Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1917, Lieutenant Egbert Conrad Oliver, Hood Battalion, Royal Naval Division, was killed in action at Bucquoy in France.
Educated at Bedford Modern School, Lieutenant Oliver joined the Royal Navy in 1908 as Assistant Paymaster. In October of 1915 he was commissioned and the following year was assigned to Hood Battalion, the Royal Naval Division.
Just before midnight on the 3rd of February in 1917, the Hood Battalion engaged in a night-time operation which according to the war diary was expected to last less than ten minutes. They were to attack the Puisieux Trench in the Ancre Valley, and although the temperature was freezing, great-coats were banned. Despite the men being unfamiliar with the lie of the land, and the fact that landmarks having been obliterated by shelling, the battalion took possession of the trench and a smaller one beside it.
By three o’clock on the afternoon of the following day, the German launched bombardments and counter attacks. Fierce fighting ensued with heavy casualties on both sides. Later that evening British reinforcements were sent in but were attacked and suffered heavy casualties. The survivors of the Hood Battalion managed to drive the Germans back across the river, and it was during this action that Lieutenant Oliver fell.
At first he was reported as missing, and it was thought that he may have been taken prisoner. He was found the following day and buried north of Grandcourt. In 1919 his remains were exhumed and he was re-buried in the Queen’s Cemetery at Bucquoy. He is remembered on the Bedford School war memorial. The action which was to have taken minutes took fifty hours and was hard-fought with the loss of twenty-four officers and 647 men.
Egbert, born in Goa, Portuguese India, and raised in Fort Beaufort, South Africa, was 29 years old.