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Captain N.R. Howse

On this day, 24 July 1900, Sir Neville Reginald Howse (pictured above) became the first soldier in Australian services to be awarded a Victoria Cross medal - Britain’s highest award for valour “in the face of the enemy”.

Born in Somerset, England, in 1863, Howse studied medicine in London before migrating to Australia. He served in the Second Boer War with the NSW Army Medical Corps. 

On 24 July 1900, under heavy cross-fire he went to rescue a fallen trumpeter. When his horse was shot beneath him, he continued on foot and on reaching the casualty, dressed his wound and carried him to safety.

Howse died in September 1930, aged 66.

You can have a look at the names, gravesites and other details for the recipients of the Victoria Cross in our UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857 - 2007 collection.

Two New Zealand V.C.s in One Day

The UK, Victoria Cross Medals, 1857-2007 collection lists the recipients of the Victoria Cross (VC), Britain’s highest award for valour “in the face of the enemy”.

On 15 July 1942, two New Zealanders distinguished themselves and were recognised with the Victoria Cross.

Sergeant Keith Elliot (pictured above) was awarded the Victoria Cross after he led a bayonet charge, despite being wounded, which resulted in the capture of four enemy machine-gun posts, an anti-tank gun and fifty prisoners. He refused medical aid until he had reformed his men and handed over the prisoners, which amounted to over 130.

Captain Charles Upham (pictured above) is the only combat soldier, and the third ever, to have been awarded a second Victoria Cross medal, the first being in 1941. In July 1942, he personally destroyed a German tank, several guns and vehicles, despite a broken arm.

Charles Upham died in Christchurch in 1994, aged 86. 

You can view names, photos, grave sites and other details of the recipients of the VC in the Victoria Cross Medals, 1857-2007 collection.

The ANZAC’s Oldest Recruit

Like many brave Australians, during WW1 William Schmutter was eager to do his part for his country and lied about his age in order to be eligible to enlist. However, unlike many young Australians, William did not change his date of birth to make himself older, but rather the opposite.

Kate Mills, an Ancestry.com.au member, was not aware her family had any military history until she accidentally stumbled upon an old photograph during her research. She uncovered a large family photo showing her great-great grandfather William sitting at the centre of a group of family members wearing a military uniform. The photo had been taken in 1916, just before he went off to war.

She found this a bit confusing, as William was born in 1859, which meant he was almost 60 years old in the photo. Knowing that the Army did not accept recruits of that age, Kate was faced with a new family mystery. Armed with photographic evidence, Kate focused on searching for military records about her great-great grandfather. She searched for William Schmutter in the military records but uncovered nothing. Dedicated to unravelling the truth, Kate searched for variations of names and eventually he appeared under William Smutter. A possible reason for dropping the ‘ch’ in Schmutter might have been to de-Germanify his name.

The puzzling discovery about William was that he listed his age as 44 years and 4 months at the time of his enlistment. Why would someone make themselves younger to enlist? A number of theories have been floated around, yet ultimately the secret of why he lied about his age to enlist is buried with him. There is no doubt that he was a brave soldier who served overseas as a driver for two years. He was injured and transferred to a hospital in France, then England and was eventually discharged on 8 April 1918.

In the end, for whatever reason William chose to lie about his age and join his fellow countrymen overseas, he is an ANZAC we can be proud of.