Capt William Nisbet Oliver


Captain William Nisbet Oliver commanded Clan MacTavish (1), that was shelled and sunk in 1916.

Following capture, the captain became a German prisoner of war. He was only spared execution when the German sea captain who fought against him pleaded for clemency.

Captain Oliver was presented with the Distinguished Service Cross and the Lloyds medal for Meritorious Service when later released.

On January 16, 1916, while carrying cargo from Australia to England the Clan MacTavish encountered the German vessel Moewe, a freighter that had been converted into a commerce raiding ship.

“The Moewe was disguised as a merchant ship with her guns hidden and Clan MacTavish was ordered to stop. She signalled she was stopping but increased her speed to escape.”

At this point the Moewe fired across her bow, which was met by a salvo from the Clan Mactavish’s six-pounder gun, that had been recently installed at Dakar.

During the ensuing exchange Clan MacTavish was hit several times and forced to surrender having lost 15 men. The Germans later blew up the vessel as she was sinking.

Captain Oliver was taken prisoner and tried and with the gun crew interned as a prisoner of war in Germany.

“The captain of the Moewe pleaded for Captain Oliver’s life, which was granted.”

Service Record



Clan MacTavish




Shelled & sunk




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