Antarctic explorer Jack Coggles celebrates 100 extraordinary life with his family

Jack Coggle MBE is celebrating his birthday, this was what his family said:

Dad was born in Rochester in March 1920, the youngest of four children. He attended the local mechanical school for boys, where it was expected they would go on to work as engineers in the docks. Dad had seen flying boats landing on the Medway and fell in love with planes. So in 1935, he was the only boy from the school to sit the entrance exam to Halton, RAF apprentice school, from which he graduated in 1938.

During the war he was stationed in Scotland, Iceland and Northern Ireland providing technical support to planes protecting shipping convoys in the North Sea and North Atlantic. In 1940 he was posted to Cosford near Wolverhampton, where he met our mother, Anne Nora Coggles, they married in 1942.

After the war, the birth of four children and postings to Norfolk and Germany, the family arrived in Wiltshire in 1961, when dad was posted to RAF Hullavington in Wiltshire.

After years of moving, they decided that Wiltshire was where they wanted to settle and they bought a house in Chippenham.

In 1965, dad volunteered on a British Antarctic Survey expedition to the Antarctic. He was to work as an engineer servicing the planes the scientists would use. He was gone for 20 months. These were the days before flights to the Antarctic, high-tech expedition clothing, the internet and sophisticated building materials. He spent one winter at the base on Deception Island. The hut was wooden, ice was thawed for water and huskies used for hauling. The only way to communicate was by post and that took weeks. During the winter months when the base was inaccessible they received radio messages from family about once a month. While there he constructed a plane, a Pilatus Porter, from a kit, that was transported on the same boat that took him to the Antarctic.

On his return he was posted to South Wales, he worked away and only came home on the weekends. In 1971 he was posted to Germany again and it was when he was there that his squadron leader put him forward to receive an MBE for his long service and his expedition to the Antarctic.

In the mid-seventies, they returned from Germany and he retired from the RAF after 40 years.

He continued working as a civil servant. During this time mum and dad established themselves in the community. They were both active members of St Mary`s catholic church and various other community organisations. Dad gave talks about his Antarctic experience at educational and community groups. They also travelled, visiting our brother in Australia several times. They attended several University of the Third Age classes.

The family had dispersed but met together when we could. Mum died in 2010 and in 2015, after a fall Dad went into The Priory Care home.

We had planned a big party for his 100th birthday; about 70 family and friends, old and new, were due to attend, including members of the group who had been with him in the Antarctic. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, we had to cancel and in the end we were only able to be with him virtually. The care home did a brilliant job giving him a great day, including us as much as possible. We look forward to celebrating together soon.

This is Wiltshire

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