Who's Who - Edward Chaytor

No photograph available Edward Walter Clervaux Chaytor (1868-1939) was born at Motueka New Zealand on 21.6.1868, the oldest child of John Clervaux Chaytor and his wife Emma.

His father was a prominent Marlborough runholder, and Edward was initially raised at the isolated 'Coverham' station until the family moved to 'The Shades'.  He attended Nelson College from 1880 to 1884 as a boarder.  On leaving school Chaytor took up farming on the family property, 'Marshlands', at Spring Creek.

In 1886 Chaytor joined the Marlborough Hussars, a local Volunteer unit, as a Trumpeter.  Within two years he had been promoted to the rank of Sergeant and was elected to the position of (acting) Lieutenant on the 12.10.1888.  In 1891 the Hussars became a Mounted Rifles unit.

Chaytor was elected acting Captain of the Corps in 1892, and formally promoted to Captain on 22.3.1893.  On 17.10.1898, Chaytor married Louisa Hiley, at Spring Creek.  They were to have three children, a son and two daughters.

In October 1899 Chaytor volunteered for service in the Anglo-Boer War.  Appointed to the command of the North Island Company of the Third (Rough Riders) Contingent in January 1900, he left New Zealand on 17.2.1900.  Chaytor and the Third Contingent first saw action as part of General Hart's column sent to relieve Wepener.  They then took part in the advance on Johannesburg.

At Riet Spruit, on the 26.5.1900, Chaytor was shot through the thigh and hospitalised.  He returned to active service in September, and was mentioned in dispatches at the battle of Rhenoster Kop, on 29.11.1900.  From the beginning of February 1901 until early March, Chaytor and the Third Contingent were active in the hunt for the Boer General de Wet (Chaytor also temporarily commanded the contingent).

Chaytor left South Africa on 1.4.1901, and on arrival home briefly returned to farming.  He received a promotion to the rank of Major, backdated to 1.3.1901.  In January 1902 Chaytor volunteered once again for service in South Africa, with the Eighth Contingent.  Appointed to command of the South Island Battalion, Chaytor was promoted to the rank of brevet Lieutenant Colonel.

The Eighth Contingent was involved in operations in Northern Natal and the Orange Free State from March to early April 1902.  They entrained for Klerksdorp in the Western Transvaal, and at Machavie on 12.4.1902 sixteen men under his command were killed when their train collided with a goods train.  They then conducted operations in the Klerksdorp area until peace was declared.  Chaytor returned to New Zealand on 4.7.1902.

During the war Chaytor had earned the respect of his superiors, and in September 1902 he was offered and took up a position with the Permanent Force as the Assistant Adjutant General at Defence Department Headquarters.  In 1906 he was successful in examinations to enter the British Army Staff College at Camberley.  He left for England at the end of the year, and became the first New Zealander to complete the course.

Upon his return to New Zealand, Chaytor took up the position of Director of Military Training and Education.  On 13.12.1910 Chaytor was made the Officer Commanding the Wellington Military District, and promoted to temporary Colonel on 1.1.1911.  Chaytor's rise within the New Zealand Army continued with his appointment as Adjutant General on the 16.7.1914.  War in Europe was looking imminent and Chaytor was soon busy organising the various military districts in preparation for mobilisation.

With the declaration of war with Germany on 5.8.1914 (New Zealand time), Chaytor played a pivotal role in planning for New Zealand's two major overseas deployments.  The first was the assembly of a force to occupy German Samoa, which departed on the 14.8.1914 and occupied Apia on the 29.8.1914.  The second, and more complex, was mobilising the Main Body of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) with an embarkation date planned for 28.8.1914.  With the men assembled, Chaytor was transferred to the staff of the NZEF on 1.9.1914, under Major General Sir Alexander Godley.

The NZEF left New Zealand on 16.10.1914, initially bound for Europe but was disembarked in Egypt on 3.12.1914.  Here, Chaytor became the Assistant Adjutant General, and (later) the acting Quartermaster General of the newly formed New Zealand and Australian Division commanded by Godley.  They spent several months in training before being sent to Gallipoli.

Chaytor was one of the first New Zealanders landed on 25.4.1915 and had to quickly establish a brigade headquarters under difficult conditions.  According to Godley, Chaytor's "…coolness and resource were of the greatest value in restoring difficult situations especially on Walkers Ridge 26 April and Monash Gully on 2/3 May."

On 19.5.1915 Chaytor was seriously wounded in the right shoulder, at Plugges Plateau, while going forward to assess the situation during a heavy Turkish attack.  Evacuated from Gallipoli, he ended up being sent to the Royal Free Hospital in London, due to the chaotic situation in Egypt.

Chaytor returned to Gallipoli on 28.8.1915 and resumed his duties as A.A.G. on the 6.9.1915.  He temporarily commanded the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, and was then given command of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles (NZMR) Brigade on 21.12.1915 and promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier General.

After the evacuation from Gallipoli, Chaytor was left in Egypt to reorganise and rebuild his brigade while the rest of the NZEF deployed to France.  The NZMR were reunited with their horses and became part of the Australian and New Zealand (Anzac) Mounted Division within the Desert Column of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (E.E.F.).  Chaytor was now the senior New Zealand officer in the Egypt/Sinai theatre.

In late February 1916 the NZMR under Chaytor crossed the Suez Canal and entered the Sinai Peninsula.  They conducted training and patrolling to acquaint themselves with the desert.  In April they were deployed in the vicinity of Romani, and from July were active in reporting and harassing Turkish movements.

On 19.7.1916 Chaytor personally reconnoitred Turkish positions in an aircraft, and was slightly wounded by ground fire.  The NZMR under Chaytor helped to inflict a decisive defeat on the Turks at Romani on 5.8.1916 after launching a counterattack against the Turkish flank.

Due to slow progress with the railway and water-pipe the advance was delayed.  On 21.12.1916 the Desert Column including Chaytor's brigade took El Arish unopposed.  They then attacked Magdhaba on 23.12.1916, with Chaytor controlling the NZMR and the Third Australian Light Horse.  Against well-fortified positions they successfully captured the town.

During the next battle, on 9.1.1917 at Rafah, Chaytor's tactical self-confidence came to the fore.  After a hard, daylong action against stubborn Turkish defence, Lieutenant General Philip Chetwode, aware that Turkish reinforcements were on the way, ordered his force to withdraw.  Chaytor, about to launch an attack with the NZMR, chose to ignore the order, and in the ensuing attack the defences were overrun and the town taken.

On 26.3.1917 the Anzac Mounted Division attacked Gaza, in southern Palestine.  During the battle Chaytor took his brigade around the Turkish positions and was about to take Gaza from the rear when he was ordered to withdraw.  It was a missed opportunity, which cost the Desert Column and the New Zealanders dearly.  Between 17 and 19 April a second unsuccessful battle was fought over Gaza, in which the NZMR had 116 casualties.

In April 1917, Major General Harry Chauvel was promoted to command the Desert Column, and Chaytor took over command of the Anzac Mounted Division, being promoted to Major General.  Chaytor became the first, and only, New Zealander to command an Anzac force at divisional level.

On 31.10.1917 Chaytor's division attacked the Turkish defences north-east and east of Beersheba.  The NZMR had the tough assignment of capturing the heavily defended keep at Tell es Saba.  While the attacks were ultimately successful, their slow progress gave Chauvel some concern, and led to the inspirational charge against Beersheba by the Fourth Australian Light Horse Brigade.  Chaytor's division was then involved in fighting in the hills to the north of Beersheba, and it was not until the 7.11.1917 that Turkish resistance was broken.

Chaytor's division was now at the forefront of the British advance through Palestine.  They reached Jemmameh on 8.11.1917, and advanced through El Mejdel, Beit Duras and Esdud the next day.  On the 10th they established a bridgehead over the Nahr Sukhereir.  On 14.11.1917 at Richon le Zion (Ayun Qara) the NZMR held a position against a fierce Turkish counter-attack.

The following day the Anzac Division captured Ramleh and Ludd, and on the 16th the NZMR brigade led the way into Jaffa.  This ended the pursuit period after Beersheba and Third Gaza, and the Anzac Mounted Division was given a defensive role protecting the northern British line, while the advance east to Jerusalem was being conducted.  On 24.11.1917 the Anzacs were ordered to advance across the River Auja and establish a bridgehead.  Initially successful, the occupation was short-lived as the Turks counter-attacked the next day in overwhelming strength.

Chaytor's division was used in operations against Jericho and the Jordan beginning on 19.2.1918, and was involved in the capture of Jericho on the 21st.  On 21.3.1918 his division was involved in a raid on Amman where they were to destroy the railway, a viaduct and tunnel.  The raid encountered stiff opposition and was forced to withdraw.

Positioned in the Jordan Valley, the Anzac Mounted Division was involved in protecting the right flank of the E.E.F.  On 9.4.1918 they were in action against Turkish forces on the east bank of the Jordan, and then had to put up a stout defence against counter-attacks.  A second Trans-Jordan Raid was conducted from 30 April to 4 May 1918, again involving Chaytor's division.

A major offensive in Palestine had been delayed by events on the Western Front in France.  On 16.9.1918, however, Chaytor was allocated additional forces, including British, Jewish, and Indian troops, to create a diversion on the right flank of the E.E.F., while Allenby's main effort was to be towards the north on the coastal plain.  Initial engagements began on 19.9.1918, and 'Chaytor Force' crossed the Jordan on 22.9.1918 on a 30-kilometre front.  They took over 10,000 prisoners and captured Amman on 25.9.1918.

An armistice with Turkey came into effect on 31.10.1918.  The lowest point of Chaytor's military career occurred after hostilities had ended, when some New Zealand troops committed a massacre of Arab villagers at Surafend, in retaliation for the murder of one of their mates.

On his return to New Zealand in 1919, Chaytor was appointed General Officer Commanding (GOC) New Zealand Military Forces.  It was a difficult time to command, as he had to oversee a major reorganisation of the Army, there were new budget constraints, and the country was gripped by war-weariness.

In 1922 Chaytor oversaw preparations for the dispatch of a force of some 7,000 men during the Chanak crisis, although this ended up being suspended.

In 1924 after a relatively short, but exceptionally successful, career as a professional soldier Chaytor chose to retire.  He sailed for England and lived with his family until his death at South Kensington in London on 15 June 1939.  Louisa Chaytor died in 1948.

Contributed by Mike Smith (e-mail)

Around one million Indian troops served in WW1, of which some 100,000 were either killed or wounded.

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