Military History

The Highest Honour #22 | Neville Howse | George Ingram

By The Cove June 15, 2021


MAJOR GENERAL SIR NEVILLE REGINALD HOUSE VC, KCB, KCMG, FRCS (1863 - 1930, 66yo)

Major General House was born on 26 October 1863 at Stogursey, England. He was educated at Fullard's House School, Taunton, and studied medicine at London Hospital (M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., 1886). Howse was a demonstrator in anatomy at the University of Durham when declining health caused him to migrate to New South Wales. On 11 December 1889 he set up at Newcastle but soon ended up in Taree. In 1895 he visited England for postgraduate work in surgery and bought a practice in Orange.

On 17 January 1900 he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps and sailed with the 2nd Contingent for South Africa. While attached to a mounted infantry brigade in the Orange Free State during the action of Vredefort on 24 July, Howse 'went out under a heavy crossfire and picked up a wounded man and carried him to a place of shelter'. For this action he was awarded the Victoria Cross on 04 June 1901. Howse had been promoted Captain in October 1900. Later he was captured by the Boers but released as a non-combatant. After returning to Australia, he went back to South Africa as an honorary Major in the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) in February 1902, just as the war ended.

On his return to Australia he settled in Orange where he was twice Mayor. He remained a Major in the AAMC. Reserve and in August 1914 was appointed principal medical officer to the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force to German New Guinea as a Lieutenant Colonel. On his own initiative, drugs and medical equipment (including a unique dental arrangement) suitable for a tropical campaign were obtained and the troops were protected against typhoid and smallpox. As a result of his efforts, the brief military action in New Britain was completed without a single case of serious illness. The ambitious Howse returned alone just in time to join the Australian Imperial Force and sail with the first convoy as staff officer to Surgeon General (Sir) W. C. D. Williams, director of medical services.

In December Howse was appointed assistant director of medical services, 1st Australian Division, with the rank of Colonel. When the perilous situation of the 1st Division at the landing made his plans impossible Howse took personal charge of the evacuation of the wounded men crowding the beach under increasing shell-fire, 'giving and disregarding orders in a manner quite shocking but strangely productive of results. Shells and bullets he completely disregarded', wrote White. 'To the wounded he was gentleness itself'. By 3 a.m. on 26 April 1915 the beach was clear but Howse continued to superintend evacuation to the ships for two more days. To Howse the medical service was no mere humane amenity for soldiers, but a fundamental of fighting efficiency. So he strove to improve sanitation and food, to expedite the return of the wounded to units and, after Gallipoli, to combat venereal disease and to resist every attempt to lower the physical standard of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). At Gallipoli, he established the Anzac Medical Society which met regularly to disseminate knowledge among his officers. In July 1915 he was appointed C.B. and in September was given command of the medical services, Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, as Deputy Director. When the infantry divisions went to France in 1916 Howse set up his headquarters with A.I.F. administrative headquarters in London. He retained control of the AAMC in Egypt and Palestine, made frequent visits to the AIF in France and reported each month to the Director General of Medical Services in Melbourne. Howse gave evidence before the Dardanelles Commission in 1917. The arrangements for the wounded at the landing he characterised as 'so inadequate that they amounted to criminal negligence' on the part of the Imperial authorities.

In the field, Howse had introduced surgical teams and had supported the work of Major A. W. Holmes à Court in developing resuscitation teams with each division. His reorganisation of the field ambulances in two sections, rejected by the War Office in 1916, was re-adopted in the A.I.F. in September 1918. In October Howse went briefly to Australia to advise the minister of defence on AIF affairs and on crippled returned soldiers. He returned to London in February 1919 to assist on the medical side of repatriation. He was mentioned in dispatches, and was appointed K.C.M.G. and knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem in 1919.

Howse went to England for medical treatment but died of cancer on 19 September 1930 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery, London.

CAPTAIN GEORGE MAWBY INGRAM VC, MM (1889 - 1961, 72yo)

Captain George Ingram was born on 18 March 1889 at Bagshot, Victoria.  At completion of his schooling he worked as a carpenter until 10 December 1914 where he enlisted as a Private with the 3rd Battalion, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, and served in New Guinea until his discharge on 19 January 1916. He immediately enlisted in the AIF and was allotted to the 16th Reinforcements to the 24th Battalion. In January 1917 he joined his unit in France. Within the next nine months he received promotions from Corporal to Company Sergeant Major and was awarded the Military Medal for 'great courage and initiative as a member of a bombing section' at Grevillers, near Bapaume, in March. He was in hospital from April until June and again during September and October, after which he rejoined his battalion. On 20 June 1918 he was appointed Second Lieutenant but three days later he was evacuated with illness, resuming duty on 12 July 1918. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 24 October 1918.

Ingram was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in the last Australian infantry action, the attack on Montbrehain on 05 October 1918. In the advance which began at dawn the 24th Battalion suffered heavy casualties because of strongly defended enemy positions. Without hesitation Ingram, at the head of his platoon, rushed a post, captured nine machine-guns and killed forty-two Germans who had shown stubborn resistance. Later, after his company had suffered severe casualties and many officers had fallen, he took control of the situation once again, rallied his men under intense fire, and led them forward. He rushed another fortification and overcame serious resistance. Twice more that day he displayed great courage and leadership in the capture of enemy posts and the taking of sixty-two prisoners. Ingram was the last Australian to be awarded a Victoria Cross in WW1.

In 1919 Ingram returned to Melbourne and discharged. He died of coronary vascular disease at his home at Hastings on 30 June 1961 and was buried in Frankston cemetery.


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The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



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