Clarence was one of several sons born to Matthew and Amelia Colley. The family lived east of Inverell in the Long Plain area. At the age of twenty two, Clarence enlisted at Inverell in June 1916 and was one of thirty district men given a public farewell at the Inverell Town Hall. On this occasion as the volunteers entered the Hall, the audience stood and sang ‘For they are jolly good fellows’.
After joining the 34th Battalion, 4th Reinforcement, Clarence departed Australia for England on the ship HMAT A30 Borda in October 1916. Shortly after arriving in England he became ill and was hospitalised with influenza. He eventually wrote to his brother at Elsmore describing the countryside and London sights he had seen whilst on leave and saying 'I have seen more now than if I had lived to be a thousand years old in Australia and if I get shot I shall have seen a life worth living...'
In April his Battalion was sent to France. Just three months later Clarence was badly wounded and returned to England for treatment at Norfolk War Hospital, Norwich. He had a gunshot wound to his leg and thigh and the decision was made to return him to Australia. After arriving home in January 1918, he was medically discharged in May.
Clarence died at Inverell in 1958. His name is recorded on the Elsmore Honor Roll at Elsmore. At Inverell his name is inscribed on the town’s Honor Roll as Clarence C Cooley.
Clarence was a cousin of Sydney and Louis Colley who also served during WW1.