Oliver, Ernest Alfred

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Photo source: Ronald Oliver
Photo source: Ronald Oliver

Dundee Courier 27 September 1965

Dundee Courier 27.9.1965

Fighting pirates in the China seas - on the beaches at Dardanelles - in the thick of it at Jutland - instructor on the Mars

The many adventures of Ernie Oliver

Service Record
Service Record

The morning of Friday, February 1, 1901, was cold and grey as the funeral cortege bearing the body of Queen Victoria wound slowly from Osborne House to Cowes harbour.

Among the silent mourners were the crew of the Royal yacht Victoria and Albert for whom Her Majesty had a special soft spot.

One of their number was a youth of 18, Ernest Alfred Oliver.[1]

Though born and bred in Portsmouth,[2]Ernie declares himself a "naturalised" Dundonian.

He has lived in the city since 1922 when he was appointed an instructor on the Mars training ship.

"My first ship was the Royal yacht,"[3] recalls Ernie.

"The old Queen was a regular visitor especially during Cowes season.
"Then she would grant funds for new rigouts for all the crew.
"A short, stern figure dressed severely in grey, Her Majesty often had a kindly word for the crew.
"I can remember the Queen shaking my hand with the words 'God bless you.'

Clearing pirates
"Not long after the death of Queen Victoria I was transferred to the battleship Vengeance[4] which was engaged in clearing pirates from the China seas.
"The waters round China were riddled with pirate junks which terrorised the villages on the coasts and islands.
"Looting, burning, torture and rape were rife.
"We could straddle the pirates' bows from a great distance.
"If they bolted we'd sink them or set the cruisers after them."

After period spent on several ships Ernie joined the battleship Queen.[5]

Dardanelles
"In 1915 the Queen was ordered to the Dardenelles.
"Some of my worst memories haunt me still from those days when so many young men were sacrificed in vail.
"As we lowered the boars carrying up to 100 men over the side, not a word was spoken. The lads knew what was waiting
"The beaches were a mass of entangled wire right down to the water's edge.
"The Turks were entrenched in the cliffs above.
"Not even our fire could shift them.
"As our boys reached the shore the Turks opened up with murderous machine-gun fire.
"Whole boatloads of dead soldiers floated in the surf with no a single survivor reaching the beach.
"I was in ship's crews who went ashore to help the wounded.

Saved life
"A friend of mine won a medal.
"Though an ordinary seaman he had the sense to slit the throat of a young Aussie shot in the throat and unable to breathe.
"His action saved the lad's life and my mate carried him to safety under fire.
"One of our ships rolled right over after being struck by shell fire.
"An explosion in the magazine ripped the guts right out of her, and over she went.
"We took to the small boats immediately and managed to pick up about 200 survivors, but over 300 were lost.
"I was ordered the join the cruiser Galatea just in time to be used as bait before the Battle of Jutland!"[6] he smiled ruefully.
"When Admiral Beattie's battle cruisers came into contact with the enemy, we did not turn but headed right into them.
"Only brilliant manoeuvering saved the Galatea time and again.
"We zigzagged as the shells fell round us."

After 20-odd years' active service in the Royal Navy, Ernie came to Dundee to act as instructor on the Mars training ship.

"you know looking back on the Mars many people say it was tough but fair and made men of the boys who were sent there.
"But to be honest it could be more than tough - sometimes it was brutal.
"I remember once I almost got the sack because I didn't force the boys to walk about 20 miles from Newport to Elie.
"We had gone out to clean up a rat-infested granery in Elie, and by the end of the day some of the youngsters were really exhausted.
"Faced with the 20-mile walk back to Newport, I decided to hire a lorry and drove them back.
"I was warned that I'd be sacked on the next such occasion. I should have made them walk - they said.
"Don't think I'm against discipline for youngsters. Indeed, I believe the birch should be brought back for some of those gangs of goons who cause so much trouble.
"Fines are no good when you consider some of the wages youngsters earn nowadays."

At Caldrum's
when the Mars left the tay for the breakers' yard at Inverkeithing in 1929, Ernie decided his navy days were over.
Hi next job was chief porter at Caldrum Jute Works - a post he held for nearly quarter of a century.
"During 25 years at Caldrum's I never once took a Christmas or New Year off. I felt I might be needed in an emergency."

Ernie's war years have left their mark and although remarkably alert for his age he is to be admitted to the Lady Erskine Hospital in Glasgow. His home is at 87 Craigie Avenue, where he lives with his wife.




A transcription of his service record

Born 7 May 1881 Landport, Hampshire
Official Number 343200
Ship Rating From To Comments
Duke of Wellington I Domestic 3rd Class 31 Jan 1900 2 Mar 1900
Duke of Wellington I 2nd Cook's Mate 3 Mar 1900 10 May 1900
Osborne 2nd Cook's Mate 11 May 1900 30 Oct 1900
Osborne Cook's Mate 31 Oct 1900 17 Nov 1902
Duke of Wellington I Cook's Mate 18 Nov 1902 22 May 1903
Excellent Cook's Mate 23 May 1903 21 Dec 1903
Tamar Cook's Mate 22 Dec 1903 15 May 1904
Humber Cook's Mate 16 May 1904 10 Dec 1905
Humber 2nd Ship's Cook 11 Dec 1905 14 May 1905
Hecla 2nd Ship's Cook 15 May 1905 8 Jun 1905
Vengeance 2nd Ship's Cook 9 Jun 1905 27 Aug 1905
Victory I 2nd Ship's Cook 28 Aug 1905 18 Oct 1905
Nelson 2nd Ship's Cook 19 Oct 1905 10 Jul 1907
Sapphire II 2nd Ship's Cook 11 Jul 1907 18 Jul 1907
Victory I 2nd Ship's Cook 19 Jul 1907 19 Aug 1907
Hindustan 2nd Ship's Cook 20 Aug 1907 30 Jun 1909
Hindustan Acting Ship's Cook 1 Jul 1909 4 Oct 1909
Victory I Acting Ship's Cook 5 Oct 1909 26 May 1910
Victory I Ship's Cook 15 Mar 1910 Slight correction to service record made here
Latona Ship's Cook 27 May 1910 11 Feb 1911
Victory I Ship's Cook 12 Feb 1911 15 Feb 1911
Good Hope Ship's Cook 16 Feb 1911 31 Aug 1912
Good Hope Acting Chief Ship's Cook 1 Sept 1912 23 Dec 1912
Victory I Acting Chief Ship's Cook 24 Dec 1912 5 Mar 1913
Victory I Chief Ship's Cook 6 Mar 1913 8 Apr 1913
Dido Chief Ship's Cook 9 Apr 1913 26 May 1913
Duncan Chief Ship's Cook 27 May 1913 3 Jun 1914
Queen Chief Ship's Cook 4 Jun 1914 13 Feb 1917
Prince of Wales Chief Ship's Cook 14 Feb 1917 5 Apr 1917
Victory I Chief Ship's Cook 6 Apr 1917 28 Aug 1917
Galatea Chief Ship's Cook 29 Aug 1917 16 May 1919
Galatea Chief Petty Officer Cook 17 May 1919 29 Feb 1920
Victory I Chief Petty Officer Cook 1 Mar 1920 9 Apr 1920
Hercules Chief Petty Officer Cook 10 Apr 1920 20 May 1920
Victory III Chief Petty Officer Cook 21 May 1920 8 Jun 1920
King George V Chief Petty Officer Cook 9 Jun 1920 30 Sept 1920
Orion Chief Petty Officer Cook 1 Oct 1920 30 Jun 1921
Conqueror Chief Petty Officer Cook 1 Jul 1921 30 Jan 1922
Shore (Pensioned)

Notes


  1. HMS Galatea Crew List (Photographs)
  2. HMS Galatea Crew List (updated in Real-time)
  1. Service Record indicates that he was never drafted to the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert
  2. Service Record indicates he was born 7 May 1881 Landport, Hampshire
  3. Service Record indicates that his first ship was HMS Duke of Wellington on 31 January 1900
  4. Service Record indicates that he joined HMS Vengeance on 9 June 1905 and left her on 27 August 1905
  5. Service Record indicates that he joined HMS Queen on 4 June 1914 and left it on 13 February 1917
  6. Service Record indicates he did not join HMS Galatea until 29 August 1917 (Battle of Jutland was 31 May to 1 June 1916)