Thursday 20 January 2011 by LEUT Debra Holland. No comments

Accompanied by her own children and grandchildren, Canberra identity Mrs Valerie Howse OAM  came to the Australian War Memorial recently to tour the newly opened Hall of Valour and to pay tribute to her late father-in-law, Major General Neville Reginald Howse VC KCB KCMG, honoured as the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross  in 1900 during the Boer War.

Born 26 October 1863 in Somerset  England,  Neville Howse studied medicine at  London Hospital before migrating to New South Wales.  He established his first practice in Newcastle later moving to Taree.  He  briefly returned to England  to undertake postgraduate work before finally returning to  Australia in 1897 and settling down in Orange.

In January 1900 he received his commission as lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps and sailed for South Africa and the Boer War.  On 24 July 1900, while serving with a mounted infantry brigade at Vredefort, Captain Howse rescued a wounded man under heavy fire for which he became the first Australian to be awarded the Victoria Cross.   

Howse returned to Australia, but went back to South Africa as an honorary major in the Australian Medical Corps in February 1902, just as the war was ending.  Howse was twice elected mayor of Orange and married Evelyn Pilcher in Bathurst in 1905. Howse later served in the First World War and in September 1915 he was given command of ANZAC medical services and in November became director of the AIF's medical services.

In 1917 Howse was knighted and in 1920 he made a brief return to private practice before resuming work with the army. He resigned in 1922 and won the federal seat of Calare for the National Party. In 1930 he went to England for medical treatment but died of cancer on 19 September of the same year. He was survived by his wife and five children.

The story of  Howse VC is just one of 97  amazing accounts featured in the Hall of Valour - each one carries its own mark of   individual courage, the essence of mateship and rising above the call of duty.  The Australians represented here come from all over our nation and represent a range of backgrounds and fortunes, ordinary blokes who achieved the extraordinary on the battlefield.