Who's Who - Godfrey Irving

Godfrey George Howy Irving (1867-1937) served with Australian forces during the First World War, including a period as temporary command of 5th Division.

Born on 25 August 1867 at the University of Melbourne - Irving was the son of Professor Martin Irving - he was educated at Hawthorn Grammar school prior to taking up employment with the Melbourne firm of McCulloch, Sellar & Co. in 1886.

One year earlier, in 1885, Irving enlisted with the 2nd Battalion, Victoria Rifles.  A Lieutenant's commission followed two years later and in 1891 he became a Captain with the Victorian Permanent Forces.  He subsequently served as an Adjutant attached to no fewer than five battalions - 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

March 1900 brought Irving an appointment to the Victorian Rangers, once more as Adjutant.  Four months later he was at last promoted to Major.  Two years after his initial appointment to the Victorian Rangers, in March 1902, he was appointed to its staff based in Melbourne.

Having volunteered to serve in the South African War of 1899-1902 Irving left Melbourne in May 1902 in command of 6th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse.  He was given the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Alas for Irving he had left it too late.  Within four days of his arrival he was faced with the prospect of a rapid return - the war was over.  Disappointed, Irving returned to his former duties with the Victorian Rangers staff in Melbourne.

The following year, in November, Irving was transferred to the Army's HQ staff.  During 1905-06 he received training in England and India.  From March 1906 he served with the Administrative and Instructional Staff in New South Wales, and in September 1909 he was made commandant of the 5th Military District in Western Australia.  Within three months he had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel; and promotion to Colonel followed in May 1911.

With the outbreak of the First World War Irving was handed an appointment in late May 1915 as Chief of the General Staff with responsibility for administering the expansion of Australia's military training facilities.  In time 2nd Division would emerge from such training.

In November 1915 Irving was despatched by the Australian government to re-organise training arrangements in Egypt, which were regarded as unsatisfactory, replacing Colonel Sellheim as local commanding officer.  In the event the appointment was unnecessary with the despatch of Australian troops to the Gallipoli peninsular with William Birdwood for the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign led by Sir Ian Hamilton.

Irving's appointment was consequently amended to give him responsibility for Australian reinforcements in Egypt.  In the event Irving found he had little to do, reporting Sellheim's work, praising rather than censoring Sellheim.  With the latter re-instated as base commander Irving was placed at the head of 15th Infantry Brigade on 21 February 1916, but was quickly moved to command of 14th Infantry Brigade just a week later, along with an acting command (until 22 March) over 5th Division.

Posted to the Suez Canal to replace 1st and 2nd Division (posted to France), the Australian 4th and 5th Divisions set off on 27 March 1916, marching in difficult conditions, not least due to inadequate clothing and high temperatures.  Nevertheless Irving pressed on, minimising stops for breaks and water, with the result that many men dropped from exhaustion and lack of water.

Eventually arriving at camp in Moascar the troops were reviewed the following day by the Prince of Wales, during which protests were made against Irving.  This led the new commander of 5th Division, General McCay, to investigate Irving's preparations for the march, which he decided were insufficient.  Irving was consequently relieved of command on 1 May 1916.

Returning to Australia in disgrace Irving returned to his former post as commandant of the 4th Military District.  The following February he was transferred to the same role in the 1st Military district (in Queensland).

Following the armistice Irving was appointed Deputy Quartermaster General at Army HQ in 1921.  Unattached from 1922 he was promoted Major General upon his retirement in November 1925.

Irving died on 11 December 1937 aged 70.

A Greyback was a British Army shirt.

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