The widow of Lt Col Henry Worsley, Antarctic explorer and friend of the British Royals, is taking his ashes back to Antarctica.

A year after his death her late husband still monopolises the space in his old flat in London.

The bookshelves are crammed with the explorer's favourite tales of adventures past: The South Polar Times, The Lonely South, The Worst Journey in the World.

A child's portrait of Worsley with his sledge sits on the mantelpiece.


And there, mounted on a wall in the kitchen, are the yellow skis he used on his final, ill-fated, expedition in November 2015.

It is a corner of the Antarctic in Fulham.

His widow, Joanna, laughs a little as she picks up one of her cushions, embroidered with the image of an intrepid party of adventurers inching through the snow. "I can't get away from him, can I?" she asks.

Now it is her turn to plan a voyage.

This coming November, she will sail from Argentina to the isolated British outpost of South Georgia, long known as the gateway to the Antarctic, so that she can place her husband's ashes by the grave of his hero, Ernest Shackleton.

Their two children - Max, 22, and Alicia, 20 - will be by her side.

They will leave home two years after the former SAS officer set out for the last time.

Even at 55, he was determined to become the first person to cross the Antarctic unaided, following a route laid down by Shackleton.

Instead, only 30 miles from the end of his 1517-km trek, he collapsed and called for a helicopter to rescue him.

He was diagnosed with bacterial peritonitis and died of organ failure in hospital in Punta Arenas, Chile, on January 24, 2016, before his wife could reach him.

He relished the challenges presented by such an expedition but Mrs Worsley is also convinced that he must have found something to admire, some trace of beauty, in the harsh environment.

So she thinks it fitting that his ashes should rest in such an isolated landscape.

"Henry was a man who always wanted to live down a 10-mile track in the Brecon Beacons without being able to see a light anywhere," she says, when we meet in the flat they shared for the final stretch of their 22-year marriage.

"For me, he will always be wandering around the Antarctic and South Georgia very happily."

The family will attend a service in the same tiny wooden church, flanked by mountains, which held Shackleton's funeral. Then, in salopettes and thick jackets, the congregation will trek past fur seals and penguins to reach Grytviken Cemetery.

As well as Shackleton's headstone, there are the graves of several whalers who populated the island in the early 20th century and the ashes of Frank Wild, another explorer and shipmate of Shackleton and Scott who called Grytviken "one of the most perfect little harbours in the world".

The idea to take back his ashes was suggested by his friend and fellow polar history obsessive Angie Butler.

"We all thought it was amazing," Mrs Worsley recalls.

"It makes me tearful even thinking about it. It is so much what Henry would want. Henry and I never wanted to have gravestones the children felt obliged to go and visit every Sunday. Even in death, I don't think we should be tied together.

"For months, she was not sure she could face the trip and thought she might leave it to the children. Now, though, she has decided to go.

"I want to see him in this place that he so loved," she says, "I want to say my final goodbye to him there."

She is comforted that he will be close to Shackleton, who he had lionised since childhood.

He treasured one of the explorer's own copies of his book about the Endurance expedition, South - inscribed "to mother and father from Ernest" - and once slept beside his grave on a trip to South Georgia as a young officer in his 20s.

"Shackleton was so much his hero," she goes on.

"He enormously respected him. There's a statue of Shackleton outside the Geographical Society and whenever we drove past it when the children were young, he would always say 'look left, bow!'"

As the anniversary of his death, on January 24, approaches, Mrs Worsley remains weighed down by grief. She does not often venture out, has not worn make-up in a year and frequently grows tearful during our hour together.

"This has devastated our lives," she says. "I have found seeing friends completely impossible."

It is plain that she is still devoted to the man who she remembers not merely for his three polar missions and his 36-year Army career, including stints in Bosnia and Afghanistan, but for his artistic side.

He loved art and used to sit up at night in a studio in their home, surrounded by his Shackleton memorabilia, with a cigar in his mouth and a drink at his side. He once returned from a deployment in Northern Ireland carrying a tapestry he had made.

"He wasn't a normal person. Maybe everyone says that about their husbands, but he really was unique. He taught me never to go past a museum or art gallery without going in and just looking at one painting. You don't need two hours - he said 'go in and look at one room'."

He had only recently retired from the Army when he last set off for the Antarctic: Mrs Worsley feels robbed of the retirement they had planned. He wanted to take up falconry and learn dry stonewalling. Perhaps they would keep bees in London.

"He had so many dreams. We both did - together. This was our time."

Some have tried to comfort her by telling her that her husband died in the manner of his heroes; others say that he could not have grown old.

She understands them but finds little consolation in such a sentiment.

"Shackleton said - and Henry said to us constantly - 'better a live donkey than a dead lion'. And he didn't stick by that."

She cannot help replaying those last few days. He did not know about the ulcer that would kill him, but she feels he gravely "miscalculated" the effort of making the crossing unaided.

Three days before he radioed for help, concerned friends who were listening to his nightly broadcasts were calling her, saying something was awry.

She quickly grew "hysterical".

"If Henry had asked for his pick-up then, he probably would have survived," she says.

"But the ulcer burst the next day, so it was too late."

She spent last autumn in a refugee camp in northern Greece, running a "shop" dispersing essential supplies to the needy.

"I thought, 'I'm incapable of socialising - why not escape everybody?' It was a wonderful experience but what it did was just bandage up a wound that hadn't started healing yet. So I am going to stay here for a while now."

On the anniversary, she will open the new Henry Worsley Science Centre at his alma mater, Stowe.

It overlooks the cricket pitch: perfect, she says, for a man who adored the school where he did "no work at all" and spent all his time captaining the first XI, shooting rabbits and fishing.

The flat forms another permanent memorial. There is the postcard from the South Pole that arrived three days before his death.

"I will never forget what I owe you," he had written.

There is the now-tattered Union flag he had with him when he died, signed by his friend the Duke of Cambridge. And there are those skis.

As I leave, I notice the words of encouragement scribbled on each ski by his wife and children before he left home.

"Secure good lodgement for the night," Mrs Worsley had written, "and thy sleep shall be sweet."

Just above is a note by Alicia, which her father would have seen every day as he trudged through the blizzards - in the footsteps of the hero alongside whom he will now forever rest.

"Shacks would be proud," it reads.