CENTENARY: Private George Oliver served in WWI from February 1915 to July 1919 and returned to Booyal after being captured as a prisoner of war in Belgium.
CENTENARY: Private George Oliver served in WWI from February 1915 to July 1919 and returned to Booyal after being captured as a prisoner of war in Belgium. contributed

WWI PoW soldier remembered by family

THE Bundaberg region has a strong service history, and for one local man Remembrance Day is all about his father's story.

Herb Oliver's father, Private George Oliver, was a landholder in the Booyal region when he volunteered in February 1915 to serve in the Australian Imperial Force.

In June 1915 Private Oliver sailed from Brisbane in the troopship SS "AENEAS” as a member of the 25th battalion and arrived in Egypt on August 2, where he was then transferred to Gallipoli via Lemnos Island, landing on the peninsular on September 9, 1915.

Around December 19, 1915 the battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli, where Oliver was one of the last to leave, and returned to Egypt.

In March 1916 Private Oliver travelled through Marseille, France and on to Armentieres, Belgium and in July 1916 took part in the battle of the Somme at Pozieres where on July 29 he was wounded, almost fatally, and taken prisoner by the German army.

During his time as a prisoner, Private Oliver sent a postcard from his camp in Germany to a friend, Dot Coleman in Booyal, dated November 4, 1918.

The card reads, "Dear Dot, Just a line to let you know that I am still in good health. I am sure I will not be long before I will be home now, hoping this finds you and all the boys in the best of health. George.”

Mr Oliver said the boys his father spoke of were Dot's three brothers who also served in WWI.

"All these men were mates of George Oliver from Booyal, their names are recorded on the honour boards at the Booyal Memorial Hall,” he wrote.

He ended up in a city named Gottingen where he recovered in hospital and was later sent to a PoW camp at Bad Langensalza, where he stayed until Armistice was declared on November 11, 1918.

"Pop Oliver told me, in the rare occasion that he discussed his time as a prisoner of war with me, that when the soldiers learned that the war was over, they sought out the Burgermeister (mayor) of the town, where the prison was situated and demanded that he arrange for the soldiers to be returned to the United Kingdom ASAP,” Mr Oliver said.

It took until January 1919 for them to get back to the UK where they were entertained by the King and Queen at Windsor Castle, and given a third class rail pass.

Private Oliver arrived back in England on January 19, sailed from Avonmouth via Cape Town on April 1, landed in Sydney in June, was discharged in July as 'medically unfit', and returned to Booyal circa August 1919.

"He refused to draw a pension until he was 70 years old, worked all his life, was never rich but held his head high, and carried out many voluntary works in his community,” Mr Oliver said.

There were 39 men from Booyal who volunteered and served in WWI, 10 of whom were killed in action.

"After Private George Oliver served his God, King and country, his time as a PoW and his family, he passed away in February 1978 aged 86 and a half years, and is buried with his wife Annie Ada in the Bundaberg General Cemetery,” Mr Olive wrote.

Mr Oliver celebrates his 87th birthday today, and will celebrate both his birth and the 100th anniversary of the Booyal Memorial Hall, which his father helped construct, at its location today before Armistice centenary tomorrow.

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