D DAY PHILIP WELLESLEY-COLLEY (C36)

Philip Wellesley-Colley (C36) was born in Lincolnshire in 1919 and came to Downside in September 1929, joining Caverel House and leaving the School in 1936.

In 1937 he joined the Territorial Army artillery regiment, The South Nottinghamshire Hussars. In 1940 his regiment was sent to the Middle East, but whilst playing rugby he suffered a head injury and was sent to a hospital to recover. When he left hospital he volunteered for the commandos, a forerunner of today’s Royal Marines.

He joined No. 4 Commando, which was one of the first units ashore on D Day at Sword Beach. His unit was tasked with destroying a German gun emplacement near Ouistreham on the extreme left flank of the invasion force. As he left his landing craft he was hit by a machine gun bullet but managed to reach the beach defences where he collapsed. His sergeant ran to help him, but Wellesley-Colley was already dying, and his last words were ‘Sorry sergeant, tell the chaps I wont make it.’ He was just 25 years old.

Out of the 450 commandos who landed on Sword Beach on D Day, only 150 survived the assault.

Wellesley-Colley was among the first men to be killed on D Day, and a bench was dedicated to him in his home town in light of this. He is buried in Bayeux military cemetery, where 4 other Downside Old Gregorians who were killed in the Normandy campaign are also buried.