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Olive, Charles Gordon Chaloner (1916–1987)

by Dennis Newton

This article was published:

Charles Gordon Chaloner Olive (1916-1987), air force officer, was born on 3 July 1916 at Paddington, Brisbane, son of New Zealand-born Hugh Chaloner Olive, clerk, and his Queensland-born wife Lucinda Maud, née Exley. Educated at Brisbane Grammar School, Gordon studied briefly at the University of Queensland, before he commenced a cadetship with the Royal Australian Air Force, Point Cook, Victoria, in January 1936. He gained his pilot’s wings in December and the following month sailed for England to take up a short-service commission with the Royal Air Force. Holding the rank of pilot officer, he served with No.2 Flying Training School until 22 May 1937 when he was posted to No.65 Squadron, Hornchurch Wing. On 19 August 1938 he was promoted to flying officer. Of fair complexion and 5 ft 6 ins (168 cm) tall, he was a champion javelin thrower in service and inter-service athletics.

Piloting a Spitfire, Olive became flight commander during three tours of duty between September 1939 and March 1941, in which he completed 193 sorties totalling 165 hours. He was slightly wounded while flying patrols during the Dunkirk evacuation. In the Battle of Britain, when he was operating up to eight hours a day, he was credited with destroying five enemy aircraft. Promoted to flight lieutenant on 19 August 1940, Olive was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross on 24 September. In December he shot down his sixth confirmed enemy plane. He had married Helen Mary Thomas (d.1946) on 22 June 1940 at the parish church, Kensington, London. She was to be one of the first English war brides to come to Australia, in 1943.

In June 1941 Olive was appointed the first commanding officer of No.456 Squadron, RAAF, Australia’s first, and only, night-fighter squadron, and was promoted to squadron leader on 18 January 1942. Before ill health cut short his tour of duty in March, he had completed seventeen more sorties comprising nineteen hours. Following several short postings, he joined the RAAF in June 1943, although he remained attached to the RAF. At the end of October he departed for Australia where he served briefly with No.3 Embarkation Depot. In February 1944 he joined RAAF Command and on 1 April he became acting wing commander. He took over No.101 Fighter Control Unit on 29 December and the following month moved to Air Defence Headquarters, Sydney. His final wartime posting was to Air Defence Headquarters, Morotai, Netherlands East Indies (Indonesia), which he commanded from 16 July 1945. He was demobilised on 7 March 1946 and transferred to the RAAF Reserve. In 1948 he became State commandant of the Air Training Corps.

In civilian life Olive was an executive with Rheem Australia Ltd, Brisbane, and later with Boral Ltd. He was a skilled painter, mainly of wartime scenes, and kept prodigious notes of his experiences. On 17 April 1948 at St John’s Church of England Cathedral, Brisbane, he married Beryl Gwendoline North.  In 1961 he served as honorary aide-de-camp to the Queen and in November 1972 he stood unsuccessfully for the Country Party in the Federal seat of Petrie. Appointed MBE (1967) for his work organising the Empire Youth Movement and CBE (1978), he retired in 1981. Survived by his wife and their two sons and one of their two daughters, he died on 20 October 1987 at Boonah and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Olive & D. Newton, The Devil at 6 O’Clock (2001)
  • RAAF record (Air Force Office, Department of Defence)
  • private information.

Citation details

Dennis Newton, 'Olive, Charles Gordon Chaloner (1916–1987)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2012, accessed online 28 November 2022.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 18, (Melbourne University Press), 2012

View the front pages for Volume 18

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