b. 12/12/1888 Faversham, Kent. d. 28/04/1978 Selling, Kent.
Sir Philip Neame (1888-1978) was born at Macklade Farm, Faversham, Kent on 12th December 1888. The farm was worked on by the Neame family for over 150 years. In 1864, the Neame family went into partnership with the Faversham brewery, now known as Shepherd Neame. His father, Frederick Neame, was also a land agent for Earl Sondes and served in the East Kent Yeomanry 1865-1878. In 1870 he started his own flock of Kent/Romney Marsh sheep and in 18 years received 218 awards. Philip’s mother was Kathleen nee Stunt. She was Frederick’s cousin and they married on 20th January 1880 at St Mary’s, Higham, Rochester, Kent. Frederick’s brother in law conducted the ceremony. Philip had four brothers and a sister. One of his brothers, Geoffrey, would be killed in the Great War.
Philip was educated at St Michael’s School Westgate and Cheltenham College, where he was a member of the Rifle Corps. He trained for the Royal Military Academy Woolwich 1906-1908 and was commissioned on 29th July 1908, following which he attended the School of Military Engineering at Chatham from 1908-1910. He was then promoted to Lieutenant and served in 56th Field Company at Bulford until 1913 under Major Clifford Coffin (later VC 1917). Philip was replaced by Lieutenant Cyril Martin (later VC 1915). He served in Gibraltar from October 1913, but returned to England on the outbreak of war to join 15th Field Company. He arrived in France with his unit on 5th November 1914.
On 19th December 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Neame, in the face of very heavy fire, engaged the Germans in a single-handed bombing attack, killing and wounding a number of them. He was able to check the enemy advance for three-quarters of an hour and to rescue all the wounded whom it was possible to move.
Neame was also mentioned in despatches twice, and promoted to Captain in February 1915. He was wounded on 10th March 1915, but it was a minor wound, as he was soon appointed Adjutant 8th Division Royal Engineers, on 30th March 1915. He received a civic reception in Faversham on 17th July, two days before he received his VC from King George V at Windsor Castle.
He was then appointed GSO3, HQ 8th Division on 11th October 1915. He was then mentioned in despatches twice, and awarded the DSO in the London Gazette on 14th January 1916. A month later, he was appointed Brigade Major to 168th Brigade, and received his DSO from King George V at Buckingham Palace on 8th April. By January 1917, he was Brevet Major, and later that year, was appointed GSO2, HQ First Army. Before the end of the war, he was appointed GSO1, 30th Division and also to No2 Tank Group by November 1918.
He was also awarded the Croix de Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur in January 1919, Croix de Guerre (France) in July 1919 and Croix de Guerre (Belgium) in September 1919. He was also mentioned in despatches six more times (ten in total for the whole war). From March 1919 to April 1923 he was GSO1 Instructor at the Staff College, Camberley. He was also a member of the VC Guard at the interment of the Unknown Warrior on 11th November 1920. He published a book “German Strategy in the Great War” in 1923. He was appointed Brigade Major Aldershot in January 1924, holding the position until March 1925.
He was a member of the British team at the 1924 Olympic Games, winning gold and bronze medals for running deer rifle shooting and is the only VC with an Olympic gold medal. He was promoted to Major in January 1925. He then served with the Bengal Sappers and Miners and received a further promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. During the 1930s, he purchased “Woodlands” house in Selling, Kent and renamed it as “Brooke’s Croft”. He was promoted to Colonel and appointed GSO1, Waziristan District, India on 17th June 1932.
Having been severely injured by a tigress whilst hunting, he spent months in hospital with blood poisoning and fever, during which time he was placed on half pay. His arm was about to amputated when he made an unexpected recovery. The nurse who looked after him in hospital in Simla was Harriet Alberta Drew. They were married on 12th April 1934 and went on to have four children – Gerald David (born 1935), Veronica Kathleen (born 1937) and twins Nigel and Philip (born 1946).
He was promoted Temporary Brigadier and appointed Brigadier General Staff, Eastern Command, India from 1934-1938. He was a member of the 1936 Mission to Lhasa, Tibet led by Basil John Gould of the Indian Civil Service. Philip was then appointed the last Commandant of the Royal Military Academy Woolwich on 28th February 1938 and his promotion to Major General was backdated to 19th December 1937. When the war broke out the Academy closed and merged with Sandhurst. He was awarded the Companion of Bath in January 1939.
He was appointed the Deputy Chief of General Staff, British Expeditionary Force on 4th September 1939 and appointed to command the 4th Indian Division in the Western Desert in February 1940. In 1941, Rommel attacked the Western Desert Force and both Neame and General Sir Richard O’Connor were taken prisoner on 6th April 1941. They were held in Sicily and near Florence with other senior prisoners including Major General Adrian Carton de Wiart VC. There were many escape attempts. They managed to escape and reached London on Boxing Day 1943. He was then Colonel Commandant Royal Engineers from 1945-1955. He was appointed the Local Lieutenant General and Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey from 1945-1953.
He was knighted in June 1946 and also awarded the Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, and also the Knight of the Order of the White Lion (Czechoslovakia). He retired as Honorary Lieutenant General on 17th July 1947 and published “Playing with Strife, the Autobiography of a Soldier” the same year. He was also a freemason, Old Cheltonian Lodge No 3223, and in April 1967 was involved in a car crash in which his cousin, Alan Bruce Neame was killed. Philip died at his home “The Kintle”, Selling Court, Selling, Kent on 28th April 1978 and is buried in St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Selling.
In addition to his VC, he was awarded the CB, KBE, DSO, Order of St John, 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Italy Star, 1939-45 Defence Medal, 1939-45 War Medal, George V Jubilee Medal, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, French Legion d’Honneur, Belgian Croix de Guerre, French Croix de Guerre and the Czechoslovakian Order of the White Lion. His medals are held by the Imperial War Museum to which they were donated.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL W AR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY THE VIRGIN CHURCH, SELLING, KENT.
Neame's medals at Lord Ashcroft Gallery
St Mary the Virgin Church, Selling, Kent
Sittingbourne War Memorial
Freemasons Memorial, London (Brian Drummond)