Osler, Edward Revere

He was born in Baltimore, the only son of Sir William Osler and of Lady Osler, daughter of John Revere and granddaughter of Paul Revere, the famous Boston silversmith and hero of the American Revolution. The family came to live at 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford two years after his father’s appointment as Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford in 1905. Osler senior was widely considered to be one of the greatest doctors of his time and his practice attracted many well known patients including politicians and royalty. His house is now the conference centre of Green Templeton College, Oxford and contains a collection of family memorabilia.

Edward came to Winchester from the Oxford Preparatory School. Unlike his father, who had a well developed sense of fun and loved practical jokes, Edward was a quiet, serious boy who was interested in fishing and cabinet making. He got into Oxford at his second attempt and entered Christ Church just before war broke out.

He obtained his first commission in the Canadian Army Medical Corps, but transferred to the Royal Field Artillery a year later. Osler’s battalion took part in the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele, and on the afternoon of 29th August 1917 they were caught by a German artillery barrage. Osler was badly injured, pulled to safety and taken to a dressing station at Essex Farm, north of Ypres, and later evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinghe. Major Harvey Cushing, of the US Medical Corps, was one of the surgical team delegated to look after him and by chance happened to have lived next door to the Osler family in Oxford for three years. No effort was spared to save Edward’s life but he was severely injured and there was very little chance he could survive. He was operated on but died early in the morning of 30th August. He was buried in an army blanket draped with the British flag. Cushing’s diary describes the funeral: “We saw him buried in the early morning. A soggy Flanders field beside a little oak to the rear of the Dosinghem group – an overcast, windy, autumnal day – the long rows of simple wooden crosses – the new ditches half full of water being dug by Chinese coolies wearing tin helmets – the boy wrapped in an army blanket and covered by a weather-worn Union Jack, carried on their shoulders by four slipping stretcher-bearers… Happily it was fairly dry at this end of the trench, and some green branches were thrown in for him to lie on. The Padre recited the usual service – the bugler gave the ‘Last Post’ – and we went about duties.” He still lies in the same spot, now grave IV.F.21 of Dozinghem Military Cemetery.

In 1918, the Sir William Osler Chair in English was set up at John Hopkins University in memory of Edward Revere Osler. This professorship exists to promote the study of English literature of the Tudor and Stuart periods, reflecting the literary interests of Edward Osler, whose collection of books became the foundation of the Tudor and Stuart Literary Club, still active at Hopkins. The details of Edward Osler’s death are well documented and can be consulted in Richard J Mullins “Archives of Surgery, Volume 138, December 2003” and William C Hannigan “Stand To, No 32, Summer 1991”. http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-people/48-brothers-arms/2245-obviously-all-was-lost-the-life-and-death-of-edward-revere-osler.html

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Osler
  • Forenames or initials: Edward Revere
  • House: C
  • Years in School: 1910-1912
  • Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Royal Field Artillery
  • Date of Birth: 28th December 1895
  • Date of Death: 30th August 1917
  • How Died: Died of wounds
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer F5
  • Decoration: NA