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Godfrey Irving

Godfrey George Howy Irving

Place of death: Melbourne, Victoria
Allegiance: Australian Army
Years of service: 1885-1925
Rank: Major General
Battles/wars: World War I
Relations: Sybil Irving (daughter)

Major General Godfrey George Howy Irving (25 August 1867 - 11 December 1937) was an Australian Army Major General in World War I.

Early life and career

Godfrey George Howy Irving was born on 25 August 1867 at the University of Melbourne, the son of Professor Martin Howy Irving. He was educated at Hawthorn Grammar School.

While still at school, Irving enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, Victorian Rifles in 1885. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the 2nd battalion in 1887 and in 1891 joined the Victorian Permanent Forces as a captain. Over the next nine years he was adjutant of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions. In March 1900 he became adjutant of the Victorian Rangers and was promoted to major in July 1900. In March 1902 he was appointed to the Victorian Headquarters staff in Melbourne.

Irving volunteered for service in South Africa and embarked in May 1902 as commander of the 6th Battalion, Australian Commonwealth Horse, with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel. Irving and his battalion arrived in Natal, but were immediately ordered to return to Australia due to the end of the war. Irving returned to Australia and resumed duty on the Victorian staff. In November 1903, he was transferred to the Army Headquarters staff.

Irving was sent to England and India for training in 1905, returning in early January 1906. In March 1906 he was posted to the Administrative and Instructional Staff in New South Wales. In September 1909 he became commandant of the 5th Military District (Western Australia). He was promoted to temporary colonel in January 1911 and substantive colonel on 1 May 1915. In July 1914, he moved to South Australia to become Commandant of the 4th Military District (South Australia).

World War I

On 24 May 1915, Irving was appointed Chief of the General Staff, replacing Legge who had been appointed. His chief responsibility was overseeing the expansion of the training establishment in Australia to provide reinforcements for the First Australian Imperial Force units overseas and raising and training what would become the 2nd Division.

By late 1915, the General Staff and the Minister of Defence, Hon. Senator George Pearce, had become concerned by the way that the Australian Intermediate Base and the AIF training depot in Egypt were being run. Lacking confidence in the base commander, Colonel V. Sellheim, Pearce ordered Irving, an officer he regarded as more capable than Sellheim, to take charge of the base in November 1915 as GOC Australian Troops in Egypt.

The evacuation of Gallipoli lead to Irving not taking command of the Australian Intermediate Base and the AIF training depot, he was instead given command of the 15th Infantry Brigade on 21 February 1916. On 1 March 1916, he was switched to command of the 14th Infantry Brigade. He was also acting commander of the 5th Division from 1 March until the arrival of Major General McCay. On 20 March, the 4th and 5th Divisions were ordered to move from their training area at Tel el Kebir to the Suez Canal, where they would replace the 1st and 2nd Divisions, which had recently left for France.

Irving returned him to Australia in June and once again became Commandant of the 4th Military District (South Australia).In February 1917, he became Commandant of the 1st Military District (Queensland).

Post war

In May 1921 he was appointed Deputy Quartermaster General at Army Headquarters in Melbourne. He was placed on the unattached list in 1922 and made a major general on retirement in November 1925.

Irving died in Melbourne on 11 December 1937 and was buried in Boroondara Cemetery. His son Ronald Godfrey Howy Irving graduated from Royal Military College, Duntroon in 1919 and reached the rank of brigadier, while a daughter, Colonel Sybil Howy Irving, was founder and Controller of the Australian Women's Army Service during World War II.

List of Australian Generals

Ross Mallett, Godfrey George Howy Irving, General Officers of the First AIF, adfa.edu.au
C. D. Coulthard-Clark, 'Irving, Godfrey George Howy (1867 - 1937)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 441-442.

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