Oliver served in World War I taking part in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914, fighting at Gallipoli in 1915 and then undertaking mine-laying off the German and Belgian coast. Promoted to Captain, he was given command of HMS Iron Duke in 1939. He also served in World World War II and was commanding the HMS Devonshire, a heavy cruiser, on 21 November 1941 when he was informed that codebreakers had determined that German U-boats were going to be surfacing near him, to refuel from a merchant raider, the Hilfskreuzer (cruiser) Atlantis.
Using the intelligence, Devonshire sunk Atlantis.
He later commanded the gunnery school HMS Excellent and then the cruiser HMS Swiftsure. After the War he was appointed Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Weapons) and then Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff in 1946.
His last appointment, in 1947, was as Flag Officer commanding the 5th Cruiser Squadron before he retired in 1948. In retirement he became Deputy Lieutenant of Roxburghshire.