Guide to the papers of General (Sir) Henry George Chauvel



Title: Papers of General (Sir) Henry George Chauvel, GCMG, KCB

Date range of collection: 1891 - 1945

Collection number: PR00535

Extent: 4 boxes + 3 folios

Location: Private Records Collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.

Abstract: Papers relating to Chauvel's early military training, involvement in the Shearer's Strike of 1891 and his posting to South Africa with the First Queensland Contingent. Later correspondence with his family documents his enlistment with the AIF and active service in Gallipoli, Palestine, Beersheba and Damascus. Post-war papers cover Chauvel's return to military life in Australia after 1919 and letters forwarded to Lady Chauvel after his death in 1945.


Administrative information

Provenance: Donated by Mrs Elyne Mitchell in November 1994. Processing and collection guide completed March 2002

Access: Restricted. Donor permission required.

Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

Preferred citation: Papers of General, Sir Henry George Chauvel, AWM PR00535


Additional information

Related collections:

  • AWM 2DRL/0793, Papers relating to the Palestine campaign
  • AWM MSS1406, Annotated typescript autobiography of the military career of General Sir Chauvel
  • AWM 3DRL/2233, Correspondence between between A.J Godley and G.F. Pearce, Minister of Defence, 1914-1918
  • AWM PR89/128, Letters from Chauvel to Lieutenant T W White, 1932


  • 1 Light Horse Brigade
  • Quinn's Post Area
  • Nek (Gallipoli)
  • Suez Canal Zone
  • Gaza Area
  • Letters
  • Diaries


Biographical note

Henry G Chauvel was born at Tablulam in northern NSW in April 1865. He worked on his father's property after leaving school and in 1885 joined his father's voluntary cavalry unit, the Upper Clarence Light Horse.

In 1890 he enlisted with the Queensland Mounted Infantry and in 1896 the permanent army in Queensland. Chauvel first saw active service in the Boer War as a member of the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry. After the occupation of Pretoria, he commanded Chauvel's Mounted Infantry, an independent force of Queenslanders, British and Canadian Mounted Infantry and New Zealand Mounted Rifles.

After his return to Australia in 1902 Chauvel held a number of staff appointments in Queensland. With the outbreak of the First World War he was appointed by General Bridges to command the 1st Light Horse Brigade. After inspecting the proposed training site for Australian troops located at Salisbury Plain he reported that it would not be completed in time, influencing the final decision to train the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt.

On 12 May 1915 Chauvel landed at Gallipoli and took command of the sector around Pope's, Quinn's and Courtney's Posts which were subject to heavy counter-attacks by the Turkish forces. In December 1915 he was appointed GOC of the 1st Australian Division and was involved in the successful evacuation from Gallipoli. He was promoted to major-general in December and made CB the following month.

Chauvel refused offers to command one of the infantry divisions due to move to France and chose to stay in Egypt as GOC of the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division. During the following two and a half years, Chauvel's forces were involved in assaults that drove the Turkish army out of Sinai, Palestine and Syria. Chauvel was given command of the Desert Mounted Corp by the Allied Commander General Allenby. He was the first Australian to command a corp and on 31 October 1917, Chauvel's role was to attack Beersheeba and seize it's water supplies. The charge of the 4th and 12th Light Horse Regiment defeated the Turkish defences and produced a major blow to Turkish morale. Chauvel also played a role in the second battle of the Jordan, Megiddo and the Syrian campaign.

Chauvel returned to Australia in September 1919 with appointments to senior Australian army posts, including General Chief of Staff . He was promoted to general (again the first Australian to reach that rank) in November 1929 and retired in April 1930. For the next ten years he was active in returned servicemen's groups, In 1940, at 75 years of age, he was appointed Inspector-General of the Volunteer Defence Corp, a position he held until his death on 4 March 1945.


  • Grant, Ian , A Dictionary of Australian Military History Sydney, Random House Australia, 1992
  • D M Horner (ed) , The commanders: Australian military leadership in the twentieth century Sydney, George Allen and Unwin, 1984

  • Dennis Peter, Grey Jeffrey, Morris Ewan, Prior Robin, The Oxford Companion to Australian Military History Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1995

Scope and content note

The focus of the Chauvel collection lies in the numerous correspondence exchanged between himself, Lady Chauvel and other family members, including his mother and children. During the First World War, Chauvel wrote hundreds of letters to his wife describing life and conditions in Egypt, Gallipoli, Beersheeba, Jordon and Damascus. The correspondence is personal, informal and provides an informal insight into his experience of battle and military life. Two letters sent in December 1915 and January 1916 detail the Gallipoli evacuation. Letters to the rest of the family cover the years 1899 - 1945, with the earliest correspondence to his mother describing the war in South Africa where Chauvel served with the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry

There is very little correspondence or records relating to key military figures with whom Chauvel served in the Boer War and First World War. There are several letters to General Godwin and General Chetwode and a small number of letters sent from Birdwood, however this forms only a small part of the papers.

One of the highlights of the collection are the two leather bound, gold embossed 'War books' compiled by Lady Chauvel. These document Chauvel's military engagements during the First World War with photographs, maps, message notes and extracts from his own letters.


SERIES 1: Diaries and notebooks, 1889 - 1900

This series comprises a personal diary kept by Chauvel during a visit to England in 1889. The entries are brief, recording appointment and social events throughout the year. Also filed in this series is a notebook of station orders for the Queensland Mounted Infantry, South Africa in 1900.

Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
1/1 Diary, 1889; notebook 1

SERIES 2: Military correspondence, 1916 - 1929

This series comprises correspondence exchanged between Chauvel and a number of well-known military identities including General Philip Chetwode, Field Marshal Birdwood and General Godwin. The majority of letters written to Chauvel relate to his receiving the K.C.B in 1918.

Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
2/1 Correspondence, 1916 - 1929 1

SERIES 3: First World War Albums, 1914- 1919

Leather bound war books compiled by Lady Chauvel, containing extract copies from Chauvel's letters, chronologically arranged and captioned photographs, newscuttings, maps and field message notes.

Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
3/1 Egypt, Gallipoli, Sinai, 1914 - 1917 Oversize folio
3/2 Palestine, Syria, England, 1917 - 1919 Oversize folio

SERIES 4: Family correspondence, 1887 - 1937

A long series of letters exchanged between Chauvel and various family members.

Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
4/1 - 2 Letters to Lady Chauvel, 1906 - 1914 1
4/3 - 5 Letters to Lady Chauvel, 1914 - 1915, including correspondence from Egypt and Galliopoli 1
4/6 - 11 Letters to Lady Chauvel, 1916 - 1917 2
4/12 - 14 Letters to Lady Chauvel, 1918 2
4/15 Letters to Lady Chauvel, 1922 3
4/16 Correspondence with Chauvel's children, 1914 - 1934 3
4/17 - 20 Letters to his mother, 1905 - 1915 3
4/21 - 22 Letters to Lily Chauvel, 1914 - 1918 3
4/23 Letters to various family members, 1887 - 1937 4

SERIES 5: Correspondence of Lady Chauvel, 1906 - 1945

Letters from Lady Chauvel to various members of her extended family. Letters of condolence from the public after the death of Chauvel in March 1945.

Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
5/1 Letters from Lady Chauvel to Lily Chauvel; letters to Lady Chauvel various correspondents, including congratulations on her marriage, 1906 - 1936 4
5/2 Letters of condolence to Lady Chauvel after her husband's death, March 1945 4

SERIES 6: Miscellaneous papers, 1900-1917


Series /Item Title, date and description BOX
6/1 Newspaper cuttings menus, special orders, certificates and photographs, 1900 - 1917. 4
6/2 Map of Syria, scale 1:4,000,000. (oversize)