Obituary: Commander Malcolm Burley, MBE, Naval Officer and Antarctic explorer

Commander Malcolm Burley MBE, Naval Officer and Antarctic explorer. Born: 28 September, 1927. Died: 23 August, 2010, in Suffolk, aged 82.

There are very few men alive today who can claim to be genuine explorers, rather than adventurers or, even more banal, tourists. The possibilities for exploration diminished as man continued his mapping of the globe, but Malcolm Burley was one of those lucky enough to say that he performed a first; the ascent of Mount Paget on the island of South Georgia.

Born in 1927, Malcolm Keith Burley joined the Royal Naval College in 1945 and was based at Eaton Hall in Chester after the German Second World War bombing campaign had forced a move from the headquarters at Dartmouth.

Following his training period, Burley embarked on a somewhat eventful naval career, and one that appeared cursed by bad luck and disaster.

His first posting was aboard HMS Frobisher before a transfer saw him in the Mediterranean with the crew of HMS Leander and a witness to the Corfu Channel Incident. The incident comprised of three events involving Royal Navy vessels and eventually led to the deaths of 44 RN servicemen. Burley was not on either of the ships that struck Albanian mines, but he was sent to HMS Volage in order to make a note of the personal belongings of those comrades who had died.

The navy, which had been operating in what it considered to be international waters, immediately used mine-sweeping equipment to clear the Albanian waters. This resulted in a breakdown in political discourse with diplomatic relations disintegrating, and which were to remain broken until 1991.

The case of the deaths occurring from the Algerian mines was taken to the International Court of Justice, which ordered the Algerian's to pay about 844,000 (about 20 million in today's money) in compensation. That order is still outstanding.

Following the Corfu incident, Burley joined a two-year tour of the Far East aboard HMS Kenya, having been promoted to Sub-Lieutenant. During his time on Kenya, the vessel was instructed to aid in the transportation of religious paraphernalia from what is now Sri Lanka to Burma. The ship was subsequently filled with priceless artifacts and holy worshippers - not historically the cargo for a military cruiser.

As with all ocean-going battle cruisers, the Kenya occasionally required dry dock maintenance. While work was being carried out in Singapore, Burley found himself deep in the jungle on a small craft patrolling the waterways of Malaya to combat the threat of communist insurgents.

However, he was less worried by the threat of bullets than the teeth of angry wildlife.

Burley was still on the Kenya when the Korean War began in 1950 and the vessel was turned toward the Japanese coastline. On 8 July, 1950, the Kenya arrived in Sasebo, Japan, before setting sail for Korea on 16 July.The first taste of battle came on 20 July, the target a small island on the west coast of Korea.

Two days later, the ship and its crew were back at Sasebo before embarking for another assault on 24 July.

On 1 August, Kenya joined HMS Belfast, Cossack and Charity for a full on bombing of Inchon. In November, Kenya made a return to Hong Kong carrying Rear Admiral Andrewes's flag. In January 1951, Kenya, helped cover the evacuation of Inchon.

This was a particularly dangerous period in Burley's military career as the Kenya was part of the United Nations offensive against the North Koreans and Chinese. Kenya was on the receiving end of some pretty accurate shooting from the land-based troops for a considerable period of her time off the Korean coast.

It wasn't all war and no play, however, and Burley even managed to get time to visit Hiroshima and see the devastation caused by the nuclear bomb of 1945. He left with a roof tile and an unforgettable memory of the ultimate consequences of war.

He was commissioned in 1960 to the Antarctic guardship HMS Protector and while on his first tour he climbed to the summit of Mount Leotard, the highest peak on the remote Adelaide Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Having gained a taste for cold and arduous climbing, he joined a company of Royal Marines later in the year an attempt to reach the summit of South Georgia's highest peak, Mount Paget. Conditions were dreadful, but Burley persevered and along with three others made the lower peak, but with the light fading and the prevailing winds building they were forced to beat a hasty retreat.

In 1964, he was back on South Georgia with the same plan in mind, making the summit of Mount Paget. He was the leader of the Combined Services Expedition, which was aiming to cross the island using the same route taken by Ernest Shackleton and his two comrades, from King Haakon Bay to Stromness - a treacherous navigation made all the more incredible by the fact that Shackleton and his team made it in less than 36 hours with no real mountaineering equipment. The expedition had other goals besides this. The crossing was being filmed for the broadcaster ITV and the team was going to attempt as many of the major peaks as possible in the time given, including Paget and Sugartop.

The team was also planning to recross the island using a very high and dangerous route near Mount Marikoppa and across the particularly hazardous Allardyce Range.

The team was also carrying out a survey of unchartered areas around the island and other work included charting, geological, glaciological, botanical and ornithological surveys. The expedition was a resounding success during which Burley became the first person to conquer Mount Paget and Mount Sugartop. Mount Burley is named after him.

Back in naval life, Burley was again aboard Protector in 1964 before serving as a supply officer on HMS Eagle for three years.He then served as secretary to the admiral at naval college Greenwich and subsequently held a role at Fleet Air Arm headquarters.

In 1970, he returned to the Antarctic, this time to the scene of the start of Shackleton's most famous adventure, Elephant Island. This was his last foray in to groundbreaking expeditions and having achieved the rank of commander, followed by desk jobs in Whitehall, he retired from the Royal Navy in 1973.

His second career was less glamorous but also less dangerous, as a bursar of Stowe School and then as estate manager at Anchor Estate in Suffolk.

He was made a Member of the British Empire for his role in the Antarctic explorations and received the Cuthbert Prize from the Royal Geological Society. He was also part of a television documentary in 1999, Expedition Journal: Leading the Way.

He was described by a neighbour as "an all-round good egg and a very popular chap in the village - no-nonsense, but great with children and dogs".

Commander Malcolm Burley, a fit and healthy man who had just been out to buy his morning paper from the village shop, died suddenly on 23 August at his home in Peasenhall, Suffolk. He was 82.

He is survived by his wife Fiona and his daughters Ailsa, Leonie and Erica, and seven grandchildren.