The final resting place of Private Oscar Stanbury Olsson, at Kyogle Cemetery.
The final resting place of Private Oscar Stanbury Olsson, at Kyogle Cemetery. Samantha Elley

TALES: Soldier wounded by invisible enemy

THE grave has become forlorn, with the only sign of past tending being a terracotta pot that once carried a plant now lying on its side, empty.

The fence is rusted and dead leaves are scattered over the place where Private Oscar Stanbury Olsson lies in Kyogle cemetery, having served Australia in World War I.

The 29-year-old was described as a "fine stamp of a man", and at six feet, two inches tall, the description was understandable.

Pte Olsson had come to the Kyogle area in 1916, after being discharged from the Australian Infantry Force and receiving a soldier's block at Roseberry.

"The late Mr Olsson ... was highly thought of by his neighbours and all others who knew him," The Kyogle Examiner reported at the time of his death.

But how did such a young man lose his battle for life?

The answer lies on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean in May 1915.

After serving and being wounded at Gallipoli, Pte Olsson had been transported away only to be exposed to pulmonary tuberculosis, according to army medical records.

His symptoms were graphically described. He had a cold for about a month and coughed up "two pints of blood" in his sputum - and his condition was only getting worse.

On further medical checks the Medical Board concurred that Pte Olsson was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis and it was recommended he receive treatment at a sanatorium for three months before reporting back.

He was finally discharged in early 1916, after being declared "permanently unfit" for active duty.

The Medical Board found Pte Olsson was suffering from chronic pthisis and confirmed he should receive a pension.

As a returned soldier, Pte Olsson was eligible for a plot of land he could call his own.

When he settled on his block at Roseberry he brought with him his mother, who had been living at Nowra, and a brother.

The problem with Pte Olsson's lungs, however, never went away and, largely incapacitated, it didn't take long for the young man to fall victim to the influenza epidemic that struck Australia in 1919.

Kyogle was hit, with restrictions put in place on big gatherings including public meetings, to try and stop the deadly virus spreading.

An emergency hospital was set up to look after those who were sick.

When Pte Olsson contracted the disease he was brought into the hospital a few days later.

"Unfortunately pneumonia set in before medical service could be requisitioned, with the result that the condition of (Pte Olsson) almost beyond human aid when he arrived," The Kyogle Examiner reported.

He died on July 17, 1919.

References

  • Oscar S Olsson, The Kyogle Examiner, Saturday, July 19, 1919, Page 3
  • Service record for Oscar Stanbury Olssen, National Archives of Australia, naa.gov.ay, accessed March 21, 2018.


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