Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1941, ABS Stanley John Oliver died when the HMS Voltaire was sunk by the German auxiliary cruiser Thor in the mid-Atlantic, with heavy losses after an hour of fighting.
In 1945 in a letter to ABS Oliver’s mother, Petty Officer Ransome wrote: “Your late son came under my care in the forecastle of the ship. He was a most efficient seaman, upright and well conducted, a good willing worker and an instant volunteer when asked for. I cannot speak too highly of him, he was one of my best men. On April the fourth our ship was on passage from Trinidad to Freetown when about a thousand miles from the latter we came up with a disguised German raider flying the Spanish flag, after challenging her she opened fire and we fought for over 3 hours, unfortunately she proved vastly superior to us, in fact she just played with our slow moving ship, hopelessly outranged.
In the closing stages of the battle, when our gallant ship was but a blazing furnace with but two guns in action, I called for volunteers to man those guns, Able Seaman Oliver was the first and with one other volunteer we got a gun in action between us, later others joined us to get the other remaining gun in action and finished three rounds when I saw the explosion which caused your boy’s death, it was instantaneous and I assure you he never suffered. Well Mrs Oliver for coolness and undaunted courage I have never witnessed the like, he inspired me in the bravery he showed, just as if it was but an exercise and the picture of your worthy son in that losing battle has remained with me throughout the four years that I have been a prisoner of war and I vowed I would give his mother a little conciliation in the knowledge that her son died bravely, so now I have kept my vow I fervently hope your heartache will be relieved a little when you read this letter .
Your son proved his worth, showing bravery and courageous devotion to duty, I am proud to have known him and he will live in my memory always.” ABS Oliver is in the group photo, front right – sadly the other crew-members were not named. Stanley was 23 years old.