Thursday, May 9, 2013

Major Selwyn Chambers - Havelock North Memorial


Major Selwyn Chambers was the eldest son of Thomas and Margaret Chambers.  The Chambers family were well known sheep farmers in the Havelock North area.  Major Chambers was an active and popular member of the community being Chairman of the Hawkes Bay Farmers Union and serving as a Major in the Territorials.  In December 1910 he married Violet Hall and in February 1913 they had a son Russell.

At the outbreak of war he quickly enlisted and embarked with the Wellington Mounted Rifles on 16 October 1914 as part of the Main Body.   In Gallipoli on 29 May 1915, Major Selwyn was the commanding officer of 98 men from the Wellington East Coast Squadron.  Together they held off the continuous attack from the Turks for 28 hours whilst defending No.3 Outpost.  Below is an extract from the 'Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919' .

The determination and self-possession of Major Selwyn Chambers, who commanded the post, are beyond all praise and it is safe to say that his confident and inspiring manner throughout the operations greatly influenced his men and contributed largely to the successful defence. 

During the attack on Chunuk Bair in August 1915 Major Chambers was killed shortly after dawn on 7 August 1915.   A bullet hit him in the throat and he bled to death. Below is another extract from the 'Official War History of the Wellington Mounted Rifles Regiment 1914-1919'.

The loss of this gallant soldier was keenly felt by the whole Regiment, the men of which had recognised in him one of nature's gentlemen, whose kindly disposition, honesty of purpose, and conscientious principles had endeared him to all with whom he came in contact. When aroused in battle, the soldierly qualities of this officer would assert themselves to such an extent that they reflected throughout his command. This characteristic was demonstrated in the defence of Old No. 3 Post, now known to the Regiment as "Chambers' Post," in recognition of his splendid services in holding it against heavy odds on 29th-30th May.
I found a touching report whilst searching in 'Papers Past' mentioning the death of Trooper Nigel Mclean who was a cousin of Major Chambers and who is also remembered on the Havelock North Memorial.  The report notes that Trooper Mclean   "... built a simple cross over the grave of the Major who was laid to rest on a hill which he, with others had held through hours of fierce and terrible strain and which now is called Chambers' Crest in memory of his gallant stand."

Sadly Major Chambers body  was never recovered and he is remembered on the Chunuk Bair (New Zealand) Memorial.
In Terry Kinloch's  book 'Echoes of Gallipoli, in the words of New Zealand's Mounted Riflemen' there are several mentions of Major Chambers and a couple of photographs.

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