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Henry Oswald Oliver


Serial No:
Serial No. 6856

1st Light Horse Brigade Headquarters, 19th Battalion & 35th Battalion


Henry Oswald Oliver - Information

Henry Oswald Oliver, known as Harry, was born on the 3rd of December 1877 in Sheffield, Yorkshire in England. He went to school at Peckham Rye and then attended Veterinary College in Glasgow, becoming a Veterinary Surgeon. He had served in the British military during the Zulu Rebellion and the Boer War. When he was around 26 years old, he immigrated to Australia. He eventually resided at 48 Arthur St in North Sydney, and enlisted in the AIF when war broke out in 1914. Harry was appointed Captain and made Veterinary Officer with the 1st Light Horse. He was shipped out for war service on the 20th of October 1914 on the HMAT Star of Victoria from Sydney.

Harry arrived in Egypt, and was posted to the 1st Light Horse Brigade Headquarters. While serving at Heliopolis, Harry took care of the horses, mules and camels. However, he suffered an accident on the 15th of October 1915, when he was thrown from a horse and fell onto his head. After this, he started drinking heavily. In late April 1916, he was attached for duty with the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment at Tel-el-Kebir Camp. However, by the start of June, he was admitted to the 2nd Australian Stationary Hospital with alcoholism. At the time, he had trouble speaking and was experiencing visual delusions. Consequently, he was invalided back to Australia on the 3rd of August with alcoholism and delirium, and his appointment was terminated in early September. When he returned home, Harry resided at Sugarloaf in Campbelltown. He then decided to re-enlist in the AIF, travelling to Sydney to sign up on the 29th of March 1917, aged 40. He trained at the Royal Showground Camp, and was assigned to the 20th Reinforcements, 19th Battalion as a Private. He then embarked Sydney on the HMAT Port Melbourne on the 16th of July 1917.

Harry landed in Liverpool, England in mid September and was marched out to the 45th Training Battalion in Rollestone. On the 17th of September, he was promoted to Acting Corporal. Before going to France, he reverted to Private in mid January 1918, and a week later, was transferred to the 35th Battalion. 1918 was the worst year of the war, a major German offensive broke the stalemate, causing an Allied retreat, and casualties rose exponentially. The Australian Corps was rushed into the gaps to check the advance. On the 5th of April, Harry was reported missing in action. However, he had actually been captured by the Germans at Villers-Bretonneux after he was wounded by a shell explosion. Shell fragments had penetrated his penis, scrotum and right forearm. His injuries were severe, requiring an operation at a German Dressing Station. At this time, an inquiry into Harry's whereabouts was conducted by the AIF. Unfortunately, due to the confusion on the battlefield, mistaken reports stipulated that Harry was killed when the ambulance he was thought to be transported in, was hit by an artillery shell. As a result, his mother and other family members in Essex, England were informed that he was most likely killed by the explosion in April 1918. Alas, Harry was still alive and later interred at a camp in Konigsbruck, Saxony in Germany. He wrote a letter to his family in late June, but sadly they never received it. He stated that he was doing well, and was being treated kindly in hospital. However, he was not very well at all. His arm was acutely infected and required amputation. At the time, he was also suffering with dysentery and was too weak to cope with the operation. Sorrowfully, while he was being treated at the 2nd Casualty Clearing Station in No. 2 Camp in Munster, he died on the 20th of August 1918. He was buried on the 24th of August in the Allies Prisoner of War Cemetery near Munster City in Germany. Unfortunately, it was not until after he died, that his family was informed that he was not killed in April but after he became a prisoner of war. This would have been quite a shock for them, because they could have had the opportunity to say goodbye. After the war, his body was exhumed and re-interred at the Cologne Southern Cemetery in Germany.