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MAJOR
CHARLES VALENTINE OLIVER


OLIVER COAT OF ARMS

Charles Valentine Oliver was the second son of John Dudley Oliver, Esquire, of Cherrymount, County Wicklow, Ireland, who was the head of a younger branch of the Olivers, of Castle Oliver, County Limerick, a family well known in Ireland for many generations.

Oliver was born on March 9, 1836, and was one of five brothers who entered the Army within a short time of each other. He was gazetted to the 66th Regiment, as Ensign, in 1854, and passed his whole service in that distinguished corps in various parts of the world, including India, Gibraltar, the Channel Islands, Great Britain, and Ireland. His promotion was slow and he only obtained his regimental majority a short time before his death.

Major Oliver was one of the officers sent out to Jamaica in 1866 to serve on the court-martial which tried two officers accused of acts of cruelty in putting down the negro rebellion in that island, and which honorably acquitted them. After his return to England, he served with the regiment at Aldershot, Jersey, Guernsey, the Curragh, and Dublin; and in 1870 proceeded with the headquarters a second time to India. When the regiment was stationed at Karachi, he was in charge of the Sanitarium of Ghizri from February 3, 1872 to February 3, 1874. A lifetime bachelor, Major Oliver was also fluent in Hindustani and French.

Major Oliver marched with the regiment to Kandahar in February 1880 and was present at the action on the Halmand, near Girishk, on July 14. At the battle of Maiwand, on the 27th, he was one of the three officers present with the colors who came out unhurt. It is said that he and General Burrows were the two last to leave the field, and they were so hard pressed that he was obliged, in self-defense, to shoot with a rifle two or three of the Afghan cavalry who attacked them on the open plain. There was a great deal of pain and distress brought on to his family members when his name was confused with that of another officer, and being quoted in several of the English journals in a list published by them of the survivors of the battle who were the first to reach Kandahar, thus making it appear that he had ridden on ahead of his men. The officer alluded to was another of the same name. The fact is, that telegraphic communication had been severed some hours before Major Oliver with the scanty remnant of his regiment reached the city walls. He arrived in a state of great exhaustion from which he never recovered.

Although Major Oliver suffered much from weakness during the siege, he nevertheless commanded all that was left of the 66th at the Battle of Kandahar on September 1, 1880. After the defeat of Ayub Khan's army, he continued in a low state of health, and he subsequently fell an easy victim to the disease - smallpox - which he eventually died of on October 10, 1880. His death was thus alluded to in the "Kandahar News": "All our readers will receive with feelings of deep sorrow and regret the sad news of the death of Major C. V. Oliver, 66th Regiment, which occurred yesterday morning in the citadel, from smallpox. After bringing back the remnants of his regiment from the fatal and terrible field of Maiwand, and the still more terrible retreat on Kandahar, and passing safely through the perils of the siege, he was on the eve of marching to India, enroute to England with his regiment, when the disease struck him down, and in little more than a week our Queen and country had to deplore the loss of a faithful servant, and the 66th Regiment, the Kandahar Field Force, and the whole Army, a fine solider, brave officer, good companion, and staunch friend. Requiescat in pace."

The date of this photograph is unknown. Although we are not certain exactly where Major Oliver was buried, based on research, it is believed he was buried in a European graveyard in Kandahar which was then concreted over and a road built. There is a memorial plaque within the church at Avoca Church of Ireland dedicated to Major Oliver. It reads:

OLIVER
In memory of Charles Valentine Oliver
Major 66th Regiment second son of John Dudley Oliver of Cherry Mount
He was one of the few officers of his regiment who survived the disastrous battle of Maiwand
fought on the 26th July 1880
He died at Cadahar[sic] on the 10th October 1850[sic] at the age of 44

Click here for a personal tour of the refurbished Castle Oliver.

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This page was updated January 5, 2009