Devizes soldier Captain Adam Crookshank endured white-outs, blizzards and temperatures as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius during the first week of his successful trek to the South Pole.
Captain Crookshank, who is currently on leave in Canada, said: “It was ten times worse than I thought it was going to be. Right now it is something I would never do again in my life but I am already thinking that I might do it again if the weather was like the second week.”
Capt Crookshank had taken part in the trek across Antarctica to celebrate the centenary of the unsuccessful attempt on the South Pole by Captain Robert Falcon Scott and his team. One of Scott’s expedition, Captain Laurence Oates, famously sacrificed himself by walking off into the blizzard that was trapping his colleagues to give them the chance of survival.
Capt Oates was a member of the Royal Dragoon Guards, with whom Captain Crookshank and two of his colleagues, Corporal Robbie Harmer and L/Cpl Nick Webb, serve. All of them were injured while serving in Afghanistan.
The expedition was led by Wiltshire explorer David Hempleman-Adams.
Capt Crookshank said the first week of the expedition was extremely gruelling, with the group tramping through knee-deep snow drifts hauling heavily laden sledges. One of their number had to be airlifted out and Capt Crookshank still bears the scars of the trek himself.
He said: “I got a frost nip on my nose, which has turned to light frost bite, and I have frost nip on my thighs, which looks like bee stings. It looks as though I will lose the nails on my big toes and the ones next to them but there is nothing that will not heal in time.”
Capt Crookshank, the son of Jim Crookshank, a former paratrooper and owner of Cannings Hill Garage in Devizes, is due to return to England next week and it is likely he and the rest of the team will meet the Prince of Wales, who saw them off on their expedition in October. A visit to 10 Downing Street and an appearance at a Chelsea football match are also in the pipeline but have not yet been confirmed.
Team leader Mr Hempleman-Adams, a veteran polar explorer from Box, said the team had done extremely well.
He said the soldiers were fit and charged ahead, but they were also in a lot of pain due to the effect of the conditions on their shrapnel wounds.
He said: “If you are doing a solo trip, you know how to look after yourself. But this was slightly different, in that there was the additional responsibility of looking after these wounded boys. They did amazingly well.
“They had injuries, they had all been blown up in Afghanistan, but they did amazingly well. They feel they’re the lucky ones. On their last tour of Afghanistan, they had 30 per cent casualties. They’re still serving.”