer War

World War I

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 MP (26 October 1863 – 19 September 1930) was a British-born Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces. He was the first soldier in the Australian services to be awarded the VC. He later served in the Australian Federal Government, and also as Minister of Defence and several other portfolios.

Early life

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

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.

Following his time in New Guinea, he was appointed Assistant Director of Medical Services 1st Australian Division. At the Battle of Gallipoli 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.[12]

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.[13] When the First 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.[14]

Howse was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in the 1915 King's Birthday Honours,[15] was promoted to Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 22 January 1917,[16] and appointed Knight of Grace of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem[17] and Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) in 1919.[18] From 1921 to 1925 he was Director-General of Medical Services.

Later life

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.[19] 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.

Honours and awards

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 1915 Star ribbon 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[16]
Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) gazetted 1915[15]
Ord.St.Michele-Giorgio.png Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) gazetted 1919[18]
Order of St John (UK) ribbon.png Knight of Grace of the Order of St John gazetted 1919[17]
Queens South Africa Medal 1899-1902 ribbon.png Queen's South Africa Medal[20] with 6 clasps:[21] CAPE COLONY, JOHANNESBURG, DIAMOND HILL, WINTERBERGEN, SOUTH AFRICA 1901 and SOUTH AFRICA 1902
1914 1915 Star ribbon bar.svg 1914–15 Star[22]
British War Medal BAR.svg British War Medal[22]
Victory Medal MID ribbon bar.svg Victory Medal[22] with Oak Leaf for Mentioned in Despatches[12]


  1. Braga 2000, p83.
  2. Braga 2000, p34.
  3. Braga 2000, p53.
  4. "No. 27863". 12 December 1905.  Lieutenant, Army Medical Corps, 22 February 1900.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "No. 27320". 4 June 1901.  VC citation.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Braga 2000, p59.
  7. Lindsay 2003, p52.
  8. 8.0 8.1 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. 12.0 12.1 "No. 29251". 3 August 1915.  Mentioned in Despatches.
  13. "No. 29393". 7 December 1915.  Surgeon-general.
  14. Braga 2000, p240.
  15. 15.0 15.1 "No. 29202". 22 June 1915.  Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB).
  16. 16.0 16.1 "No. 29916". 23 January 1917.  Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB).
  17. 17.0 17.1 "No. 31380". 3 June 1919.  Knight of the Order of St John (KStJ).
  18. 18.0 18.1 "No. 31395". 6 June 1919.  Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).
  19. "Members of the House of Representatives since 1901". Parliamentary Handbook. Parliament of Australia.;db=HANDBOOK;id=handbook%2Fnewhandbook%2F2008-12-19%2F0077;query=Id%3A%22handbook%2Fnewhandbook%2F2008-12-19%2F0071%22. Retrieved 11 November 2010. 
  20. "Howse VC". Digger history. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  21. Braga 2000, p76.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 "First World War service record of Neville Reginald Howse". National Archives of Australia. p. 2. Retrieved 30 June 2009. 


External links

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
Unrecognised parameter
Preceded by
Thomas Lavelle
Member for Calare
Succeeded by
George Gibbons

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