He was commissioned second lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) on 30 September 1896.
Ollivant was promoted lieutenant in 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 Fusiliers 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, China. He may have been given the local rank of Major at the same time. On 13 July 1900, a large allied force launched an attack 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 elements 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 Americans 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. Ollivant then hoisted some of the ammunition himself and pressed on 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 leans me to 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.
In 1900 the status U.S. of gallantry awards and campaign medals was in its 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. The only award for gallantry was the Medal of Honor. The
Medal of Honor had been in use since the American Civil War but I do not believe that in 1900 had ever been any authorization for award members of foreign 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.
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 MOH (to
five allied WWI "unknowns"). Had such been the case in 1900 I feel that Captain Lionel Arthur Edward Ollivant would have qualified for the award of some U.S. recognition for his
actions in trying to resupply his beleaguered American allies at Tientsin on 14 July, 1900.
Captain Lionel Arthur Edward Ollivant was entitled to the British 1900 China War Medal with the "Relief of Pekin" clasp.
No records have been found showing Ollivant ever having been married or having children.
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