Jack Petchey came from a working class background with very few advantages but became one of the UKs most successful businessmen.
Born in Plaistow in 1925, his formative yeare were spent in Manor Park. He went to Essex Road Primary School then to Monega Senior Boys School. He left school at 14 and joined the Solicitors Law Stationery Society in the City.
When the Second World War broke out in 1939 Jack, a Boy Scout in the 14th East Ham Troop, enlisted as a Police Messenger at East Ham Police Station. In 1941 he joined the Auxiliary Fire Service as a motorcycle messenger, serving two years in this role. Then, in 1943 he volunteered for service in the Royal Navy, joining the training ship HMS Collingwood. He was posted to the Fleet Air Arm as an Electrical Air Fitter, rising to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. He was later transferred to the Air Force, serving at RAF Dunmow.
Following war service Jack returned to being a clerk but after an active life this did not suit him so he decided to go it alone. With £60 to his name he bought a car and founded his first car hire business. By 1959 he was selling nearly 20 cars a week. In the 60s he bought a piece of land on the Barking Road in East Ham and developed it as a car showroom and petrol station, with flats above. He also introduced a fleet of self-drive cars and was the first dealer in London to have a fleet of chauffer-driven white Ford Consul wedding cars
After selling one of his own showrooms, Jack branched into property, building up a diverse property portfolio. In the 1980s he became interested in the idea of timeshare and has developed this at a number of resorts around the world.
In 1999 he set up the Jack Petchey Foundation with the objectives of focusing on East London and West Essex and to support projects and programmes that benefit 11 - 25 year olds. In addition the Achievement Award Scheme encourages young people to make a significant endeavour or effort within their club.
Over the years, Jack has been the recipient of many awards: both lifetime and business achievement awards. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Universities of East London and of Queen Mary College, London; and is an Honorary Freeman of the City of London and of the London Borough of Newham, the latter awarded at a ceremony on 27th May, 2010. In 2004 he was awarded the OBE by The Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to the youth of London and Essex.
(Photograph: Kathy Taylor, Newham Heritage & Archives. Text sources: Newham Council Communications; "50/50 Man -the Jack Petchey Story" by Jack Petchey with Andy Staines used with the author's permission)