Harry William Oliver was born in Thame in 1889 and baptised at St Mary’s church on 25th July 1889. His parents were Amos Oliver and Elizabeth (nee Joiner) Oliver who had married at St Mary’s Church in July the previous year. They had four further children, Sydney Fred, Elise Maude, Albert James, and Emily May.
In 1911 the family were living at 12 Park Street, but Harry, age 21, was a fireman for the Hampstead electric light company, living with his uncle and aunt in West Hampstead, London.
He enlisted at Whitehall Recruiting Office with the 1st Battalion King Edward’s Horse, service number 1934, on 14th May 1917. This was a Special Reserve cavalry regiment, originally set up with colonial volunteers resident in London – hence possibly why he put down his former occupation as a farmer in Queensland. There is however no record of him having travelled to Australia.
On completion of training on 8th September 1917 he was compulsorily transferred to the 6th Battalion Royal Fusiliers and then on 14th October 1917 again transferred to the Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment with service number G/20154.
On 15th October 1917 he was posted to the front, part of a reinforcing draft to the 1st Battalion who had sustained heavy casualties in the battles at Polygon Wood and Poelcapelle earlier in the month.
The battalion was once again in action on the 26th October, and at zero hour of 5:40 am, as part of the 5th Division, 13th Infantry Brigade, was launched into an attack near Polderhoek and the Scherriabeek valley, the opening stage of the Second Battle of Passchendaele.
By the end of the first day, Harry age 28, was one of 211 reported missing from the battalion and later presumed dead. He had been at the front for only nine days.
Private Harry William Oliver has no known grave and so is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial , near Ypres and is remembered in Thame on the town war memorial
The Thame Remembers Cross was delivered to Tyne Cot Memorial, Ypres, Belgium on 30th October 2015 by Richard Bowdrey