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b. 06/08/1901 Christchurch, Dorset. d. 05/02/1986 Christchurch, Dorset.


DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 23/05/1928 Malta.


Dick Oliver (1901-1986) was born on the 6th August 1901 in Christchurch, Dorset, the eldest son of Francis James Oliver and his wife Amelia Cox (nee Hewlett). Little is known of Dick’s early life prior to January 1916, when he joined the Royal Navy, entering a career which would span nearly 30 years.


He served in World War I, and was promoted to the rank of Leading Seaman. He remained in the Navy after the end of the war and his life changed dramatically whilst serving on HMS Warspite in May 1928.


On 23rd May 1928, at Parlatorio Wharf, Malta, during an examination of the bilge compartments on the port side of HMS Warspite the cover from the lower compartment was removed; it was found that the air was foul and poisonous. The chief stoker attempted to enter the compartment, although he was aware of the danger. He was overcome immediately and fell unconscious to the bottom of the compartment. Lieutenant Reginald Armytage fetched his gas mask and, with a lifeline around him, entered the compartment, but when he reached the bottom the gas overcame him. He was hauled back out. He had stopped breathing and was taken to the Royal Naval Hospital. Dick Oliver then volunteered to try a rescue, despite seeing what had just happened. He managed to get into the compartment and reached the chief stoker; he passed a lifeline around him and got him hauled up. He managed to then get himself out.


On the 2nd August 1928, both Dick Oliver and Reginald Armytage were awarded the Albert Medal for their actions. It was not the last act of gallantry of Dick Oliver’s life. On 1st June 1939, just prior to World War II, he was on deep-sea diving vessel HMS Tedworth as Chief Petty Officer when the Submarine Thetis sank in Liverpool Bay, 38 miles off land with her bow in the sand. He, as the Chief Diver, was stuck up at Greenock, Scotland, waiting for the ship to be “coaled”. He was frustrated and anxious to lead his team of divers to the rescue of the 99 trapped men. Eventually on 3rd June, his team were called in, and he dived down, but it was too late, and all 99 men perished.


In 1929, he married Eileen C Day in London and they had no children. During World War II he trained crews of the midget submarines, in which he too served, and took part in the D-Day landings. On 1st January 1944, he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his actions as a Deep Diver. Dick retired from the Navy in 1946 as a Chief Petty Officer.


In 1971, following the change in the Royal Warrant, he chose not to exchange his Albert Medal for the George Cross. He lived in retirement in Christchurch, where he passed away on 5th February 1986 and he was cremated at Bournemouth Crematorium, and the family took away his ashes. His medals including the Albert Medal, BEM, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, 1939-45 Star, France & Germany Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal are held by the Royal British Legion in Bournemouth.





























Dick Oliver AM, BEM


“The KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Albert Medal to


Lieutenant Reginald William Armytage, R.N., and

Leading Seaman Dick Oliver, O.N.J. 65197 (Po.)


for gallantry in endeavouring to save life at sea.


The following is the account of the services in respect of which the decorations have been conferred :-


On the 23rd May, 1928, whilst H.M.S. “ Warspite ” was lying alongside Parlatorio Wharf, Malta, an examination of the bulge compartments situated on the Port side aft was being carried out. The manhole door of the lower bulge com¬partment was removed and the com¬partment tested. It was found that the air was foul and poisonous. A Chief Stoker attempted to enter the compartment, although aware that it was in a dangerous condition, and was immedi¬ately overcome by the gas and fell unconscious to the bottom of the com¬partment, a distance of about 20 feet.


The alarm was given and Lieutenant Armytage immediately fetched his gas mask and with a life line round him entered the compartment and reached the bottom, when he was overcome and rendered unconscious. With great diffi¬culty, owing to the small size of the manhole, he was hauled to the exit by means of the life line. He was uncon¬scious and had stopped breathing when hauled into the open air, and was eventually removed to the R.N. Hospital in a precarious condition. Lieutenant Armytage was aware that his gas mask would afford no degree of protection against the CO or CO2 gases likely to be present in the compartment. He realised that the delay incurred in passing a diver through the manholes would probably prove fatal to the Chief Stoker and appreciated to the fullest extent the grave risk he ran in entering the compartment.


As soon as Lieutenant Armytage had been withdrawn from the manhole of the upper bulge compartment Leading Seaman Oliver, who was in attendance with a shallow diving helmet, volunteered to attempt the rescue of the Chief Stoker, despite the fact that he had witnessed the painful and distressing sights attendant on asphyxiation. After donning the helmet he was passed with considerable difficulty through the manholes of the upper and lower bulge compartments and he eventually succeeded in reaching the Chief Stoker and passing a line round his body by means of which the latter was drawn up through the manhole to the pontoon abreast the ship. On emerging from the bulges Oliver was a very bad colour and suffering to some extent from the poisonous gases in the bulge compartments. Although a smoke helmet provides a considerable degree of protection it was obvious that any displacement would be attended by serious results and, further, having regard to the difficulty in passing Oliver through the manholes when equipped with the helmet, it was quite clear that his quick withdrawal in the event of being overcome was a matter of considerable conjec¬ture, and the delay thus involved might have been attended with fatal results.”

2nd August 1928

transcribed by Terry Hissey