Pictures

Major Oliver at Nijmegen on the 26th September 1944

British war correspondents after the withdrawal

Major Oliver receiving his Silver Star

Major Roy W. R. Oliver

 

Unit : Public Relations Team

 

Major Oliver commanded the Public Relations Team during the Battle of Arnhem. This unit consisted of himself, as a Public Relations Officer, two BBC civilian broadcasters (Stanley Maxted and Guy Byam), two newspaper journalists (Alan Wood of the Daily Express and Jack Smyth of Reuters), two censors (Captains Brett and Williams), three men of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (Sergeants Mike Lewis, Dennis Smith and Gordon Walker), and four signallers (Butcher, Cull, Hardcastle, and Noon). For his conduct during the Battle, Oliver was awarded the Silver Star: 

 

By direction of the President, under the provision of AR 600-45, 22 September 1943, as amended, the Silver Star is awarded to:

 

Major R. W. R. Oliver, British Army, for gallantry in action from 17 September 1944 to 26 September 1944. Major Oliver was in command of the group of correspondents assigned to cover the activities of the First Airborne Division (British) in the airborne invasion of Holland. He enabled the correspondents to radio their stories to the outside world and, in addition, he made the wireless sets available for operational military messages, since all other sets were rendered useless in the landings. During this time, the party was under considerable enemy fire and Major Oliver was wounded. In the withdrawal to, and crossing of, the Rhine, he was again wounded and lost his boat, necessitating his swimming the remaining distance, carrying film negatives, still photographs, and radio discs of the operation. His coolness under fire and marked devotion to duty are highly exemplary.

 

The following article was printed in The Newspaper World, on the 10th June 1945.

 

Major Roy Oliver, 31-years-old British regular army P.R.O., who was in charge of the war correspondents at Arnhem, has been awarded the U.S. Silver Star.

 

The official citation described how Major Oliver enabled correspondents to radio their stories to the outside world. "During this time," it continues, "the party was under considerable enemy fire and Major Oliver was wounded. In the withdrawal to, and crossing of, the Rhine, he was again wounded and lost his boat, necessitating his swimming the remaining distance, carrying film negatives, still photographs, and radio discs of the operation. His coolness under fire and marked devotion to duty are highly exemplary."

 

Alan Wood, who covered Arnhem for the Daily Express and has also worked in New Guinea and China, told the Newspaper World:

 

"Oliver is quite unique among P.R.O.s. In my experience a P.R.O. is either the occasional dud who has been weeded out of a fighting unit, or a professional soldier who knows nothing about journalism, or a journalist who knows nothing about soldiering. Oliver is a professional soldier who has been at Tobruk, who landed on D-Day, went to Arnhem, and has been in almost every tough spot during the war. It gives war correspondents confidence having an old soldier with them. At the same time Oliver is keenly interested in their work and always putting up suggestions for stories they should follow up."

 

"The job he did at Arnhem must be the most brilliant success a P.R.O. has had during the war. Never before have war correspondents been given the chance of getting out regular despatches under such difficult circumstances. Only on returning to London did I learn how good was the job he did. No news at all of the First Division got to London or to Corps headquarters through operational signals for two days after we landed. Oliver succeeded in getting his little P.R. wireless set working just before midnight on the day we landed. So the first two days the only news the Corps Commander, Churchill, Montgomery or anyone else had of how the First was getting on was through the despatches of Stanley Maxted, of the B.B.C., and myself. Later on his P.R. wireless set was used almost entirely for operational messages."

 

"Major Oliver has a genius for organisation and a remarkable flair for leadership. I shall never forget the way he put himself at the head of the nondescript line of censors, wireless operators, and unarmed war correspondents and marched us off with as much apparent confidence about getting through as if he were leading a platoon of trained paratroops."

 

Major Oliver, who is under orders for P.R. duties in the Far East, has twice been mentioned in despatches.

 

Thanks to Mark Oliver for the above information.

 

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