Martin M Oliver 30th July 1945 killed by blast

Discussion in 'War Cemeteries & War Memorial Research' started by CL1, Jun 21, 2016.

  1. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    I feel the blast aspect has to be discounted. Any "explosion" left no shrapnel injuries on the body; no one heard anything and there was no sign on the cliff top of an explosion. He fell, it is beyond the bounds of credulity that he would fall onto an uncleared mine on the beach which conveniently then was washed away without taking the body out to sea with the tide.... Rescuers didn't tread on any other mines on the beach when going to his rescue.
    I can't guess why he fell, but he'd just arrived that morning and had been warned about going near the cliff edge, so why did he go close enough to fall? Chasing a ball, trying to rescue a trapped animal? All more likely than an untraceable explosion. The coroner had been in Hastings at least since WW1 when he was the Deputy Coroner, so may have been nearing retirement or simply gave a verdict that pacified the parents.

    Whatever happened, poor lad, RIP
  2. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Called in at the East Sussex Record Office today, unfortunately, and as I feared, the records are closed for 75 years - presumably 3 August 2020. They did say that I could write to the coroner for their permission to open the record or else I make a note in my diary for next year, I will do the former.
  3. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Tony well done mate thank you.
  4. KevinBattle

    KevinBattle Senior Member

    My guess that all the coroners record's have had a "standard" 75 years block, as a precaution, but worth asking for the file to be released as I cannot see it doing any harm to anyone living. Direct them to this thread and if still blocked, see if ESRO will also help as I believe you can state a genuine interest in this case.
  5. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    I have been advised by East Sussex Record Office that “Coroner's inquests for Hastings have not survived before 1960”.

    I have however uncovered a more comprehensive newspaper report, this probably gives as much information as there would be in any of the documents. Whilst it provides a detailed account of the events it does not provide any clearer conclusion. For clarity's sake I have transcribed the article here and also attached the original.

    Hastings & St Leonards Observer, Saturday, August 4, 1945


    The mystery of the fate of a 14-year-old boy, Martin Mackenzie Oliver, a visitor from Harrow, who was found at the foot of the 300 ft. high cliffs at Rock-a-Nore on Tuesday, was unsolved at the inquest yesterday evening. Medical evidence suggested that the boy's death was due to a blast, but no indications of an explosion were found by the police, nor were there any signs of the boy having fallen over the cliff.

    Giving evidence Dr. Cordelia Nesbitt Wood said she saw the body at the Rock-a-Nore yard at 1.30 p.m., on Tuesday, and formed the opinion that the boy had been dead at least 12 hours. A post-mortem examination disclosed superficial injuries, including a scalp wound.

    There were also internal injuries, which were consistent with the effects of death from a blast. The cause of death was shock and haemorrhage. She had not previously found such injuries following a fall from a height.

    The boy's mother, Mrs. Rosetta Oliver, of 81 Kempton-road, Harrow, the wife of John Oliver, a professional singer, said the boy was strong and active and not subject to giddiness.

    On July 30 they all came down to Hastings on holiday. Between 4.30 and 5 o'clock the boy went off, she thought, to find a camping site for a friend. In his younger days on previous holidays at Hastings he had been warned of the danger of getting too near the cliffs. He did not return in the evening and the police were advised of his disappearance.

    Police Sargt. Cox said he took part in a search on the East Hill, and shortly after 11.30 p.m. he saw the body at the foot of the cliff east of Foul Nest, where the cliffs were about 300ft. high. The body was recovered from a ledge about 20ft. from the base of the cliffs and some 20ft. above high water mark.

    The clothing was quite dry. A search was made, but no trace could be found of any earth or rock being dislodged, or any indication of a fall from any part of the cliff.

    In view of the medical report as to blast, a further search was made, but there was no trace found of any explosion, scorching, mine fragments, or anything to support the suggestion of a blast.

    There were no mines within 300 yards of the spot where the boy was found. There had been a camp and training ground on the East Hill, and although he could not find any trace of it there might have been some explosive thrown either on to or over the cliff.

    The condition of the ground made it very difficult for anything of the nature suggested to be found.

    Replying to Mrs. Oliver, Sargt. Cox said he had made inquiries in Rock-a-Nore and neighbourhood and no one had heard the sound of any explosion.

    He agreed with the Coroner that something might have been washed up by the sea and signs of it afterwards washed away.

    Recording a verdict of “Death by misadventure” the Coroner (Mr. H. C. Davenport Jones) said he was satisfied that the boy did not fall over the cliff. While he thought he was killed by blast, there was again no evidence of it.


    Newspaper 3.jpg

    Here is a map of the location:

    A photo of the cliffs from Rock-a-Nore beach shows that the foot of the cliff is easily accessible.

    Wood 2.jpg

    I can't help thinking that we may well have reached a cul-de-sac. RIP Martin.
  6. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Excellent information
    As ever thank you for chasing down this info it is greatly appreciated.

  7. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery

    Tricky Dicky, alieneyes and Tony56 like this.
  8. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    High tide on the afternoon of Monday 30th, the day that he died, was 3.47 pm, the next high tide was 4.24 am the next day. If he died sometime between 5.00 and 11.30 the tide would have been going out (making the bottom of the cliff accessible) and would be almost at its lowest when he was found.

    If you look at the photo of the cliff it isn't sheer and it may well be possible to scramble along it, even at or near high tide. Perhaps he did not fall 300 feet, which would have resulted in major injuries, but from a much lower height.
    ozzy16, CL1 and Tricky Dicky like this.
  9. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Forgot to include this in post #45 above:
    Wood 1.jpg
    CL1 likes this.

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