About William Eliot Peyton
General Sir William Eliot Peyton KCB KCVO DSO (7 May 1866 - 14 November 1931) was a British soldier, a general of the First World War who fought in several other wars.
He was Delhi Herald of Arms Extraordinary at the time of the Delhi Durbar of 1911.
The third son of Colonel John Peyton, commanding officer of the 7th Dragoon Guards, Peyton was educated at Brighton College.
In 1885, Peyton enlisted in the ranks in the 7th Dragoon Guards, a regiment which his father had commanded between 1871 and 1876. The explanation of this was his failure to pass the entrance examination of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Having risen to sergeant, Peyton was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 7th Dragoon Guards on 18 June 1887, and promoted lieutenant in 1890. He was appointed regimental adjutant in 1892. In 1896 he transferred to the 15th Hussars and was promoted captain.
He was seconded to the Egyptian Army and saw service with the Dongola Expeditionary Force in 1896, and was Mentioned in Despatches, then in the Sudan in 1897 and 1898, where he was dangerously wounded and his horse killed under him by a spear. In the Sudan he was again Mentioned in Despatches, and received the Distinguished Service Order. He was also awarded the Order of the Medjidieh, Fourth Class.
He fought next in South Africa, 1899–1900, where he served with Alexander Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, was promoted major and brevet lieutenant-colonel, again Mentioned in Despatches, and received the Queen's South Africa Medal with three clasps, but his service was cut short by illness and he was invalided back to England. He passed the Army's Staff College in December, 1901.
From 1903 until 1907 Peyton commanded the 15th Hussars, being granted the brevet rank of colonel in 1905. In 1907 he went to India to become Assistant Quartermaster-General, India, and, as a temporary brigadier-general, to command the Meerut Cavalry Brigade from 1908 to 1912. In India, he served as Delhi Herald of Arms Extraordinary at the Coronation Durbar held on 12 December 1911, and was made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO), and from July 1912 was Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, India.
He returned to England in 1914 on the outbreak of the First World War and took up a new post as chief of staff of the 1st Mounted Division Territorial Force. Promoted to major-general in 1914 (first as temporary promotion, from October as substantive rank), he commanded the 2nd Mounted Division TF on the Gallipoli Peninsula, seeing action on 21 August 1915 and taking part in the final evacuation of 19 December 1915. The division suffered severe casualties at Suvla. Peyton then commanded the Western Frontier Force in Egypt in 1916, leading an expedition against the Senussi and re-occupying Sidi Barrani and Sollum, again being Mentioned in Despatches. For rescuing the shipwrecked British prisoners of HMS Tara from Bir Hakkim (by a force of armoured cars led by Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster) he received the special thanks of the Admiralty and was again Mentioned in Despatches.
In May 1916, after success as a combat commander, Peyton was transferred to become Sir Douglas Haig’s Military Secretary in Flanders, remaining with Haig until March 1918. The post was at the heart of the operation of the management of appointments, promotions, removals, honours and awards of the British Expeditionary Force. He was knighted in 1917, being made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) when King George V visited the troops in the field.
In April and May 1918, Peyton nominally commanded the Fifth Army, but it had been defeated on The Somme in March 1918 and renamed the Fourth Army, so there was no Fifth Army, and the command was a reserve HQ at Cécy-en-Ponthieu. On 23 May, the Fifth Army was reconstituted and given to Sir William Birdwood, and for six weeks (as a temporary lieutenant-general) Peyton took command of X Corps, but his Corps was held back from the fighting. However, from 3 July 1918 until March 1919 he returned to active service as commander of the British Army's 40th Infantry Division during operations in France and Flanders, leading it through the Hundred Days advance through Flanders.
Peyton's feelings about his postings between May 1916 and July 1918 were expressed silently by his omitting any mention of them from his entry in Who's Who.
Peyton next returned to India, to command the United Province district and the 3rd Indian Division at Meerut between 1920 and 1922. He was promoted substantive lieutenant-general in 1921.
He was next posted as Military Secretary to the Secretary of State for War, from 1922 to 1926, and as Commander-in-Chief of the Scottish Command, 1926 to 1930. This was his last post before retirement in 1930, and in 1927 he was promoted general.
A member of the Army and Navy Club, he died there suddenly on 14 November 1931. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.
He was unusually tall, with a height of six feet, six inches.
On 27 April 1889, Peyton married Mabel Maria, daughter of late Lt-General the Hon. E. T. Gage CB, third son of Henry Gage, 4th Viscount Gage, and of Ella Henrietta Maxse, a granddaughter of the 5th Earl of Berkeley. With Mabel, he had one daughter, Ela Violet Ethel. After his wife's death in 1901, Peyton married again, in 1903, Gertrude, the daughter of Major-General A. R. Lempriere and the widow of Captain Stuart Robertson of the 14th Hussars. They had one son, and his second wife died in 1916.
In 1921, Peyton's daughter Ela married Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Edward Daymonde Stevenson KCVO (1895–1958) and she died in 1976, leaving one son. Peyton's son-in-law was Gentleman Usher of the Green Rod, 1953–1958, and Purse Bearer to the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, 1930-1958.