Major-General Sir Trevor Chute KCB, 31 July 1816 – 12 March 1886 (age 69), was an Irish soldier in the British army, whose six week campaign during the Second Taranaki War was the last to be carried out in New Zealand by imperial troops.
Britain & India
Chute entered the British army in 1832, serving first in the Ceylon Rifles and then in the 70th (Surrey) Regiment. By 1847 he had been promoted to Major, performing duty in Ireland in 1848 before being transferred with the 70th regiment to India in 1849. In India Chute was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding the regiment at Peshawar. He was promoted to Colonel in 1854, and organized flying columns for pacification purposes during the Indian mutiny of 1857–1858.
New Zealand & Australia
In 1861 Chute and his regiment arrived in New Zealand, where they helped construct the military road from Drury to the Waikato River. During this time he presided over a court of inquiry into the conduct of the ‘battle’ of Waireka. In March 1863 he was promoted to Brigadier-General commanding the troops stationed in Australia. Returning to New Zealand as a Major-General in 1865, he replaced Duncan Cameron as head of the British forces while also retaining his Australian command.
Although Governor George Grey had proclaimed peace in Taranaki, conflict in the Second Taranaki War flared up again in 1865 after troops sent by Chute to convey the terms to west coast Māori were killed, and a supply convoy was attacked in the Hawera district on 4 October. Chute led a 620-strong force across South and Central Taranaki, from Wanganui to New Plymouth, destroying approximately twenty villages between the Waitotara River and Mount Taranaki/Egmont. His expedition, although effective, has been described by biographer David Green in terms that portray an unsophisticated, ruthless and undiscerning leader. The 9-day “forest march” of January 1866, a journey across the eastern base of Mount Taranaki/Egmont which usually took two or three days, almost resulted in disaster. The use of pack-horses meant that many of the 'twenty-one rivers and ninety gullies' to be crossed required bridging – a feat for which his force was not prepared, and which had to be carried out amidst incessant rainfall.
Following the campaign, British troops were gradually withdrawn from New Zealand, and in 1867 Chute moved with his headquarters to Melbourne, Australia. That same year he was created KCB, and on 9 July 1868, he married Ellen Browning. While in Australia he helped foster the volunteer movement and oversaw the attenuation of British garrisons there.
In October 1870 Chute followed the last imperial troops stationed in Victoria back to England, where he was appointed colonel of the 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment. He was made a full general in 1877, and was placed on the retired list in 1881.
David Green describes “General Chute” as follows;
- “Chute was 'a short-legged man, with a shaggy, square, masculine head and powerful body. He walked deliberately, carrying his head a little to either side, and no man could precisely foretell his temper from day to day'. His nickname, 'The Kerry Bull', derived from both his general appearance and a resonant voice, which was fully exploited on the parade ground. His direct, unscientific approach to soldiering endeared him to his troops, but in New Zealand left him 'lonely as a moulting crow in the midst of his predecessor's brilliant staff'.”
- Green, David. 'Chute, Trevor 1816 - 1886'. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 7 April 2006