Major Phil Ashby QGM
Born in 1970, and brought up in Helensburgh, Phil has always had a taste for adventure. He won a scholarship to Glenalmond College, Perthshire and was a talented gymnast and musician. His parents contemplated sending him to ballet school. Instead he discovered rock climbing and was quickly mastering some of Scotland’s hardest extreme rock climbs, before finding another physical career as a Royal Marine Commando.
Commissioned into The Royal Marines at just seventeen and a half, making him the youngest officer in HM Armed Forces, he won his Green Beret one-week after his 18th birthday.
After an RM bursary to Cambridge University and a further fifteen months of Royal Marines officer training, in 1992, Phil won the Commando medal for ‘Leadership, Unselfishness, Cheerfulness, Determination and Courage’.
In 1995 Phil was selected to join the elite Mountain and Arctic Warfare Cadre, completing eleven months of arduous Mountain Leader training, the longest and hardest infantry course in the British Armed Forces. He is also a qualified Jungle Warfare instructor.
He was promoted to Major at the age of 28, making him the youngest officer of that rank in the British Armed Forces
Phil found worldwide fame, and qualified as a genuine Hero, when he successfully led an escape from hostile forces in Sierra Leone. Phil had volunteered for a 6-month tour with the United Nations as an Unarmed Peace Keeper in war-torn Sierra Leone. The mission was brought to a violent end when the rebels restarted the country’s civil war, and turned on the UN’s representatives, torturing and butchering them and taking over 500 hostages.
After days under seige with no food and dwindling medical supplies and water, Phil took the decision to risk being killed trying to escape rather than be taken alive. So at 2.45 am, when he felt the rebels would be least vigilant, he led his team over the wall. Despite trekking day and night for almost a week without food or water, Phil found the courage and strength to lead his colleagues on a daring and dramatic race to freedom through the hostile jungle. On his return to Britain, he was rushed to hospital, paralysed from the waist down. He had brought home a virus lodged in his spinal cord. He has had to face a whole new set of challenges both personally and professionally, even re-learning how to walk as he has come to terms with long term disability.
He was awarded the Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his actions.
Phil’s autobiography ‘Unscathed’ is now being made into a major film, with Colin Farrell lined up to play Phil.
Phil has climbed all over the world and survived an epic 2-man rowing expedition in the Arctic Ocean. This was the first - and only – human-powered circumnavigation of the polar island of Spitsbergen.
Major Ashby describes his experience in Sierra Leone.