New tribute to daring Second World War soldier from Hartlepool who was awarded one of country's highest medals

A unique tribute has been created to a Hartlepool Second World War soldier who was awarded one of the military’s highest honours.

Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 5:01 pm
Lee Hall holding the framed collage of medals, photographs and newspaper cutting about Corporal Ralph Oliver. Picture by FRANK REID

Corporal Ralph Oliver, who served with the Durham Light Infantry, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for his heroics in North Africa in 1941 when he captured two enemy machine gun posts in a surprise attack.

Military history enthusiast Lee Hall, from Horden, who is a friend of a nephew of Ralph’s helped research his war records, collect photographs and obtained a replica DCM medal that have been put in a frame for Ralph’s family.

Its completion marks the end of a 10-year project by Lee, 47.

The framed collage of medals, photographs and newspaper cutting with regards to Ralph Oliver. Picture by FRANK REID

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The frame also includes press cuttings and Ralph’s corporal stripes.

Ralph’s nephew, who wishes to remain anonymous, came up with the idea for the frame originally intended for his mother and Ralph’s sister, who has since passed away.

Lee offered to help saying: “I just thought it would be nice to do to get his story out there.

“There are that many people who have done deeds and people don’t know about it.”

Ralph Oliver. Picture by FRANK REID

Ralph was originally recommended for the Military Medal, but it was later downgraded as he was not an officer.

It was for his actions on the night of December 7-8, 1941, at Tobruk after Ralph became separated from his company in the dark. Official records state: “He collected seven men, carried out two assaults on enemy MG (machine gun) positions, captured two machine guns and 20 prisoners and then organised a defensive position with enemy captured weapons on the flank of his Coy (company).

“He showed great courage during the operation and was an excellent example to his men.”

Lee’s research hit a stumbling block as Ralph, who grew up in Gas Street, Hartlepool, changed his name from Wilfred.

Lee Hall holding the framed collage of medals, photographs and newspaper cutting about Corporal Ralph Oliver. Picture by FRANK REID

The breakthrough came when relations in Hartlepool shared his death certificate and a number of photos.

Pictures of two of Ralph’s brothers, who were killed in the war, are also featured in the frame made by The Picture Place in Sunderland.

Lee added: “I’m pleased with how it looks. It has taken a long time.”