The AIF Project

George William Douglas OLIVER

Regimental number2619
Place of birthBairnsdale, Victoria
SchoolState School, Swan Reach, and Technical School, Victoria
ReligionChurch of England
AddressBruthen, Victoria
Marital statusSingle
Age at embarkation28
Height5' 8.5"
Weight136 lbs
Next of kinFather, George Oliver, Bruthen, Victoria
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date28 April 1916
Place of enlistmentBrunswick, Victoria
Rank on enlistmentPrivate
Unit name59th Battalion, 6th Reinforcement
AWM Embarkation Roll number23/76/4
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Melbourne, Victoria, on board HMAT A71 Nestor on 2 October 1916
Rank from Nominal RollLance Corporal
Unit from Nominal Roll59th Battalion
FateKilled in Action 4 July 1918
Place of death or woundingMorlancourt, France
Age at death30
Age at death from cemetery records30
Place of burialNo known grave
Commemoration detailsAustralian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, France

Villers-Bretonneux is a village about 15 km east of Amiens. The Memorial stands on the high ground ('Hill 104') behind the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, which is about 2 km north of Villers-Bretonneux on the east side of the road to Fouilloy.

The Australian National Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux is approached through the Military Cemetery, at the end of which is an open grass lawn which leads into a three-sided court. The two pavilions on the left and right are linked by the north and south walls to the back (east) wall, from which rises the focal point of the Memorial, a 105 foot tall tower, of fine ashlar. A staircase leads to an observation platform, 64 feet above the ground, from which further staircases lead to an observation room. This room contains a circular stone tablet with bronze pointers indicating the Somme villages whose names have become synonymous with battles of the Great War; other battle fields in France and Belgium in which Australians fought; and far beyond, Gallipoli and Canberra.

On the three walls, which are faced with Portland stone, are the names of 10,885 Australians who were killed in France and who have no known grave. The 'blocking course' above them bears the names of the Australian Battle Honours.

After the war an appeal in Australia raised £22,700, of which £12,500 came from Victorian school children, with the request that the majority of the funds be used to build a new school in Villers-Bretonneux. The boys' school opened in May 1927, and contains an inscription stating that the school was the gift of Victorian schoolchildren, twelve hundred of whose fathers are buried in the Villers-Bretonneux cemetery, with the names of many more recorded on the Memorial. Villers-Bretonneux is now twinned with Robinvale, Victoria, which has in its main square a memorial to the links between the two towns.

Panel number, Roll of Honour,
  Australian War Memorial
Miscellaneous information from
  cemetery records
Parents: George and Elizabeth OLIVER, Bruthen, Victoria
Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Melbourne, 2 October 1916; disembarked Plymouth, 16 November 1916; marched into 15th Training Bn, Hurdcott, 16 November 1916, and reverts to the ranks of Private the same day.

Promoted Acting Corporal (extra duty pay), 5 December 1916.

Proceeded overseas to France, 30 December 1916; marched into 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot, Etaples, 31 December 1916, and reverts to the rank of Private the same day.

Admitted to No 18 General Hospital, Camiers, 9 January 1917 (mumps); discharged, 30 January 1917, and marched into 5th Australian Divisional Base Depot, Etaples, the same day.

Proceeded to unit, 24 February 1917; taken on strength of 59th Bn, in the field, 26 February 1917.

Promoted Lance Corporal, 7 October 1917.

On Command at 1st Anzac Corps Bombing School, 15 November 1917; rejoined unit, 7 December 1917.

On leave to Paris, 23 January 1918; rejoined unit, 8 February 1918.

On leave to United Kingdom, 9 February 1918; rejoined unit, 28 February 1918.

Found guilty, 1 March 1918, of while on active service, absenting himself without leave in that he overstayed his leave to the United Kingdom from 0730 hours, 24 February 1918, until 0730 hours, 26 February 1918: award, admonished, and total forfeiture of 3 days' pay.

Reverts to the rank of Private at own request, 1 March 1918.

Promoted Lance Corporal, 6 May 1918.

Killed in action, 4 July 1918.

Note on B.103: 'This N.C.O. was killed in action during operations in the vicinity of MARLANCOURT on 4th July 1918, the body was no recovered or buried by this Unit...'.

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal

Statement, Red Cross File No 2050212C, 3489 Pte J.A. ARTHUR, B Company, 59th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), 15 November 1918: 'He was a Corporal in "B" Company. I was alongside him and saw him killed by one of our bombs as we were going over the top at the right of Ville-sur-Ancre in the early morning about 4.30 a.m. I called out "are you all right George", but he could not answer me. We went on and took the position, that of the enemy front line trench and beyond and to the right of Ville-sur-Ancre. He was buried after, when they went back for his pay-book, etc., at Merricourt [sic] in A.I.F. cemetery there, where everything was in good order. I knew him well and he was a fine chap, being also rather a quiet sort. We often played cricket together in the Battalion.'

Second statement, 2574 Pte A. WILLIAMS, B Company, 59th Bn, 27 November 1918: 'He was in my Coy., we were in front of Morlancourt, 4th July after taking enemy front line. The next day I was a runner and saw the Stretcher Bearers bring his body back. I recognised it as I knew him well. I saw him buried at a small cemtery [sic] just behind Morlancourt, other bodies were put in same grave. No Cross was erected at that time.'

Third statement, 3115 Pte J. HILL, B Company, 59th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian Auxiliary Hospital, Dartford, England), 27 November 1918: 'He was in B. Coy., and was a L/Cpl. I did not see the Casualty and cannot give any details of same. I saw his grave in a Military Cemetery at Ribemont near the Railway Line and grave was marked by a Cross having full details marked thereon. He was missing for a few days but found his dead body in standing crop. Corporals Rule, W. and Rusden and Pte. Grenville, J.[,] all of B. Coy. are all buried in the same cemetery side by side, and graves are all marked.'

Fourth statement, 2427 Pte C.D. KRMPOTIC, 59th Bn, 8 August 1919: 'Casualty was at front line at Villers sur Ance [sic] and was on duty in the trench when a high explosive shell killed him instantly. I was fifty yards away at the time and saw his body lying in the trench. I do not know where he was buried.'

Fifth statement, D Company (late B Company), 59th Bn (patient, 3rd Australian General Hospital, Abbeville), 7 November 1918: 'I didn't actually see L/Cpl. George Oliver, of B. VII., killed at Villers-sur-Ancre by m.g. fire shortly after he hopped over, but we left the tape together at 3.15 a.m. and I was the last man he spoke to. He said "Come on, Gribbo." When we reached our objective he was missing and we didn't get the body (it was in a high crop) for two days. He was not much knocked about but must have been killed instantly soon after we started as the body was quite near the starting point. I saw the dead body. He was buried near where he fell.'

Medals: British War Medal, Victory Medal
SourcesNAA: B2455, OLIVER George William Douglas
Red Cross File No 2050212C

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