HOWSE, Sir Neville Reginald (1864-1930)


HOWSE, Sir Neville Reginald (1864-1930)
surgeon, politician, administrator
son of Alfred Howse, physician, was born in Somerset, England, on 26 October 1864. Educated at Freelands School, Taunton, he studied medicine and qualified M.R.C.S. and L.R.C.P. in 1883. In 1889 he went to Australia, largely for health reasons, and practised at Taree, New South Wales until 1895. Returning to London he continued his medical studies and became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1897. He bought a practice at Orange, New South Wales in 1899, but when the South African war broke out he enlisted in the New South Wales lancers, and was given a commission as second lieutenant. He showed much courage, was mentioned in dispatches, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for going out at Vredefort and bringing in a wounded man under heavy fire. Promoted captain he returned to Australia, but went to South Africa again as a major in charge of field ambulances. He practised at Orange, New South Wales, for some years, but when the 1914-18 war began accompanied the Australian expedition to New Guinea. He went with the Australian forces to Egypt, and at the landing on Gallipoli showed great resource and courage in managing the removal of the wounded from the shore to the ships. He was later given control of the medical services until the evacuation, and early in 1916 was appointed director-general of medical services for Australia and New Zealand in the Mediterranean. In January 1917 he was promoted major-general with headquarters in London, was mentioned in dispatches, and did admirable work in organizing the medical services.
Howse returned to Australia in January 1920 and from 1921 to 1925 was director-general of medical services. He was elected a member of the house of representatives for Calare, in 1922, and in 1923 was a representative of Australia at the fourth assembly of the League of Nations. He was temporary chairman of committees in the house of representatives from June 1923 to October 1924, minister for defence and minister for health in the Bruce-Page government from 16 January 1925 to 2 April 1927, minister for home and territories from 24 February to 29 November 1928, and minister for health from 24 February 1928 to 22 October 1929. He lost his seat at the election held in that year. In February 1930 he visited England and died in London on 19 September. He married in 1905 Evelyn Northcote, daughter of G. de Val Pilcher, who survived him with two sons and three daughters. He was created C.B. in 1915, K.C.B. 1917, K.C.M.G. 1919, knight of grace of the order of the hospital of St John of Jerusalem, 1919.
Outwardly cynical, though kindly and loyal to subordinates, Howse was a man of strong character, courageous and ambitious. There was a want of system in connexion with the Australian medical service in Egypt in 1915, and as this was gradually rectified it was realized that the extremely capable and diplomatic Howse was the man to take command. Both in Egypt and later in France, under his care the Australian medical service at the war became second to none. As a Commonwealth minister he showed good executive powers, and did valuable work in connexion with repatriation.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 1930; The Times, 20 September 1930; C. E. W. Bean, The Official History of Australia in the War, vol. II; The Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, 1901-30; Burke's Peerage, etc., 1930.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.


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