Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1916, Brigadier General Philip Howell C.M.G., 4th (Queen’s Own) Hussars and General Staff 2nd Corps, was killed in action near Authuille in France.
One of six children of Lieutenant Colonel Horace Howell of the Punjab Frontier Force, he was educated at Shrewsbury House School and Lancing College. After passing out of Sandhurst with honours, he was commissioned to the Unattached List of the Indian Army and then served with the Indian Staff Corps, the 5th Punjab Cavalry and Lumsden’s Horse before holding several staff appointments in India and seeing action on the Northwest Frontier. After serving as an Intelligence officer on the General Staff in 1909, he spent two years at the War Office, and then was appointed Professor at the Staff College as well as acting as the London Times war correspondent during the Balkan Wars.
After the outbreak of the Great War he assumed command of the 4th Hussars. The low number of casualties was attributed to what was called his “wise leadership” and “being one of the first cavalry officers to realise the extreme importance of the spade”. He wrote home: “You can have no idea of what utter destruction means till you have seen the area under fire… Ypres was the most picturesque and beautiful town that I had ever seen; and it is now just a pile of battered ruins….dig anywhere five yards and you come across a corpse. However…of one thing I am sure, that the Germans cannot win, though I have no notion how long it may take them to realise they are lost."
Brigadier General Howell was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and St George Third Class “In recognition of meritorious service during the war”, later being promoted to the General Staff of X Corps. He served in Salonika and was Mentioned in Despatches six times.
In June of 1916, he was appointed second in command of 2nd Corps (18th Division); in October, 2nd Corps units were endeavouring to capture the Schwaben Redoubt north of Thiepval on the Somme. As Brigadier General Howell was carrying out a reconnaissance near Pozieres he was killed by a stray shell. He is buried in the Varennes Military Cemetery in France, and on his headstone are the words: “Fellowship in heaven and the lack of fellowship in Hell."
Philip, from Surbiton in Surrey, was 38 years old with a daughter, and a son born four months after his death.