11 September 2013

Charles Coles, OBE – lifelong ambassador of game conservation

Charles Coles, who has died aged 96Charles Coles OBE, VRD and former Director General of the Game Conservancy Trust (now the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust) has died aged 96.

Charles Coles devoted his professional life to game management and conservation, in particular the survival of game in the era of intensive farming. He was Director General of the Game Conservancy Trust from 1960 to 1981, co-founded the International Union of Game Biology in 1954 and played an active role in the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation based in Paris.

He embarked on his career in the 1930s, becoming personal assistant to Major HG Eley, who had founded the I.C.I. Game Research Department, funded by Eley cartridges. His main responsibility was the Partridge Trials Unit at Knebworth which was investigating a serious outbreak of strongylosis in grey partridges.

His career was interrupted by World War II when Charles joined the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserves. After service in Malta and the North Sea he was given command of an MTB capable of 47 knots, in which he broke the speed record for a transit of the Suez Canal. This was just the start of many challenging operations in the eastern Mediterranean. Unfortunately, these were brought to an abrupt end by the sinking of his second MTB and his subsequent internment in PoW camps in Italy and then Germany.

After the war, he re-joined ICI and in 1947 and was appointed manager of the experimental estate and game farm at Damerham in Hampshire. Then began a varied and highly productive period in which he initiated training courses, lectured, wrote articles and frequently appeared on television. He also authored many books including Shooting Pigeons (1964), Game Conservation in a Changing Countryside (1968); The Complete Book of Game Conservation (1971) plus many more besides.

Under the slogan of ‘Turning words into birds’ he became director of the Eley Game Advsiory Service and travelled extensively visiting every country in Europe and many far beyond, including behind the Iron Curtain. In 1969 he became the first Director General of the Game Conservancy Trust and was responsible for expanding the Game Conservancy’s Sussex study on grey partridges. This was ground-breaking research and led by Dr Dick Potts, this important study was one of the first to identify the detrimental effects that pesticides were having on wildlife, particularly grey partridges. The Sussex study continues today and remains a lasting legacy of Charles Coles.

Although the Sussex partridge study was crucial it nearly came to an abrupt end in 1972 due to a shortage of funds. Extremely alarmed, Charles Coles immediately organised a packed meeting in King’s College in the Strand in 1973, which was chaired by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. The money was raised almost immediately!

Charles retired from the Game Conservancy Trust in 1981 and was awarded the OBE for services to game conservation in 1984. He retired from the CIC in 1989.

Charles Coles was an excellent raconteur and had a wide range of interests, including the arts and music. His private letters were punctuated by little drawings of red wine glasses at various stages of depletion.

Charles Leslie Coles, OBE, VRD, is survived by his wife Wendy and his son Julian and daughter Sarah. He died on 27th August 2013 aged 96 after a very short illness.


Photocaption: Charles Coles, who has died aged 96.

Notes to editors

The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.

ISDN radio broadcast line – at our Fordingbridge HQ we have an ISDN radio broadcast line, allowing us to conduct interviews remotely.

For information, contact:
Kate Williams
Telephone: 01425 651000
Email: press@gwct.org.uk

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