William Coles

Biographical information

TypeCompeted in Olympic Games
Full nameWilliam Edward•Coles
Used nameWilliam•Coles
Born26 July 1913 in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England (GBR)
Died7 June 1979 in Westminster, Greater London, England (GBR)
AffiliationsRoyal Air Force, (GBR)
NOC Great Britain


Before joining the Metropolitan Police, William Coles was educated at the Central School in Tysoe, Warwickshire. Having previously played rugby for Banbury and Oxfordshire, he also played for the “Met” XV and even had an international trial during his spell in the force. He was commissioned into the RAF in 1938 and, after training, was posted to bomber command in Egypt and then took part in the invasion of Sicily. He was involved in some of the major campaigns of World War II, and later commanded a joint British-American squadron that dropped supplies to troops in hazardous destinations, and in dangerous conditions. For his exploits, Coles received many decorations, including, in 1952, a CBE to go with his DFC and Bar, DSO, AFC and the American DFC. After the War, he served at the AIr Ministry, Central Flying School, and H.Q. Flying Training Command. In 1963, Air Vice-Marshal Coles was appointed the Director-General of personal services at the Air Ministry, and in 1966 was promoted to Air Marshal.

After World War II, Coles continued his sporting exploits. A fine squash player, he resumed his rugby career with Blackheath, and raced many times with the RAF bobsleigh team at St. Moritz and in 1947 was in the 4-man team that won the St. Moritz Cup. At the Olympic Games the following year, Coles, and fellow RAF man Pennington Collings, competed in the 2-man bob, finishing a creditable fifth. He was also part of the British 4-man team that finished seventh. Coles was vice-captain of the two British bob teams at the Games, while Collings was captain of both.


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1948 Winter Olympics Bobsleigh (Bobsleigh) GBR William Coles
Two, Men (Olympic) Pennington Collings 5
Four, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 1 7