Biography

Birth date: 26 October 1863
Birth place: United Kingdom: England, Somerset, Stogursey
Death date: 19 September 1930
Death place: United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London
Final rank: Major General
Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
Units:
  • 1 Division
  • Australian Army Medical Corps
  • MEF (Staff)
  • NSW AMC
  • Staff
  • ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (NSW)
  • Headquarters Staff
  • 1st Australian Division
  • Australian Medical Team

Neville Howse was born on 26 October 1863 at Stogursey, Somerset, in England. He was educated at Fullard's House School, Taunton, before studying medicine at London Hospital. Howse migrated to New South Wales, establishing his first practice in Newcastle before moving to Taree. After undertaking postgraduate work in England, Howse returned to Australia in 1897 and settled in Orange.

In January 1900 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps and sailed for South Africa. He was serving with a mounted infantry brigade at Vredefort where, on 24 July, he rescued a wounded man under heavy fire. For this he was awarded Australia's first Victoria Cross. He was promoted to captain in October the same year.

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. When the First World War began in 1914 he was appointed principal medical officer to the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to German New Guinea, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His medical knowledge and logistical skills ensured that there were no cases of serious illness and he returned to Australia in time to join the first AIF contingent as staff officer to the Surgeon General, director of medical services.

In December 1914 Howse was promoted to colonel and appointed assistant director of medical services, 1st Australian Division. At Gallipoli he took charge of evacuating wounded men from the beach in the campaign's opening days. "Shells and bullets he completely disregarded", wrote one officer, but "to the wounded he was gentleness itself." Unafraid to speak his mind, at the Dardanelles commission in 1917 Howse described the arrangements for dealing with the wounded at the landing as inadequate to the point of "criminal negligence" on the part of the Imperial authorities. In September 1915 he was given command of ANZAC medical services and in November became director of the AIF's medical services.

Based in London once the AIF moved to France, Howse made regular visits to France and retained control of the Australian Army Medical Corps in Egypt and Palestine. He consistently endeavoured to maintain the physical standards of the AIF and late in the war attributed its success in part to the efforts he and his staff made in ensuring the physical and moral fitness of Australian front-line soldiers.

Howse was knighted in 1917 and in 1920 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. He held several ministerial portfolios, including defence and health. In 1930 he went to England for medical treatment but died of cancer on 19 September. He was survived by his wife and five children.

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Rolls and Awards

  • Rank: Major
  • Unit: Australian Medical Team
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Unit: ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (NSW)
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Rank: Major
  • Unit: ARMY MEDICAL CORPS (NSW)
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
  • Date of embarkation: 21 October 1914
  • Place of embarkation: Melbourne
  • Unit: Headquarters Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Australian Army Medical Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Recommended for: Brevet Colonel
  • Unit: Australian Army Medical Corps
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Unit: 1st Australian Division
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Victoria Cross
  • Unit: NSW AMC
  • Conflict: South Africa, 1899-1902 (Boer War)
  • Awarded: Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Mention in despatches
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Order of the Bath
  • Unit: MEF (Staff)
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918
  • Awarded: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
  • Unit: Staff
  • Conflict: First World War, 1914-1918

Private Record

Photograph

Heraldry

Digitised Collection

Timeline

Date of birth 1863-10-26 Stogursey, Somerset, United Kingdom
Other 1889 Howse came to Australia from the United Kingdom, where he had trained as a doctor. He set up a medical practice at Newcastle and later moved to Taree, NSW.
Other 1895 Returned to England to undertake postgraduate work.
Date returned to Australia 1897 Howse came back to Australia to practice medicine in Orange, NSW.
Date commissioned 1900-01 Comissioned as a lieutenant in the 2nd Contingent of the New South Wales Medical Corps.
Other 1900-02 Arrived in South Africa with the 2nd Contingent of the NSW Medical Corps.
Date of honour or award 1900-07-24 Awarded Victoria Cross for rescuing a wounded trumpeter under heavy fire at Vredefort, Orange Free State. In addition to the Victoria Cross, Howse recieved Mention in Despatches for outstanding services. Shortly after this, he was taken prisoner by the Boers while treating another officer under fire, but was released six weeks later as a noncombatant.
Date promoted 1900-10 Promoted to captain.
Date returned to Australia 1901-01
Other 1902-02 Departed for South Africa as an honorary major with the Australian Medical Corps.
Other 1914-08 Appointed principle medical officer of the Australian Navy and Military Expeditionary Force to German New Guinea.
Date of embarkation 1914-10-21
Date promoted 1914-12 Promoted to colonel and appointed assistant director medical services 1st Australian Division.
Date of honour or award 1915-01-24 Companion of the Order of the Bath.
Other 1915-04-25 Landed at Gallipoli with the first convoy of the AIF.
Date of honour or award 1915-08 Mention in Despatches.
Other 1915-09-11 Given command of ANZAC medical services.
Other 1915-11 Appointed director of the AIF's medical services with the temporary rank of surgeon general. Howse was later based at AIF Headquarters in London where he undertook three tours of duty in France in connection with the Medical Corps.
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-12-10
Date of recommendation honour or award 1916-12-11
Date of honour or award 1917-01-24 Created Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
Date returned to Australia 1918-10
Other 1919 Returned to AIF Headquarters in London to supervise medical aspects of the large scale repatriation program directed by General Monash. Appointment ended on 1st January 1920.
Date of honour or award 1919-06-03 Gazetted Knight of St John of Jerusalem.
Date of honour or award 1919-07-09 Was gazetted a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.
Other 1922 Entered the Commonwealth Parliament as Member for Calare, NSW, in the House of Representatives.
Other 1923-09 Was part of the Australian Delegation to the Fourth Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva.
Other 1925-01-16 - 1927-04-02 Government Minister for the portfolios of Defence and Health.
Other 1928-02-24 - 1929-10-29 Minister for Health.
Other 1929-10 Lost his seat in the House of Representatives in the general elections.
Other 1930-02 Returned to England.
Date of death 1930-09-19 Died of cancer in London following an operation.