2nd Lieutenant Edward Revere OSLER
Canadian Army Medical Corps attd Royal Field Artillery
Date of birth: 28 December 1895
Date of death: 30 August 1917
Died of wounds received in action aged 21
Buried Dozinghem Military Cemetery IV.F.21
Edward Revere was the only living child of the eminent American physician, Sir William Osler, and Grace Revere Osler. Both his parents were in their forties when he was born and they doted on him.
He was the great, great grandson of Paul Revere, a Boston silversmith and engraver who, dressed as an Indian, took part in the Boston Tea Party, but who would gain everlasting fame as the American patriot who, during the American Revolution in 1775, rode all night to warn of the approach of the British.
When William Osler accepted the position of Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford University and moved his family to England in 1905, the decision was made partly on the basis of Revere's education - the Oslers did not want him to be educated in America. They lived at 13 Norham Gardens, and he attended the Dragon School at Oxford until the age of 13, and then Winchester College. Revere was not a born scholar and his parents hired tutors to prepare him for his matriculation exam at Oxford. He passed on his second attempt and shortly after he went up to Christ Church in 1914 war broke out.
Although old enough to enlist he really had no interest in matters military, preferring to spend his time fishing, swimming and boating. Nevertheless he joined the Officers’ Training Corps at College and his attitude began to change; he felt he ought to ‘do his bit’. He dropped out of Christ Church and using some of his family connections joined the Canadian Red Cross, Duchess of Connaught Hospital, at Cliveden, an assistant Quartermaster. The Hospital unit, including Revere, went to France in the summer of 1915 and set themselves up at Dannes-Carniers, on the coast. It was a quiet time and Revere, feeling that perhaps he should be more actively employed, considered a move to a field ambulance.
By November the Hospital had closed, and as Revere had been unable to transfer to a field ambulance he decided to join the Royal Artillery. This took several months to organise, which kept him from the Somme offensive of the summer of 1916. In October 1916 he found himself at the front, a Second Lieutenant in A Battery, 59th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. His record of transfer notes his qualities as ‘being a good horseman and being accustomed to mechanical drawing and the using of tools’.
In May 1917 Revere came home on leave, and his parents were amazed at his transformation into a man, complete with moustache. After ten days of fishing, reading, and enjoying the company of his parents, he returned to Belgium, secretly hoping that he would get a ‘blighty’ wound, which would take him out of the hell which was the Western Front. In August he was slightly gassed but soon recovered.
On Wednesday 29 August 1917 A Battery was preparing to move its l8pdr guns forward to a new position at Hindenburg Farm. This involved filling in shell holes and preparing a track up to the Farm. At about 5pm Revere, with Major Batchelor the Battery Commander, and Captain Lyn Taverner, the Battery Captain, stood watching about a dozen men fill in a shell hole when, without warning, a German 4.2” shell landed amongst them. Major Batchelor, seven men and Revere were wounded. Revere received shrapnel wounds in the chest, abdomen and thigh. He was quickly carried into a gun pit by Major Batchelor (despite his own wounds) and Captain Taverner. His wounds were dressed, he was carried on a stretcher to 121 Field Ambulance Advanced Dressing Station located at Canada Farm, on to Essex Farm, and finally by ambulance to 47 Casualty Clearing Station, located at Dozinghem, arriving there at 7.00pm.
His father’s friend, Harvey Cushing, the American neurosurgeon, was at 46 Casualty Clearing Station at Mendingham. As soon as he received a message about Revere’s wounds he set off in a motor ambulance through pouring rain. He found Revere in extreme shock, drifting in and out of consciousness, but as Cushing stood over him Revere smiled and said ‘So glad you’re here’.
Other eminent American surgeons, all friends of his father, rushed to Dozenghem to offer assistance. One, George Washington Crile, an expert on blood transfusion, took with him his transfusion apparatus and immediately began to replace some of the precious blood that had been lost. By the time the transfusion was completed it was almost midnight and the surgery commenced.
Crile gave his account of Revere’s treatment and subsequent death.
“Brewer (George Emerson Brewer, original Director and Chief of Surgery at Base Hospital No 2, then 1st Corps), Cushing and I were in consultation, the splendid Durrach (Lt Col William Durach, Assistant Consultant in General Surgery to 1st Army) in charge. The long marquee tent was quiet and dim; the end was fast approaching. The boy’s features were serene and a faint smile illuminated his face when he was told that his father’s American friends were there…. Durach and Brewer operated, Harvey held his pulse and I continued the transfusion… Large rents were found in the colon, much blood in the chest and a large wound in the thing. Obviously all was lost.
A second transfusion caused some improvement but this was short lived and despite the attention from such experts in their field, he died the next morning. He was buried in a grave lined with Alder branches, wrapped in a blanket and covered in a Union Jack. Buglers sounded the Last Post and the American Surgeons who fought so hard to save him now mourned him.
In due course his parents received his British War Medal and Victory Medal and his bronze memorial plaque. It is said that Sir William Osler never recovered from the loss of his son. He eventually died of Influenza two years later, but some said he died of a broken heart.
Excerpts with permission from
'The Case of Edward Revere Osler by Captain (Retd)' P H Starling