Major Tom Howes, MC

MAJOR THOMAS HOWES, who has died aged 86, was awarded an MC in November 1944 while serving near Forli, in Italy, with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers, in command of Z Company.

Howes was ordered, on the afternoon of November 11, to advance through positions held by the Royal West Kents and capture a group of houses near a road junction.

As they crossed the start-line, the Company came under intense fire from Spandau light machine-guns and abwerfer (bazookas) sited in a factory which had been previously reported clear of the enemy and occupied by British troops. Howes's right-hand platoon was pinned down until darkness, his left-hand platoon suffered casualties and went to ground, while the Company wireless set was destroyed and the signaller killed.

Howes sent his reserve platoon in a right-flanking attack on the factory, but after gaining a foothold they were driven out by an enemy counter-attack. At this point a Tiger tank appeared at the crossroads and put nine rounds through the house occupied by Howes and his headquarters, inflicting casualties and destroying a second wireless set.

Undaunted, Howes reorganised his Company, sending the left-hand platoon to bypass the factory and push on to its main objective. With the remaining two platoons he made two further attacks on the factory and succeeded in clearing and occupying it by first light on the morning of the 12th. He then pressed home the attack to capture his original Company objective.
Within 30 minutes, the Germans counter-attacked, supported by tanks. The thrust was driven off with heavy casualties. An hour later, enemy dive-bombers destroyed the houses in which Howes and his men had consolidated, causing casualties and disorganising the Company. Again Howes re-organised his men, and launched a further assault against another enemy strongpoint which they captured and held until relieved on the morning of the 13th.

Howes's citation stated: "By his grim tenacity of purpose and sheer determination to surmount every obstacle in 48 hours' continuous fighting, Major Howes contributed largely to the defeat of a determined enemy in what was one of his main points of resistance." For his conduct during this battle, Howes was awarded an immediate Military Cross.

Thomas Capel Howes was born in London on October 18 1914 and educated at Holloway School. After school he worked as a clerk in an insurance office and in 1937 he qualified as a loss adjuster for a chartered surveyor.

By this time he was already a Special Constable with the City of London Police, and on the outbreak of war he volunteered for the 6th Horsed Cavalry Training Regiment. By 1940, however, after officer training at Sandhurst, he was posted as a Second Lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers.

He served with his battalion, as platoon commander, intelligence officer and adjutant in Egypt, North Africa and Italy. He commanded a company at Monte Cassino and, in June 1944, was wounded near Lake Trasimeno and hospitalised for four months.

In October he rejoined the battalion, taking command of Z Company, with which he won his MC. In 1945 he was posted to Greece on peace-keeping duties and was demobilised in 1946.
He rejoined his old firm, Cecil Haughton, for whom he continued to work until 1956, when he moved to the firm of Kittle, Gower to set up a branch office in Swansea for the loss adjusters Ellis and Buckle.

He quickly established a successful practice, and a national reputation, becoming a director of the firm, and world president of the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters before his retirement in 1979.

In 1958 Howes helped start the 1st Pennard Scout Troop, becoming Scout District Commissioner for Swansea Central in 1965. That same year he became chairman of the Swansea Philharmonic Choir. He also sang with the choir of St Mary's Church, Pennard, and in 1966 became a Reader in the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon.

He was an active member of the Royal Fusiliers Association and made several visits to Cassino with comrades and family.
He married, in 1940, Grace Gregory, who survives him with their son and daughter.

Tom published a couple of books on his military experiences:
My War: Major T. C. Howes MC, Late 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers: City of London Regiment 1939 - 1946 November 2012

Sketches of Italy 1944: Major Thomas Capel Howes MC 1914-2001 March 2012