The Royal New South Wales Lancers

Allan Howitt A Lancer's Story

Allan Stuart Howitt (NX114594) 25 April 1923 - 03 April 2017: Word of Allan's passing came almost simultaneously from his youngest son, David, and our B Squadron correspondent, Reg Gunn. Allan was born on 25 April 1923, and perhaps that was an omen. His association with the Lancers began when he joined the militia in 1940. "He enlisted at 17 - may have bent the truth about his age to get in with his friends," David said. His service number then was N7170 and the unit was the 1st Machine Gun Regiment. He once recalled having been at the Wallgrove camp when "a light horse regiment stampeded through our lines." He was always part of the action. Allan was a wireless operator in Lieutenant Allan Aynsley's No. 2 Troop in B Squadron. He was on the USS Millen Griffith in 1945 when it ran aground at Bonga where the 1st Australian Tank Battalion had been based at one time in the New Guinea campaign in 1943. He was in the last tank actions of the war in Balikpapan in the months before the Japanese surrender.

Extracts from the regiment's history virify the action: "At 07:00 on 10 July Lieutenant Aynsley's 2 troop, with a frog (flame throwing) tank attached, was called forward to give support to A Company of the 2/31st (Battalion) in its successful attack on the jungle clad Cello feature ... about 13:30 2 troop and the frog tank went into action again this time with D company ... targets on both sides of the highway were engaged with gunfire and flame; five machine guns were taken, the tank on the left flank had not gone far when it developed rackam (steering) trouble. While attending to it the crew came under fire from a light machine gun; another tank gave covering fire and eventually an infantry section silenced the machine gun. Later in the same day there was a third and very memorable action ... This was the difficult and hard fought attack on Coke Spur, a key position, the action in which snipers killed the regiment's 2/IC, Major EJ Ryrie. Read the account in pages 298 and 299 of the history. 2 troop continued to be heavily engaged until tank operations in Borneo ended in mid July. Three days later the enemy broke contact; this marked the end of organised resistance ... by 15 August the war had ended."

Allan is survived by his wife, Margaret, and two daughters and two sons. He loved the regiment and marched nearly every Anzac Day and followed up by celebrating his birthday. David Howitt recalls going to the Lancers Museum at Parramatta - "We were very touched by the attention shown him by Len Koles who gave him a warm welcome and a personal tour of the exhibits."

Use the controls above to view a video what those at home in Australia knew of the Balikpapan action in 1945.

David provided the rest of this story. Allan was born in Paddington and grew up in the Chatswood/Willoughby area. Like many who served in World War 2 he lived childhood through the tough years of the depression of the nineteen thirties. In the worst of it he had no shoes when he was going to school. He left school at 14 and had various jobs which included working at a bakery starting work in the very early hours. He was among the school children who marched across the Sydney Harbour Bridge when it opened in 1932. He got to bowl Don Bradman when Bradman did some school tours. He rode a bike from Chatswood to Palm Beach for "something to do" one day. (Quite an effort when you consider the roads in the early 1930s.)

After the war Allan worked for a pharmaceutical manufacturer. There he met Margaret. He couldn't stand working indoors and left the company for a job as a tram conductor (not an indoor job but travelling always in all weather on the running board from which he collected fares). He must have been glad when he was able to switch to being a bus driver. Allan worked for NSW Transport for 35 years until he retired. The Howitts were one of the pioneer families in the then newly opened area of Forestville in the expanding post war Sydney and built a family home in the bush.

David continues: "Dad's interests included books. He had hundreds of books and was an avid reader particularly of war history. His memory was amazing and he still had brilliant recall of events until he died aged 90. His other interests were coin collecting and he was a big fan of North Sydney Bears Rugby League team.

He was a wonderful father always supporting his family in whatever he could. He became a much loved grand father and great grand-father. If he had lived a few more months he would have been a great great grand father too." (Bert Castellari)

New South Wales Lancers Memorial Museum Incorporated ABN 94 630 140 881; Linden House, Lancer Barracks, 2 Smith Street, PARRAMATTA, AUSTRALIA
Postal Address: PO Box 7287, PENRITH SOUTH NSW 2750, AUSTRALIA; Telephone: +61 (0)405 482 814 Email:
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