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Langford Wellman Colley-Priest

Langford Wellman Colley-Priest MM (September 1890 – 11/12 February 1928)[2] was an Australian stretcher bearer during the First World War for the 8th Field Ambulance. He was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous gallantry on the Western Front in 1917. He survived the war but later drowned in 1928, and his body is believed to have been eaten by a shark.

Langford Wellman Colley-Priest
Born September 1890
Glebe, New South Wales
Died February 1928 (aged 37)
Balmoral, New South Wales
Allegiance Australia
Service/branch Australian Imperial Force
Years of service 1915–1919
Rank Private
Service number 6618[1]
Unit 8th Australian Field Ambulance

First World War

Awards Military Medal


Early lifeEdit

Colley-Priest was born in Glebe, New South Wales, in September 1890 to George and Rose Colley-Priest.[2][3] Prior to his embarkation for Egypt and deployment on the Western Front he resided with his parents in Neutral Bay and worked as a warehouseman.[2] Colley-Priest was an Anglican.[4]


Colley-Priest enlisted in the 8th Field Ambulance, part of the 8th Infantry Brigade of the Australian Imperial Force, on 19 May 1915 and embarked aboard the HMAT Ascanius on 9 November, bound for Egypt and the Western Front.[4][5] While serving, he was deployed at the Somme, Racquinghem, Polygon Wood, Messines, Villers-Bretonneux and Mont Saint-Quentin. In 1917, Colley-Priest was awarded the Military Medal.[6] The recommendation for the award noted that he displayed:

Colley-Priest's enlistment paper

Colley-Priest returned to Australian in 1919, was discharged on 3 August and awarded the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. for his war service.[7] He later wrote the official history of his unit.[8] Notable for its first-hand accounts of the front from the perspective of medical staff, he sold his war diary to the State Library of New South Wales in 1919 as part of their European War Collecting Project.


Colley-Priest went swimming on either 11 or 12 February 1928, at Balmoral Beach, Sydney and was reported as missing on 13 February. On 14 February, a search team comprising the Balmoral local police and the New South Wales Water police were unable to find any signs of Colley-Priest.[10] After the police search, a man observed a floating body in the distance and alerted the police to its presence. However, as the police approached the body a "huge object heaved out of the sea, grabbed the body, and disappeared."[10] Newspapers at the time suggested suicide and that the body had been eaten by a shark.[10][11] On 27 February, an arm washed up on the beach near Dobroyd Point and was assumed to be Colley-Priest's. A suitcase with his clothes and a note stating "Colley-Priest gone mad" were found on Balmoral Wharf. Members of the Mosman and water police retrieved a portion of a shirt believed to have been worn by Colley-Priest.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Honours and Awards — Langford William Colley-Priest". Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Enlistment paper. National Archive of Australia: p. 1. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  3. ^ "NSW BDM index search". NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Enlistment paper. National Archive of Australia: p. 14. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Langford Wellman Colley-Priest". First World War Embarkation Rolls. Australian War Memorial. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Australians Honoured". The Sydney Morning Herald. National Library of Australia. 28 December 1917. p. 7. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  7. ^ Enlistment paper. National Archive of Australia: p. 37. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  8. ^ Colley-Priest, L. W., The 8th Australian Field Ambulance on active service : a brief account of its history and services from 4 August 1915 to 5 March 1919 (Sydney: D.S. Ford, 1919). Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  9. ^ Diary Transcription. State Library of New South Wales. Retrieved 23 November 2013.
  10. ^ a b c "Eaten by Shark?". The Evening News. Sydney: National Library of Australia. 16 February 1928. p. 13. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "Missing Man". The Sydney Morning Herald. NSW: National Library of Australia. 15 February 1928. p. 19. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "Grim Relic on Beach". The Northern Star. Lismore, NSW: National Library of Australia. 27 February 1928. p. 5. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 

External linksEdit