Herzog & Higgins - Photographer
He was appointed Second Lieutenant (Supernumerary) without pay or allowances with the 4th Battalion, the Norfolk Regiment on 22 January, 1896. This appointment was later (4
February, 1896) antedated to 14 January, 1896. He was appointed Second Lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment on 30 September 1896.
Ollivant was promoted Lieutenant of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) on 6 April, 1898 which was then serving in India. On 11 May, 1900 Ollivant was
rapidly promoted to Captain in the Royal Fusilier and appointed regimental Adjutant. His very rapid promotion from lieutenant to captain was probably the result the emergency
situation brought about by the Anglo-Boer War then being hard fought in South Africa and the Boxer Rebellion in China.
At an as yet undetermined date Ollivant was temporarily attached to the 1st Chinese Regiment (No 7 Company) that was seeing action around Tientsin. He may have been given the
local rank of Major at the same time. On 13 July, 1900 a large allied force launched an attacked on Boxer held Tientsin. British, American, French and Japanese troops were given the
task of assaulting the southern gate of the old city while Russians and Germans dueled with Chinese artillery on the city’s north-eastern quarter.
During the attack element of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment became hard pressed, receiving a large number of casualties and running short of ammunition. Their British allies came to
the assistance of the American’s when Major Pereira of the Grenadier Guards (attached to the 1st Chinese) led forward a detachment of stretcher bears to help evacuate some of the
American wounded and was himself wounded for his efforts. Captain Ollivant then led his company forward towards the American positions with mule borne ammunition. His muleteer
was shot dead and Ollivant continued forward until the animal was killed. The Captain then hoisted some of the ammunition himself and continued forward until an enemy bullet struck
him in the head, killing him instantly. Tientsin fell to the allies the next day.
A number of men of the British force at Tientsin received gallantry awards for their service during the attack, Able Seaman McCarthy or the Royal Navy would be awarded the Victoria
Cross. Sergeant Gi Dien Kwee of the Chinese Regiment received a Mention in Despatches (MID) and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). Colour Sergeant Purdon (Coldstream
Guards) and Quartermaster Sergeant E. Brooke (West Riding Regiment) both attached to the 1st Chinese were also awarded the DCM. In spite of his gallant and ultimately fatal
efforts to resupply his American allies Captain Ollivant’s efforts went otherwise unnoticed.
One might have thought that his death may have resulted in a MID at the least but he was given no such distinction. My thinking on this matter tends me to think that the fact that his
actions took place while helping a foreign power – even if an allied one – precluded the issuance of such a mention. Perhaps the British command in China felt that such a responsibility
fell to the Americans to make such a commendation given that Ollivant’s actions occurred while assisting the 9th U.S. Infantry. Needless to say no acknowledgment was forthcoming
from U.S. authorities either.
In 1900 the award of gallantry awards and campaign medals was in in infancy. For example the campaign medal for service in the American Civil War (1861-65) would not be authorized
until 1905. And it was not until 1907 that a campaign medal was authorized for the various Indian War campaigns. Gallantry awards were few and far between. The Medal of Honor had
been in use since the American Civil War but I do not believe that that has ever been any authorization for its award members of feign services regardless of the nature of their actions.
It can and has been awarded to foreign nationals serving in U.S. uniform. To be certain I do not think that Ollivant’s actions rated the award of the Medal of Honor under current
criteria but under the criteria in use in 1900 the question becomes more debatable.
In 1900 there were no other gallantry awards available to U.S. troops. The Distinguished Service Cross was not authorized until 1918, the Silver Star in 1932, the purple Heart also in
1932 and the Bronze Star in 1944. Other medals currently exist but again none were authorized prior to 1918. At the time Boxer Rebellion recognition for actions not qualifying for the
Medal of Honor usually consisted of promotion to higher rank.
Since World War One precedent has allowed for the presentation of U.S. gallantry awards to members of allied services including in five rare and posthumous occasions the Medal of
Honor. Had such been the case in 1900 I feel that Captain Lionel Arthur Edward Ollivant would have qualified for the award of the at least the Bronze Star if not the Silver Star for his
actions in trying to resupply his beleaguered American allies at Tientsin on 14 July, 1900.
No record has been found showing Ollivant ever have been married or having children.