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John Howell-Price (1886–1937)

by David Horner

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John Howell-Price (1886-1937), by unknown photographer

John Howell-Price (1886-1937), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, P00267.001

HOWELL-PRICE BROTHERS: John (1886-1937), naval officer, Frederick Phillimore (1888-1978), Owen Glendower (1890-1916), Philip Llewellyn (1894-1917) and Richmond Gordon (1896-1917), soldiers, were sons of Rev. John Howell Price, for many years vicar of St Silas's Anglican Church, Waterloo, Sydney, and his wife Isabel Virginia, née Winchcombe, sister of F. E. Winchcombe. He was born in Wales and she in Victoria. The five sons were registered at birth as Price, not Howell-Price.

Their second son John was born on 16 September 1886 at St Alban's Parsonage, Five Dock, Sydney, and after running away to sea at 14 served an apprenticeship as a merchant-navy officer in clippers before obtaining a master mariner's certificate. He joined the Royal Naval Reserve as a temporary sub-lieutenant on 24 March 1915 and was serving as an acting lieutenant in the armed merchant cruiser H.M.S. Alcantara when she met the German raider S.M.S. Greif in the North Sea on 29 February 1916. After a fierce fight both ships were sunk, the survivors nearly freezing to death in open boats before they were rescued. For his part in the engagement John was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He later transferred to submarine service and was promoted temporary lieutenant, R.N.R., on 24 July 1917. He was second-in-command and navigator of the old British submarine C3 which, filled with explosives, was blown up at Zeebrugge, Belgium, on the night of 22-23 April 1918. The commander of the submarine was awarded the Victoria Cross and John Howell-Price the Distinguished Service Order. After the war he transferred to the Royal Australian Navy in the same rank and returned to Australia in command of the submarine J3; he served with the R.A.N. until 1921 when he rejoined the merchant navy as a master with the Federal Steam Navigation Co. Ltd, making several trips to Australia. He married Margaret Williams of Liverpool, England; they had one daughter. He died of hypertensive cerebro-vascular disease on 13 November 1937 at Liverpool.

Frederick was born on 11 June 1888 at Kiama, New South Wales, and was educated at Windsor Grammar School. He was employed as a bank clerk with the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney until 17 September 1914 when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as a driver in the 6th Company, Australian Army Service Corps. On 16 December he was promoted second lieutenant and five days later sailed from Sydney with the 2nd Light Horse Divisional Train. He served at Gallipoli from September to December 1915, was promoted lieutenant in November, and on 23 March 1916, after his company had been disbanded, was appointed adjutant of the Anzac Mounted Divisional Train in Egypt. In July he was promoted captain, A.A.S.C., and appointed supply officer to the 2nd Light Horse Brigade. He was later supply officer of the 4th Light Horse Brigade, senior supply officer of the Australian Mounted Division, deputy assistant director of supply and transport to the Desert Mounted Corps, acting commander of the Anzac Mounted Divisional Train and acting assistant director of supply and transport in the Mounted Corps. He served during the Romani, Beersheba, Jericho Valley and Syrian operations, was promoted major on 1 November 1917, awarded the D.S.O. and twice mentioned in dispatches. In 1919 he rejoined the Commercial Banking Co. for a few months, then became an accountant with a rubber company in Sumatra. He retired in 1941 and returned to Australia. During World War II he undertook war-work for the division of import procurement, Department of Trade and Customs, and in 1946-68 was accountant for the Metropolitan Burial & Cremation Society in Sydney. He had married Mabel Constance Beer on 24 July 1919 at St Jude's Anglican Church, Randwick; they had two sons and a daughter. He died on 22 April 1978 and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Owen was born on 23 February 1890 at Kiama and was educated at Windsor Grammar School and Kogarah High School. A bank clerk before beginning training in agriculture at the Government Experiment Farm at Nyngan, he served for a period in the citizen forces and on 27 August 1914 was commissioned second lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, A.I.F. The battalion left Sydney in October and arrived in Egypt in December. During this time he was appointed assistant adjutant and when the adjutant was killed on the first day of the Gallipoli landing he succeeded him. He was promoted captain on 4 August 1915. During the fighting at Lone Pine he won the Military Cross and was also mentioned in dispatches. Casualties were heavy and on 5 September he was promoted temporary major and assumed temporary command of the battalion. He was wounded on 9 September but remained on duty. Having revealed his ability as a fine trainer and organizer, Owen was confirmed in rank on 1 December. For a short period in Egypt after the evacuation he was temporarily superseded in command.

The 3rd Battalion arrived in France on 28 March 1916 and Owen was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 12 May. In July and August the battalion fought bloody battles at Pozières and Mouquet Farm during which time Howell-Price set a magnificent example of courage, always visiting the most forward positions. For his leadership he was awarded the D.S.O. and mentioned in dispatches again. On 3 November 1916, near Flers, he was shot in the head and he died next day. His last words were 'Give my love to the battalion'. He was buried at Ancre-side Wood, and a commemorative service was held at Flesselles attended by the whole unit. Probably because of his youth, Owen Howell-Price took his responsibilities too seriously to be popular with his officers and men, but underlying his sternness and austerity was a deep and single-minded loyalty to his unit.

Philip was born on 11 September 1894 at Mount Wilson and educated at Kogarah High School. He was a bank clerk and had served as a citizen soldier before enlisting in the 1st Battalion, A.I.F., as a private on 14 September 1914. He was commissioned second lieutenant four days later and embarked for Egypt on 18 October. The battalion landed at Gallipoli on 25 August 1915 and Philip was promoted lieutenant next day. He was mentioned in dispatches for work in the battle of Lone Pine, during which he was severely wounded. Returning after three months in hospital, he was one of the last to evacuate Gallipoli. He was promoted captain on 28 January 1916 and was awarded the D.S.O. for leading a raiding party near Armentières, France, on 27 June. He fought on the Somme in July, at Flers in November and was wounded at Bullecourt in March 1917. General Sir William Birdwood soon had him appointed to the staff of the 1st Anzac Division; he was promoted major on 7 June 1917 and attached to the staff of the 2nd Brigade. That month he was awarded the Military Cross. On hearing that his old battalion was going into action he begged to be sent back to it and on 4 October was killed in an artillery barrage at Broodseinde. His body was never recovered.

Richmond was born on 18 July 1896 at Richmond and educated at Fort Street Public School, Sydney. A bank clerk before enlisting in the A.I.F. in December 1915, he served as a trooper and a corporal in light horse units in the Middle East and was commissioned second lieutenant in the 1st Battalion on 31 December 1916. On 4 May 1917 he was wounded at Bullecourt, France, and died later that day. Three days later it was announced that he had been awarded the Military Cross.

The eldest of the family, David Clayton Winchcombe Howell-Price (b.1881), served in the South African War, and in Australia on the Army's Administrative and Instructional Staff in World War I.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The Story of Anzac (Syd, 1921, 1924), and The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • B. V. Stacey et al, The History of the 1st Battalion, A.I.F. (1914-19) (Syd, 1931)
  • E. Wren, Randwick to Hargicourt, History of the 3rd Battalion, A.I.F. (Syd, 1935)
  • Reveille (Sydney), Dec 1930, Nov 1932, Dec 1937
  • Sun (Sydney), 30 July 1916
  • News (Perth), 27 May 1919
  • Register (Adelaide), 12 Oct 1924
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Jan, 3 May 1930
  • Howell-Price papers, files 58/9-14 and 12/11/49 (Australian War Memorial)
  • war diaries, 1st and 3rd Battalions, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

David Horner, 'Howell-Price, John (1886–1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

John Howell-Price (1886-1937), by unknown photographer

John Howell-Price (1886-1937), by unknown photographer

Australian War Memorial, P00267.001

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Price, John

16 September, 1886
Five Dock, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 November, 1937 (aged 51)
Liverpool, Merseyside, England

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.