Frederick Oliver

Name Frederick Oliver
Corps Ist Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Formerly of the Bedfordshire Regiment
Rank Private
Service No. 2083
Date/Place of entry 4 January 1915 Warwick
Date of death 25 April 1915 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave Ypres (Menin Gate) Panel 8

Frederick Oliver was born in Cottingham in the summer of 1882, one of six children of Solomon Oliver and his wife Sarah Elisabeth nee Beesworth (Beadsworth). The family lived in Blind Lane / Barrack Yard in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The extended Oliver family had been settled in the Welland Valley for centuries. The name appears sporadically in the Cottingham parish registers from 1594 onwards, and in the early nineteenth century the Rockingham Tollhouse was kept by a Samuel Oliver. It is however more common just across the county border in Bringhurst and thereabouts.

Solomon Oliver was born in Drayton in 1840, and to begin with he lived with his mother Martha in the home of his widowed grandfather John, along with some of John’s adult children. The next door neighbours were William Oliver and his family. William was probably John’s younger brother; one of his sons, Thomas, had recently moved to Cottingham where he lodged with David Tansley near the George Inn. John’s other neighbours included Stokes, Beesworth and Inchley,

Martha married in 1842 and in 1851 Solomon was located (as Solomon Rogers) in Goadby with her and his stepfather William Busby. In 1861 Solomon was back in Drayton, a farm labourer lodging with Joseph and Elisabeth Stokes, later to become grandparents of Leonard Joseph Stokes. He was still in Drayton ten years later though by then lodging with a Perkins family.

He settled in Cottingham sometime in the early 1870s and married Sarah Elisabeth Beesworth there in 1877. Her parents William and Priscilla Beesworth were then near neighbours of Thomas Oliver, Solomon’s relative (probably his uncle) on the High Street. Thomas was a widowed blacksmith and evidently a man of uncertain temper. He appeared before the magistrates at Kettering several times from the 1860s onwards either for being drunk and disorderly or for assault, once during Cottingham Feast and once on publican and neighbour Thomas Tilley; one petty sessions report in the local paper spoke wearily of seeing Thomas Oliver, again…adding that it would be better if neighbours could settle their differences outside the court.

Sarah Elisabeth was in service in Kettering in 1871 but back in Cottingham with her son George in 1874. Her much younger sister married Thomas Booth and was mother to Samuel William Booth. The Beesworth / Beadsworth / Beardsworth name was well represented in Uppingham and the surrounding parishes in the eighteenth century. It occurred for the first time in Cottingham in the 1820s with the marriage of Antony Beesworth from Drayton to Elisabeth Hipwell of Cottingham. However the name Bosworth occurs in the Cottingham parish registers in the eighteenth century and this may be another variant of the name.

Solomon and Sarah Elisabeth had six children between 1879 and 1891: Sarah, Ellen, Frederick, Florence Elisabeth, Harry and Albert Oliver. Sarah Elisabeth’s son George Beesworth also lived with his stepfamily in Barrack Yard (for a detailed account of Barrack Yard see

Solomon died in April 1893 leaving forty-two year old Sarah to raise their children.  Frederick had just turned eleven and the three younger children were between seven and two years old. Her son George had been apprenticed to wheelwright Thomas Swingler of Middleton in 1901 so was earning money, daughter Sarah was about thirteen and therefore likely to be working also. Frederick must surely have had to earn his living too over the next few years. Later census records suggest his other older sister Ellen may have had health problems as in 1901, aged twenty, she had no occupation listed and in 1911 was a patient in Kettering hospital. According to her son Albert’s later army papers the family belonged to the Methodist Church on Corby Road.

They were the only Oliver family in the village by then. Thomas Oliver’s son William had moved around the neighbouring villages between census and had a son George Oliver who served for many years in the Royal Garrison Artillery and is commemorated at Wilbarston.

Frederick first enlisted in the army on 23rd of November 1900 when he was seventeen and a half, joining the Northamptonshire Militia as private 6072. Within weeks he had joined the Bedfordshire Regiment, 16th Foot. His surviving attestation paper is dated 14 January 1901. As private 6877 he was with the regiment at Kempton Park for the 1901 census but unfortunately there is no record to say in which Battalion he was subsequently placed. The 1st Battalion was in India in 1901 and the 2nd in South Africa, from where it returned home in 1903 to be stationed at Colchester. The 2nd remained in England until 1906 when it was sent to Gibraltar. The 1st moved to Aden in 1907 and then returned to Aldershot. Frederick’s name does not appear on the South African War Medals list so the 1st battalion is the better guess. He was discharged to pension by 1911, when he was employed as a municipal excavator in the city of Bath.

Meanwhile his mother carried on living on Pinfold Bank with sons George, working latterly as a groom, Harry and Albert, both blast furnacemen, and daughters Sarah and Florence Elisabeth both employed as so many local women were at the clothing factory.  Daughter Sarah married Lewis Marshall in 1902 and moved to Corby; Florence was still at the factory in 1911 but boarding in Blind Lane with labourer Samuel Aldwinkle and his family. The Aldwinkles’ niece Alice later married John Wilden.

Fredrick’s brother Albert Oliver joined the army reserve in October 1908, transferring to the regular army the following June. He was to serve in the Northamptonshire Regiment during the war.

In January 1915 Frederick re-enlisted into the 1st Battalion, Warwickshire Regiment, a regular army battalion then involved in the fighting in the Ypres Salient. The previous month some of its soldiers had taken part in the legendary Christmas Truce.

The Battalion was part of the 10th Brigade, 4th Division and was heavily involved in the Battle of St Julien which formed part of the Second Battle of Ypres. The battle began on 22 April with a surprise enemy attack late that afternoon on the Allied front line. It was one of the first times the German Army used poison gas. Canadian and British troops had little protection against gas and were gradually driven back, with the result that the German troops succeeded in pushing past the village of St Julien. Over the next days the Allies tried to counter attack and make the enemy retreat past their newly won ground. The 10th Brigade launched an attack on 25th April but then had to withdraw, having suffered heavy casualties. Frederick Oliver was killed during this action. Fighting continued until 4 May.

He is commemorated at the Menin Gate at Ypres, the most famous of the four Belgian Flanders memorials in the Ypres Salient to soldiers whose graves are unknown. It bears the names of more than 54,000 soldiers

Frederick was survived by his mother, who died in 1938, and his brothers and sisters. His brother Albert died in 1935.