|General Sir Neville Gerald Lyttelton
First Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Neville Gerald Lyttelton, born on October 28, 1845, at Hagley,
Worcestershire, was the third son of the eight sons of the fourth Lord
Lyttelton. He was educated at Gedington, near Kettering. In January
of 1858 he went to Eton, where in due course he became president of
“Pop” and Commandant of the Volunteer Corps. At the time, admission to
the Army was either through Sandhurst or by passing an open
examination in the general subjects. Lyttelton chose the later course,
and in May of 1864 passed out fifth out of about 180 applicants.
Having been gazetted in the Rifle Brigade, of which he eventually
became Colonel Commandant, as ensign in January, 1865, he went out
with his battalion, the 4th, to Canada, and took part in the Fenian Raid
operations of 1865, for which he received a medal. He then became A.D.
C. to Lord Spencer in his first Viceroyalty of Ireland (1868-1873).In
1873 he went to India and served in the Jowaki expedition, and was also
In 1880, when Mr. Gladstone, his uncle and Godfather, returned to
power, he was appointed private secretary to Mr. Childers, Secretary
of State for War. In August 1882, however, on the dispatch of the
Expeditionary Force to Egypt, he obtained the post of A.D.C. to Sir
John Adye, Lord Wolseley’s Chief of Staff, and so happened to be in
Tel-el-Kebir. After ten weeks absence he was back in London, having
been promoted Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel for his services, all
within the space of a few days.
When Sir John Adye was appointed Governor of Gibraltar in 1883, Colonel Lyttelton accompanied him as Military Secretary.
Two years afterwards he became Military Secretary to Lord Reay, who had been appointed Governor of Bombay. He remained
in India exactly five years, and returned to England in 1890, and was promoted in his regiment in November, 1892. He then
commanded his 2nd Battalion in Ireland. In December 1894, he was appointed A.A.G. at the War Office, and in October, 1897,
exchanged this post for that of Assistant Military Secretary, and was made a C.B. In July, 1998, when Lord Kitchener’s
expedition was nearing its objective, Khartoum, Lyttelton was once more sent abroad to take up an active command. On this
occasion, he was absent from his office for three months, during which period he commanded the 2nd (British) Brigade at the
battle of Omdurman, and received his promotion to Major General.
Then came the South African crisis, Sir Redvers Buller, in spite of his strong objections, was given the command, and Lyttelton,
who in September, 1889, was at Aldershot mobilizing the 2nd Brigade, was again sent on active service. On arriving in Natal,
owing to the reorganization of the Brigades, he was given the 4th Brigade of General Clery’s 2nd Division. At the unsuccessful
battle of Colenso the 4th Brigade was held in reserve, only moving up at the close of the action to cover the retirement. It was
employed in the operations at Trichardt’s and Potgieter’s Drifts, at Spion Kop, and at Vaal Krantz. In February, 1900, General
Clery was invalided and Lyttelton temporarily took over the command of the 2nd Division., leading it across the Tugela. In June
he was placed in charge of the operations in the North-Eastern Transvaal, and later still the Pretoria-Lydenburg Line of
communications which led to Delagoa Bay. He then commanded the 4th Division, and was in charge of the great De Wet hunt and
of the subsequent drive in the Orange Free State. He went home on leave from the middle of April, 1901, until September, when
he took over the Natal command and directed the operations on the Zululand Frontier. He returned to the Orange Free State
for the final operations against Botha.
When the Vereeniging negotiations finally resulted in peac and Lord Kitchener went home on his way to India, he handed over the
command of the troops in South Africa to General Lyttelton. For his services during the war he was promoted Lieutenant
General in 1901 and K.C.B. in 1902. For a year he remained employed in demobilizing the Forces in South Africa, until in 1903
his position was augmented to that of Commander in Chief.The choice for the first Chief of the new General Staff fell upon Sir
Neville Lyttelton, who thus became the first Military Member of the newly constituted Army Council, a post he held for four
years. It was rumoured that he accepted the office with reluctance. During this employment he was promoted to full General
and advanced to G.C.B.
Shortly after vacating the office of Commander in Chief of the General Staff, he was appointed Commander in Chief of the
Forces in Ireland and while there was sworn of the Privy Council and created G.C.V.O. He retired in August of 1912 and was
soon appointed Governor of Chelsea Hospital.Sir Neville married in 1883, Katharine, youngest daughter of the Right Honorable
James Stuart-Wortley, QC. They had three daughters. General Lyttleton died on July 5, 1931, at age 85.
Source: Times July 7, 1931.