‘Gillie’ Howe represented Wellington in 1912 and 1914, playing five First Class and two ‘miscellaneous’ games for them. Two of his matches for Wellington were against the formidable 1914 Australian team, both at the Basin Reserve. He opened the batting in the first game, scoring 19 and 4 respectively. In the second innings he was dismissed by Warwick Armstrong, who took a remarkable 7 for 17 in a game that the tourists won by seven wickets. Howe would want to forget the second game where, in his only innings, he was dismissed for a duck in a drawn match. He finished the season for Wellington with an average of 15.44. As a wicketkeeper, Howe also claimed five catches and four stumpings. He was only 22 and, in those early months of 1914, appeared to be a young cricketer of great promise with a fine future in front of him.
Howe had played local cricket for The Rivals, Wellington East and, finally, for University. He has been described as a batsman who could score “pretty fast” once he had his eye in. But it was as a wicket keeper that he shone, possessing skills that suggested he may well have developed into something out of the ordinary. He “stood up well to the wicket” and was an agile catcher with soft hands and fast reflexes. What also remained in the minds of his acquaintances was Gillie’s friendliness to everyone coupled with his cheerful disposition.
Howe joined the War effort early. He was part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force that took German Samoa in 1914 as a sergeant in the Field Artillery and embarked with them on August 15th of that year. On his return he discharged himself but, in 1916, he re-joined the New Zealand Field Artillery. Like many others, he trained at Trentham Camp (playing for their cricket team) and was commissioned there as a Second Lieutenant.
He traveled to England, where he was at Sling Camp for a short time, and arrived at the front line on November 21st 1916. He was killed in action near Armentières, France on January 10th 1917. Howe’s death was mentioned in Wisden, where he was described as a “left hand bat and a good wicket keeper”, providing further evidence of the promise he would never fulfill.
The Gilbert Howe memorial trophy, gifted by his mother, was awarded to the most improved cricket player in Wellington for more than twenty years after his death.
Gilbert Howe; b. August 6th 1891, Wellington, d. January 10th 1917, near Armentières, France.