I was born in Gloucestershire and raised on a farm where my father makes cheese. After spending 5 years at Cheltenham College Junior School, I went to Gordonstoun School in Scotland. Soon after, I joined the British Army and chose to specialise in Bomb Disposal in the Royal Engineers. Having completed training and the arduous Royal Marines’ Commando Course, my unit was put on standby and later deployed to the Persian Gulf, which became the First Gulf War. Immediately after the war, a section of Commando Bomb Disposal Engineers, including myself were deployed in support of Operation Safe Haven, one of the UK’s first military humanitarian aid efforts.
I later qualified as a military diver, conducting underwater construction, demolition and search operations. A number of operational tours later, which included deployments to both Bosnia and Northern Ireland, I felt it was time to leave and I found work with the British-based humanitarian mine-clearance charity, The HALO Trust.
Life working in mine-affected countries such as Cambodia, Angola and the Republic of Georgia really opened my eyes to what specialists like me could do for the communities living amongst mines, bombs and other debris of war. I met and worked with some incredibly brave people, not just those who work in mine-clearance but also those who work for other aid agencies, who commit to making the world a better place. Some countries were extremely difficult to work in: in Angola I was living and working close to the front lines of the two warring sides, the Government and UNITA. Christmas 1998 was one of the most difficult as I was often woken in the early hours to the sound of artillery fire landing just yards away, causing the walls to shake. Some years later, I was back in Angola, in the South East this time and the war was over, but the mines still remained.
I learnt through friends that it was possible to race, on skis, to the North Pole. Before long, I had set up a team called “Commando Joe” and had cajoled some fellow Commandos to join me in the Polar Challenge. We had all been trained to live, fight and survive in arctic conditions and so we were well qualified to undertake this challenge. We saw polar bears up close and personal as well as a seal basking in the sun. It was a fantastic environment to be in and that was where I really got my taste for pushing my limits further.
In 2006 I, along with another band of merry fellow Army Commandos, “Commando Joe” set off on an epic voyage across the North Atlantic Ocean. My crew of four rowed our 9m long ocean rowing boat from New York to Mevagissey, Cornwall. Two of us rowed, while the other two slept, 90 minutes on and 90 minutes off and after battling through a couple of storms, 85 days later we made landfall, earning two Guinness World Records in the process.
Since the voyage, I have worked for the United Nations in Nepal, in Afghanistan supporting Coalition Forces, gained a Masters degree and am now preparing for my next voyage, which will see me row solo across the “Everest of Oceans”, the North Pacific, in an effort to be the first solo Briton to successfully conquer this route.
All the best,