Wilson, Philip John Conning

He was the son of John Wilson, the Hon. Lord Ashmore, a Senator of the College of Justice in Scotland, of Ashmore, Perthshire and of 42 Heriot Row, Edinburgh. His mother, Lady Ashmore, had been Lilias Wilson, daughter of William Hartley, of Dumfries. He was born in Edinburgh and entered Culver’s Close (Bramston’s) from Cargilfield School with a Headmaster’s nomination. He was a member of the OTC, became Head of his House and a Commoner Prefect. He won the Headmaster’s Prize for French, and was the best scholar of his year at the language, giving a speech in French at Medal Speaking. He played in Commoner XV and was elected to a Classical scholarship at New College, Oxford.

However, war broke out before he could take up his place there. He applied for a commission direct from Winchester OTC and was gazetted to the Cameron Highlanders on 15th August 1914, joining 1st Battalion in France as a Lieutenant at the end of January 1915. At the end of February the battalion relieved Indian troops on the front line at Rue de l’Epinette. For the next month life was reasonably quiet. Confusingly, a list of officers for March 8th 1915 does not include Wilson; he may have been away on a course, attached to the staff, or absent sick. April passed by uneventfully, though towards the end of the month the battalion began training for a planned attack.

On Sunday 9th May the 1st Camerons were involved in the attack by 1st Guards Brigade at Neuve Chapelle, during the Battle of Aubers. The artillery bombardment began at dawn that day with the infantry going in soon after, but were met by intense German machine gun fire. By 6 a.m. hundreds of men were pinned down in No Man’s Land, unable to retreat or advance. During heavy German shelling, many conflicting orders were received by the British and the flurry of messages attached to the war diary, all of them¬†written by hand and sent by runners, show the confusion in which the front line troops found themselves.¬† 1st Camerons suffered heavy casualties from machine gun fire and the war diary recorded: ” The assaulters were shot down before getting much more than half way, the last platoons to leave being mown down within about thirty yards of our parapet. About 350 advanced, and 180 of these were either killed, wounded or missing.” Wilson was twice wounded while leading his men forward through the heavy shelling and machine gun fire, but got up and limped on in front, waving at his men to follow, until he fell for the last time, shot through the temple. His body was never found and he is commemorated on Panels 41-42 of the Le Touret Memorial.

War: World War 1

  • Surname: Wilson
  • Forenames or initials: Philip John Conning
  • House: H
  • Years in School: 1908-1914
  • Rank: Lieutenant
  • Regiment: Cameron Highlanders
  • Date of Birth: 25th February 1895
  • Date of Death: 9th May 1915
  • How Died: Killed in Action
  • Location in War Cloister: Outer E6
  • Decoration: NA
  • Burial Site: Unknown but commemorated on the LE TOURET MEMORIAL: Panels 41 and 42