Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte A W Chivers
5th Battalion, Essex Regiment
Killed in action, 2.11.1917
Private Albert W(illiam) Chivers is a mystery. Apart from his meagre military records there is little concrete information about him. The nature of his connection to Weybridge is unclear; the death of Albert W. Chivers was recorded in St. James’ Church Parish Magazine of February 1918 and he is, of course, considered to be one of the ‘Men of Weybridge’ to be included on the War Memorial. He was born in Alton in Hampshire and his place of residence recorded on the listings of UK Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919 was West Horsley. Another Albert William Chivers , also born in Alton, in his case in 1895, a gardener’s labourer, enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment at West Byfleet on 15 October 1914 and was discharged on 12 March 1915 because of hearing problems. His place of residence was West Horsley. Could they be the same person? Could the discharged A W Chivers have re-joined at a later date?
Albert W. Chivers enlisted (date unknown) in Guildford and was assigned to the 5th Battalion, the Essex Regiment which in 1915 became part of the 161st Brigade in the 54th (E. Anglian) Division. They served at Gallipoli from August to December 1915 before spending the rest of the war in Egypt and Palestine. The Division was based in Egypt throughout 1916 and their responsibilities included the defence of the Suez Canal. In 1916 Albert and his comrades moved to Palestine which was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Controlling the coastal city of Gaza would open up the Mediterranean to the Royal Navy. Two unsuccessful battles of Gaza took place in March and April 1917, then a new commander, General Edmund Allenby was installed with the objective of taking Jerusalem by Christmas; however, Gaza had to be taken first.
Allenby was determined to prepare thoroughly: he moved his HQ to the front line; he gathered reinforcements until he had a total of 88,000 men who would be ranged against 35,000 Turks; water was brought forward and air superiority ensured. However, these measures alone would not ensure success, therefore he decided to make the main attack against Beersheba to the SE of Gaza which was lightly defended and where there were vital water supplies. This avoided a full frontal attack against Gaza, whilst fooling the Turks by keeping three divisions and heavy artillery before the city and carrying out a bombardment for six days followed by the attack on Beersheba which began on 31 October 1917. After a day’s fighting Beersheba fell.
Albert’s battalion was involved in the attack on Gaza which began during the night of 1-2 November. The 161st Brigade’s position was parallel with the coastline and they were to be involved in the attack on the SW defences of Gaza. The 5th Essex Battalion’s target was the Rafa Redoubt but in the haze and smoke of battle they lost direction (as did others) and attacked Zowaiid Trench instead. Albert was killed in action. Gaza was relinquished by the Turks over 6-7 November and Allenby’s forces went on to take Jerusalem on 9 December.
Albert is commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial in Jerusalem’s War Cemetery which is 4.5 km north of the walled city. The cemetery occupies land at the northern end of the Mount of Olives.
British Army WW1 pension Records, 1914-1920, www.ancestry.co.uk
St James’ Church, Weybridge, Parish Magazines, Surrey History Centre, 3204/12/44
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – 54th (E. Anglian) Division; The campaign in Egypt and Palestine, www.longlongtrail.co.uk
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919, www.ancestry.co.uk