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OLIVER, David Houston MM (1895-1977)

OLIVER, David Houston MM (1895-1977)

David Houston Oliver was born at Yarrawonga on 10 October 1895, the son of Harry Glen Oliver and Annie nee Ferris. He was educated at Geelong College from 24 April 1911 to December 1912 as a day student.

During World War I he enlisted (No 10322) in the 10th Field Company Engineers, AIF on 16 February 1916 at Yarrawonga, and embarked for France on HMAT A54 Runic on 20 June 1916, where he was awarded the Military Medal, gazetted 28 January 1918. He was wounded in France on 28 March 1918, by a gunshot wound to the thigh, and evacuated to 3rd Southern General Hospital, Oxford, on 1 April. He attained the rank of Lance Corporal.

Part of a letter he wrote is quoted in Pegasus of May 1918:
'I am returning your New Year’s card to you, as a casualty, for it sustained a couple of shell wounds while engaged in the defence of Amiens. In conjunction with my pocket-book, it saved my right lung from perforations which, though small, may have been troublesome. I thank you very much for that card; you might have your next lot printed on steel. Mericourt, on the River Ancre, was the scene of the accident, in consequence of which I am now enjoying the English spring. If I had thought of it, I should have murmured ‘Sic Itur Ad Astra’, as I rose in the air as the shell burst.'

The unit history, In The Field 1916-1918, told of the time of his wounding:
'With a day's rest in the Heuringhom area the company entrained at St Omer on the 26th March, moving from billets just after dawn. It was a long tedious trip down to Doullens via St Pol. From here the unit marched to Thieves to embus, the transport taking a different route. It was a bitterly cold trip, with only one meal since early morning the day previously. A wait here was made to pick up some of the battalions of the 10th Brigade, which were following hard on the heels of the 11th Brigade ahead. Once in the buses and moving many tried to get a few minutes' sleep, but the jolting of the vehicles and the sights seen on the road drove sleep from the minds of most of us. Heretofore we had occupied areas of settled conditions, those of trench warfare, where the ground had long ago been devastated, and the houses destroyed by shell fire, where some of the villages still remained comparatively untouched, and civilians still went about their daily tasks of ploughing, reaping, and all the hundred-and-one tasks of the farmer's daily life.

But here was something different. For the first time the company were brought into contact with the true meaning of war and its horrors. Old men and boys, old women
and girls, toddling infants, together with their cows and goats, were streaming back along the roads. Waggons piled high with furniture and the family chattels crawled
painfully along, and the sorrow and grief depicted brought home to us more clearly than ever the printed word can do the true horrors of war. Supply wagons, remnants of labour companies, and all the strays of an army hard pushed were on the road. Some whippet tanks moving on a ridge to the east, with stray batteries firing from woods and
gullies on the left of the road, helped to form a picture sufficiently stirring to preclude all ideas of sleep. Rurming through Contay the company was brought to Franvillers in the forenoon, and immediately settled into billets for the night, reconnaissance parties getting into touch with the 10th Brigade.'

He returned to Australia, embarking on 9 March 1919 on HMT Kashmir.

David Oliver died on 27 May 1977.

Sources: Based on an edited extract from Geelong Collegians at the Great War compiled by James Affleck. p 279 (citing Pegasus; National Archives).
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