Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Howell, George Julian (1893–1964)

by W. H. Connell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

George Julian Howell (1893-1964), by unknown photographer, c1917

George Julian Howell (1893-1964), by unknown photographer, c1917

Australian War Memorial, P02939.019

George Julian Howell (1893-1964), soldier, builder and newspaper representative, was born on 19 November 1893 at Enfield, Sydney, fourth son of Francis John Howell, a carpenter from Brighton, England, and his Sydney-born wife Martha, née Sweeny. He was educated at Croydon Park and Burwood public schools, served an apprenticeship in bricklaying and was working as a builder when he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force on 3 June 1915. He sailed for Egypt on 14 July with the 7th Reinforcements for the 1st Battalion, joined his unit at Gallipoli on 1 November and served there until the evacuation.

Howell accompanied his battalion to France in March 1916, was wounded in the battle of Pozières in July and evacuated to England. Before returning to the front he attended a training school and was promoted corporal on 6 February 1917. For 'courage and devotion to duty while leading a rifle bombing section' during the capture of Demicourt in April, he was awarded the Military Medal. On 6 May, near Bullecourt, where the 1st Battalion experienced some of its heaviest fighting, he won the Victoria Cross. Realizing that a large party of Germans threatened to outflank his battalion, he climbed onto the parapet and despite heavy bomb attacks and rifle-fire proceeded to bomb the enemy back along the trench. Lieutenant T. J. Richards supported him with a Lewis-gun, following him along the trench and firing bursts. When he ran out of bombs Howell continued his assault by jabbing down at the Germans with his bayonet until, severely wounded, he fell into the trench. His citation stated that the 'prompt and gallant conduct of this non-commissioned officer in the face of superior numbers was witnessed by the whole battalion and greatly inspired them in the subsequent successful counter-attack'. After a fierce, close fight his unit regained all the ground taken by the enemy. Howell had received multiple injuries; even before leaving his own trench he had machine-gun wounds in both legs and when he was brought in hours later he had over twenty wounds. He was hospitalized in England before returning to Australia in November and was demobilized on 5 June 1918.

'Snowy' Howell came from a fighting family. His father and two brothers, one of whom was killed in action, served in France with the A.I.F. On 1 March 1919 he married a nurse, Sadie Lillian Yates, at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney. They settled at Coogee and Howell worked on the advertising staffs of Smith's Newspapers Ltd and later the Bulletin Newspaper Co. Pty Ltd. By 1933 he was New South Wales representative for the Standard, Brisbane, and the Queensland Worker. In World War II he served with the 2nd A.I.F. as a staff sergeant with Eastern Command, New South Wales, but found this work 'too unexciting' so in August 1944 joined the United States Army Sea Transport Service and took part in the landing at Leyte during the invasion of the Philippines. In December 1953 he retired to Perth to join his married daughter and later lived at Gunyidi, Western Australia. Survived by one daughter, he died on 23 December 1964 in the Repatriation General Hospital, Hollywood, and was cremated with military honours after an Anglican service.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • B. V. Stacy, F. J. Kingdom and H. V. Chedgey, The History of the First Battalion, AIF (1914-1919) (Syd, 1931)
  • London Gazette, 25 May, 26 June 1917
  • Newspaper News, 1 Dec 1933
  • Reveille (Sydney), Mar 1965
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 28, 29 June 1917, 3 Mar 1919, 26 Dec 1964
  • Sydney Mail, 4 July 1917, 9 Jan 1918
  • West Australian, 25 Dec 1964.

Citation details

W. H. Connell, 'Howell, George Julian (1893–1964)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/howell-george-julian-6748/text11661, published in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 31 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

George Julian Howell (1893-1964), by unknown photographer, c1917

George Julian Howell (1893-1964), by unknown photographer, c1917

Australian War Memorial, P02939.019