Major General Edwin Tivey

19 September 1866 - 19 May 1947

ART00196 Coates, George, Major General Edwin Tivey (1919), oil on canvas, 76.5 x 63.5 cm, AWM copyright

Edwin Tivey was born in Inglewood, Victoria, on 19 September 1866, the son of a storekeeper. He was educated at All Saints Grammar, St Kilda and Wesley College, Melbourne. Afterwards he returned to Inglewood to become an accountant. There he was elected to the Inglewood Borough Council in 1894, serving for five years. In 1899 he became founder and first president of the local branch of the Australian Natives Association. In 1903 he became a member of the Melbourne Stock Exchange.

Tivey was commissioned in the Victorian Rangers as a lieutenant in 1889 and promoted to captain in 1891. In May 1900 Tivey volunteered for service in South Africa and joined the Victorian 4th Imperial Continent as a captain. Tivey served widely in South Africa. On 11 February 1901 he led a force of forty troops on a forced march to Phillipstown, driving back over 300 Boers, occupying the adjacent kopjes and holding them until reinforcements arrived. For this exploit he was mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO).

Returning to Australia, Tivey became a captain in the 9th Light Horse Regiment. He became brigade major of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade in 1906 and then its commander in 1911 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. On 1 January 1915, he was promoted to full colonel and took command of the 5th Light Horse Brigade.

Tivey was appointed to the AIF on 22 July 1915 with the rank of colonel, commanding the newly formed 8th Infantry Brigade, which he personally helped to recruit. Tivey sailed from Melbourne for Egypt with his brigade on 10 November 1915 Egypt in December 1915, arriving on 7 December 1915. The brigade was equipped from British sources and sent to the Central (No. 2) Section of the Suez Canal defences, around Ismalia, there being some danger at the time that the Turks would exploit their victory at Gallipoli with an attack on the Suez Canal. On 3 February 1916, Tivey was made a temporary brigadier general.

When the 5th Division was formed in February 1916, the 8th Infantry Brigade was incorporated into it. In March 1916, the 4th and 5th Divisions began moving to the Suez Canal to relieve the 1st and 2nd Divisions, which were leaving for France. In each case the "old" brigades -- the 4th and 8th, which had existed before the 1916 reorganisation -- were chosen to move first. Time being short, the 8th Brigade and the 16th Battalion went ahead by train. The rest of the infantry of the two divisions proceeded on foot, marching across the scorching desert for three days, an experience which led to Brigadier General G. G. H. Irving being relieved of his command. Henceforth the men of the 8th Brigade became known as "Tivey's Chocs", "chocolate soldiers" being a term for soldiers that looked good but couldn't take the heat.

The 8th Brigade soon showed that this was false. Embarking from Alexandria on 16 June 1916, they arrived in Marseilles on 23 June 1916. The 8th Brigade suffered very heavy casualties at Fromelles in July 1916. The 32nd Battalion lost 718 men in one night; the 31st, 544. The battle was a total failure. For his part, Tivey was mentioned in dispatches on 13 November 1916. Tivey was wounded in action at Flers on 2 December 1916 but remained on duty. The brigade went on to capture Bapaume in March 1917. For the capture of Bapaume, Tivey was again mentioned in dispatches and made a Companion of the Bath (CB). The brigade fought at Bullecourt in May 1917 and Polygon Wood in September 1917, for which Tivey was again mentioned in dispatches. He was wounded again on 22 October 1917, this time more seriously in the arm, and was evacuated to England, returning to his brigade on 14 December 1917. On 8 August 1918, the 8th Brigade took 831 prisoners and 85 machine guns. They also captured the Amiens gun, a gigantic railway gun that is today in the War Memorial.

As the senior brigadier general in the division, Tivey served as acting commander of the 5th Division in the absence of Major General J. J. T. Hobbs no less than seven times in 1917 and 1918 and it was while acting as division commander at Villers-Bretonneux on 23 May 1918, Tivey was gassed. On 26 November 1918, Tivey became permanent commander of the 5th Division, replacing Hobbs who had been promoted to corps commander. He became temporary major general on 28 November 1918 and honorary major general on 10 May 1919. For his services, and the achievements of his men, on the Western Front, Tivey had been mentioned in dispatches twice during 1918 and again on 16 March 1919, bringing his total to six, and made a Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 1919 New Year's list.

Tivey returned to Australia in July 1919 where his appointment to the AIF was terminated on 16 February 1920. He commanded the 2nd Cavalry Division from 1921 to 1926 and was honorary colonel of the Victorian Mounted Rifles from 1928 and the 32nd Battalion from 1932. He died at his Toorak home on 19 May 1947 and was buried in Brighton Cemetery with full military honours.

Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1899-1939, Vol 12, p. 236; Personnel File, NAA

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Last update 02 March 2002