Lance Corporal 16667 William Oliver

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Photograph courtesy of Lawson Hunt. Further photograph at bottom of page.

Died of Wounds Salonika on Thursday, 26th April 1917, age 27.
Buried in Grave A. 57. at Sarigol Military Cemetery, Kriston, Greece.

11th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 78th Brigade of 26th Division.

Husband of Mary Jane Oliver, of 63, Regent St., Woodsetton, Dudley, Staffs.
Born: Dudley, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Swan Village, Woodsetton.

First landed France & Flanders, 22nd September 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Woodsetton Memorial.
Commemorated here because his death was reported in the Tipton Herald.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/332034/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
5 Hurst Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
William Oliver (43 Stationary Engine Driver, born Dudley), his wife Mary (44, born Dudley), and their 5 children: John (20, Packer of Iron Sheets, born Barrow), Sarah (14, Domestic Servant, born Dudley), William (12, born Dudley), Alfred (9, born Tipton), Thomas (6, born Tipton).

1911 Census
House in fields off Hurst Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
William Oliver (52, Electric Crane Driver, born Dudley) and his wife Mary (54, born Dudley), and 2 of their 5 surviving children of 8: William (22, Chain Tester, born Dudley), and Thomas (16, Slipper Boy on Great Western Railways, born Tipton).

Marriage of William Oliver and Mary Jane Langford registered December quarter 1914 in Dudley. The birth of their daughter Lillian M. Oliver was registered December quarter 1915 in Dudley.

Personal Data

From Soldier's Small book, loaned by a relative.
William enlisted on 4th September 1914 in Dudley, he gave his age as 26 years and 31 days (actually 25 years and 31 days). He was 5 feet 10 inches tall, had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. He had a tattoo on his left forearm, and a scar at the back of his right ear. He was born in Dudley, was a Wesleyan, and gave his occupation as 'Tester', a 1917 Tipton Herald article reported him as a chain tester at Lloyds Proving House, Tipton.

Was this man really a Tipton man? The Tipton Herald article of 9th June 1917 shows his address as Regent Street, Tipton, as does the Roll of Honour entry for the same day. He gave his 'Last Permanent Residence' as 120 Five Ways, Tipton, but then states his next of kin is his wife at 63 Regent Street, Swan Village, Woodsetton, nr Dudley. His other next of kin was his father whose address is given as 120 Five Ways, Tipton - was William thinking previous address? It seems that William was born in Dudley, had lived in Tipton, but was probably resident in Woodseton. Never mind, he is welcome on this Tipton website.

A sad aspect of this tale is that William's daughter Lillian was born in late 1915 just after he had left for France and then Salonika, and father and daughter never saw each other. Lillian lived a long life, and died in 2014 aged 99 years.

Action resulting in his death

The 11th Worcesters landed in France in September 1915, but moved to Salonika just 2 months later. During 1916 they saw relatively little action, just the Battle of Horseshoe Hill in August, however the summer conditions were unpleasant resulting in a great deal of sickness. The severe winter of 1916-17 meant that the opposing troops just held their postitions, and it was March 1917 before the British troops began training for the first planned assault of the year which was to become the First Battle of Doiran, on 24th and 25th April 1917.

The Worcesters were to attack the entrenched Bulgarians who were at the top of Spur O.6. above the Jumeaux Ravine. They first had to rush down the steep slope into the ravine, and then up the other side to engage the enemy. The advance began at 9.45pm, and the Bulgarians turned on 3 searchlights illuminating the ravine and their devastating artillery bombardment began. Despite the bombardment, and machine-gun and rifle fire, the Worcesters fought their way up the ravine and took the Bulgarian position on Spur O.6. plus an adjacent redoubt.

The Bulgarian trench-mortars and artillery pounded the newly-taken positions, and a series of counter-attacks were repulsed by the Worcesters at grave cost. At 3.00am a final counter-attack was repulsed, but the Bulgarians were pushing in from both sides reducing the length of trench that the Worcesters were holding, whilst bombs and bullets were in short supply. At 4.00am the order was given to retire back across the ravine to their starting positions, and reached these lines as dawn was breaking.

The 11th Worcesters had 5 Officers and almost 100 Other Ranks killed from the 23rd to 25th April, with a small number dying from their wounds on subsequent days. William Oliver was wounded, probably on the 23rd or 24th April, the family story is that William's arm was blown off. He died from his wounds on 26th April and is buried in Sarigol Military Cemetery.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 19th May 1917
L/C. W. Oliver 11th Bn Worcestershire Regiment is officially reported killed in action.

Tipton Herald May 26th 1917
When Lord Kitchener asked for volunteers for his Army, among the first to enrol was Lance-Corporal William Oliver (No. 16667 11th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment). Enlisting on the 5th September 1914, he died from wounds received in action on April 26th 1917, after seeing fighting in France and then Salonica, where he met his fate. Always of a cheeful disposition, his letters invariably spoke of himself and everyone "being in the pink," adding "Thank the Lord for it."
Prior to the war he worked at the Lloyds British Testing Company, Tipton. Born in August 1889, he was only 27 years of age. He had always been highly respected, and it's a surety that he lay down his life for home, King and Country. He leaves a wife and child, mother, father, brothers and sisters to mourn his loss. He stood over 6 feet in height.

Tipton Herald June 9th 1917
Corporal William Oliver of Regent Street, Tipton, is another soldier to be added to the great roll of honour. He belonged to the 11th Worcestershire Regiment. When war broke out and Lord Kitchener asked for volunteers for his Army, he was one of the first to enrol. After being in engagements in France, he was drafted to Salonica, where he died from wounds received in action on April 26th last. Always of a cheeful disposition, he was respected by all who knew him. When writing home he always said "he was in the pink," and "Thank the Lord for it." Previous to the war he worked at the Lloyds Proving House, Tipton. He leaves a wife and child, mother, father, brothers and sisters to mourn his loss.
OLIVER. - On the 26th April 1917, died of wounds at Salonica, William Oliver, Regent Street, Tipton. Deeply mourned by his wife and mother, father, sisters and brothers.

Tipton Herald May 4th 1918
OLIVER. In loving memory of Lance-Corporal Will Oliver, who died from wounds received in action in Salonica, April 26th 1917. Always remembered by his mother, father, sisters and brothers.
"His loving smile, his cheerful face,
No one on earth can fill his place.
God called him from us and left us here
To mourn for one we loved so dear."

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