Pte
Oliver George Pearce

Information about birth

Date of birth:
29/06/1896
Place of birth:
Wyacca, South Australia, Australia

General information

Profession:
Farmer
Religion:
Methodist

Army information

Country:
Australia
Force:
Australian Imperial Force
Rank:
Private
Service number:
1428
Enlistment date:
16/05/1916
Enlistment place:
Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia
Units:
 —  Australian Infantry, 33rd Bn.  (Last known unit)

Information about death

Date of death:
13/10/1917
Place of death:
Zonnebeke Station, Zonnebeke, Belgium
Cause of death:
Killed in action (K.I.A.)
Age:
21

Memorial

Tyne Cot Memorial
Panel: 23L

Distinctions and medals 2

Additional information

Oliver George Pearce, a former farmer, born on the 29th of June 1896 in Wyacca, South Australia. He was the son of Charles Frederick and Mary Anna Hanschke. Before the war Oliver worked at Pine Vale Farm, Narrandera, New South Wales. On May 16, 1916, he enlisted at Cootamundra, New South Wales. Oliver served as a private in a Light Trench Mortar Battery, embarking for France on the 25 of October 1916. On May 5th, 1917, he was transferred to “B” Company of the 33rd Battalion Australian Infantry, part of the 9th Australian Brigade of the 3rd Australian Division.

On October 12, 1917, the 9th Australian Brigade took part in the First Battle of Passchendaele. They planned to attack with the 10th Australian Brigade on their left and the 12th Australian Brigade on the right. The 9th Australian Brigade had three main objectives and assigned these objectives to different battalion under their command. The jumping off line was located northeast of Tyne Cot Cemetery and the attack followed the Ypres-Roulers Railway on their right in a northeast direction. If the attack succeeded, they would pass the village of Passchendaele on their left. The first objective lay about 900 metres in front of the jumping off line and was assigned to the 34th Battalion. The second objective, about 500 metres in front of the first, was assigned to the 35th Battalion. The 36th Battalion was tasked with capturing the final objective, a line running between the Kraaiveldstraat and the Ypres-Roulers Railway, east of Passchendaele. The 33rd Battalion Australian Infantry was held in reserve.

At 5:20 a.m. on October 12, 1917, the Germans shelled the assembly area of the 9th Australian Brigade, causing an estimated 150 casualties. Five minutes later the brigade attacked and was able to capture the first objective at 6.37. a.m. There was some confusion, however, as the war diary of the 33rd Battalion reports that “D” Company and two platoons of “B” company had followed the creeping barrage with the others instead of waiting in reserve. At 9:50 a.m. the second objective was captured, but they were now bogged down in the open. The brigades on the left and right had failed to move up, opening the 9th Australian Brigade up to enfilading fire from both sides. At 10:22 a.m. the 33rd battalion received orders to move to a position east of Heine House, behind the second objective. This position was reached by 1:49 p.m. and two companies were sent forward to reinforce the men holding the second objective.

At 3 p.m. the positions at the second objective proved unsustainable and the 34th, 35th and 36th Battalions were ordered to retreat. They were intent on retreating to the position held by the 33rd Battalion. Due to confusion, however, the men retreated back to the original jump of line, behind the 33rd battalion. As a result the 33rd Battalion also retreated to this new line, which ran from a point 50 yards southeast of Augustus Wood to Defy Crossing. At 7 p.m. the 33rd Battalion received orders to withdraw from the front and take up a new position in reserve, although they were unable to carry out this manoeuvre until the morning of 13 October 1917. On that day the 33rd Battalion occupied a position from Hamburg in the north running south along the Tynecotstraat until the Vijfwegestraat. These positions were held until the night between 13 and 14 October, when the 33rd battalion was relieved by the 43rd battalion.

Oliver George Pearce, aged 21, was killed in action on October 13, 1917. His personal record contains a report of the 50th Divisional Burial Officer, dated 20 February 1918, that states that he was initially buried close to the railway station of Zonnebeke (28.D.21.d.5.6). This corroborates the story told by the relatives of Private Pearce that stated that he received a head and chest wound during the battle and was making his way back a regimental aid post when he was killed by a shell. The Zonnebeke railway station was well in range of the German guns, as the war diary of the 9th Brigade mentions that they were shelled while assembling at this location before the battle on November 12, 1917. It’s likely that Pearce was buried near the railway station, but that his grave(marker) was destroyed during the war (e.g. the German Spring Offensive in March 1918). Private Pearce is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, panel 23L.

Files 1

Sources 10

Ancestry
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/
Sources used
Australian War Memorial
https://www.awm.gov.au/advanced-search/people?people_preferred_name=oliver+george+pearce&people_service_number=1428&people_unit=
Sources used
Australian War Memorial - Pocket watch of Private Oliver George Pearce - REL38288
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1223058
Sources used
Australian War Memorial - Wrist watch of Private Oliver George Pearce - REL38289
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/REL38289?image=1
Sources used
CWGC
https://www.cwgc.org/find-records/find-war-dead/casualty-details/1600286/oliver-george-pearce/
Sources used
National Archives of Australia
https://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/SearchNRetrieve/Interface/DetailsReports/ItemDetail.aspx?Barcode=8007969&isAv=N
Sources used
The AIF Project
https://www.aif.adfa.edu.au/showPerson?pid=236870&printFormat=print
Sources used
The Long, Long Trial
https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/
Sources used
War Diary, 33rd Bn Australian Infantry, October 1917
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1343692
Sources used
War Diary, 9th Australian Brigade, October 1917
https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C1355111
Sources used