Thursday, September 06, 2007

Frank Oliver - six days a soldier

Frank Oliver’s First World War service lasted precisely six days.  This may explain why the Reverend Jellicoe omitted to mention him in his monthly roll call of serving men.  Nevertheless, he volunteered to serve his King and Country and so is remembered here. 

Frank enlisted in London with a labour battalion of the Royal Engineers.  It was 17th September 1915 and he was 41 years old.  His surviving service record comprising two scans of his attestation papers note that he was 41 years old and previously served seven years with the 3rd Royal Sussex Regiment.  His home address is noted as Chailey and his occupation as navvy.  At the top of the facing page, somebody has scribbled, “Pioneer pay 3/ per day”. 

Frank was a single man when he enlisted.  His next of kin is noted as Mrs Mercy Oliver (sister) of Brickyard Cottages, Hamsey nr Lewes.  
That’s really all that there is to tell from the surviving information at the National Archives.  Frank was discharged on 22nd October 1915 as “not likely to become an efficient soldier”.   

I think it possible that Frank Oliver was the uncle of Private John Oliver who was killed in action at Loos three days after Frank was discharged from the Royal Engineers.  The 1881 census notes a five year old Frank Oliver and six brothers (one of these, Henry J Oliver), living at the home of William and Elizabeth Barnett at 6 Hicks Cottages, Chailey.  All seven boys are noted as son-in-laws of William Barnett, yet all are also noted as unmarried.  To add to the Oliver conundrum, Henry John would not marry Mercy Mitchell until 1885. 
Nevertheless, I believe that the Mercy Oliver mentioned on Frank Oliver’s attestation paper is possibly his sister-in-law rather than sister but I would be happy to have this either proved or disproved.

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