Sunday 23 October 2016

Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley 'had no idea how ill he was before his death'

Henry Worsley, the SAS veteran who strove to complete the first solo crossing of Antarctica, died 30 miles short of his goal

Javier Espinoza

Published 01/02/2016 | 08:36

Henry Worsley
Henry Worsley
Undated handout file photo issued by the Shackleton Foundation of former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55
Duke of Cambridge (left) with former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55, from Fulham, London

Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley had no idea how ill he was in the hours before his death and even made plans for the following week, his widow has revealed.

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The former SAS officer died last week as he attempted to make a solo crossing of Antarctica to raise funds for one of the Duke of Cambridge’s charities.

He died, age 55 after undergoing surgery because he fell ill with bacterial peritonitis just 30 miles short of his goal.

But his widow, Joanna Worsley, has now revealed that even when taken ill to hospital after collapsing from exhaustion he was making plans about giving a lecture the following week and even talked about his children with the doctors before his operation.

Duke of Cambridge (left) with former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55, from Fulham, London
Duke of Cambridge (left) with former Army officer Henry Worsley, 55, from Fulham, London

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Ms Worsley said she was on her way to Chile when she heard her husband was taken off the ice and prayed for everything to be OK.

She said: “I prayed. I was really happy he’d been taken off the ice. I just knew he wasn’t well. But I don’t think he knew wasn’t well, because the doctors said that before his operation he talked about the children to them. And he said he was going to be head lecturer on a cruise the following week. He had no idea how ill he was.”

Mr Worsley was trying to complete the journey that his hero Sir Ernest Shackleton failed to achieve 100 years ago in 1916. He was descended from Frank Worsley, the captain of Shackleton's ship Endurance.

And his widow has now revealed he wanted to achieve much more beyond his epic adventures. She said: “I can’t describe how many dreams Henry had. Whether it was to follow the England cricket team round India, or work to keep falcons, and go back to keeping ferrets – which I hated. He just … really had more dreams that I can possibly tell you. He was not your man who walked in in the evening and had his whisky and water and expected his dinner on the table. Ever.”

She described an “unconventional” marriage where “individual dreams” were nourished rather than “crushed”. She said: “We didn’t tie each other down. I couldn’t have tied him down. But he went with my blessings everywhere.

“However much I’ve found the separations hard sometimes, particularly when I was bringing up children, I had my twenties for fulfilling a lot of dreams – he didn’t.

“He was in the army from the age of 19. So I just felt it was his turn to realise some dreams. It wasn’t as if he was bungee jumping or doing these things kids do now … it wasn’t easy but it was definitely part of our marriage.

“I would rather have had him part-time than anyone else full time.”

Despite cutting his expedition short, Mr Worsley raised over £200,000 for the Endeavour Fund, part of the Duke’s Royal Foundation charity. His legacy will help scores of wounded veterans to embark on adventures thanks to this sponsorship.

Before setting out on his journey, Mr Worsley had said: "I have just completed a 36-year career in the British Army and I want to leave a financial legacy to assist my wounded mates over the journey of their recovery."

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