University of Oxford
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Frank Henry Oliver and the sinking of the HMS Barham

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 20:08 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

The father of the contributor, Frank Henry Oliver (third from the right in the second row of the group photograph), was on the HMS Barham (often referred to as the Boozy Barham; there is a website on this as well). He was born 03/06/1909 and joined the Navy in 1924-25. He survived the torpedoing of the HMS Barham. He was in the Navy for 32 years, and demobbed after World War 2, having been in Italy before the war. However, he was called up for Korea, and served in his final job as Senior Chief Petty Officer at HMS Dolphin.

The contributor brought an ashtray from the HMS Barham, which someone gave to Frank; potentially it was from a steward to the admiral, Sir Pridham-Wippell, who picked it up as a souvenir.

When they were having a tea break, the Admiral told them to leave and the steward said he didn't have orders to abandon it. Shortly after, the ship blew up. The steward took the ashtray and jumped off the ship. The steward was saved by holding onto a raft, so he gave it to him to thank him for saving his life (as Frank had cut the raft).

Frank never got orders to abandon ship, and was blown off of it. He had to keep his nose above oil. He was not killed, as his friend, Tommy (Thomas) Cropp, pulled him out by his hair. He couldn't keep a record of everyone dying.

He never went to reunions. He changed after the war. When they stayed in Portsmouth, it was a chance for exchange [sic].

His wife didn't know for a long time if he had survived, but she never received his pension book so she had hope of his survival.


Item list and details

1. Photograph of the HMS Barham exploision 2. Photograph of the HMS Barham crew with list of surnames and losses (contributor's father is centre, third from right) 3. News story 4. Ashtray

Person the story/items relate to

Frank Henry Oliver

Person who shared the story/items

Terence John Oliver

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared at Royal Navy Submarine Museum, Gosport, Hampshire on 27 October 2023.

Record ID

113315 | GOS003