First Overland: The Story of the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition
Why Not? After all, no-one had ever done it before. It would be one of the longest of all overland journeys – half way round the world, from the English Channel to Singapore. They knew that several expeditions had already tried it. Some had got as far as the desrts of Persia; a few had even reached the plains of India. But no one had managed to go on from there: over the jungle clad mountains of Assam and across northern Burma to Thailand and Malaya.
Over the last 3,000 miles it seemed there were ‘just too many rivers and too few roads’. But no-one really knew …In fact, their problems began much earlier than that. As mere undergraduates, they had no money, no cars, nothing. But with a cool audacity, which was to become characteristic, they set to work – wheedling and cajoling. First, they coaxed the BBC to come up with some film for a possible TV series.
They then gently persuaded the manufacturers to lend them two factory-fresh Land Rovers. A publisher was even sweet-talked into giving them an advance on a book. By the time they were ready to go, their sponsors (more than 80 of them) ranged from whiskey distillers to the makers of collapsible buckets. In late 1955, they set off.
Seven months and 12,000 miles later, two very weary Land Rovers, escorted by police outriders, rolled into Singapore – to flash bulbs and champagne. Now, fifty years on, their book, ‘First Overland’, is republished – with a foreword by Sir David Attenborough. After all, it was he who gave them that film.
armed with nothing more than rifles and common sense, had wanted to hold up the convoy there was nothing to stop them. There were three or four stretches where the K. M. T. were known to cross the road frequently. It was near these that the ambushes usually occurred, so that the loot could be more easily carried away. Needless to say, the escort jeep or one of the lorries chose to break down right in the middle of these danger-spots. But, while Henry and Nigel carried out some hurried
rebel chieftain and then play them back to him; he should like that!” Pat made an hour’s recording from a friend’s radiogram of South Pacific and Swan Lake - “good jungle-camping music. ” I bought a new 300-page diary - “If everything happens that could happen I’m going to need it. ” Adrian had a special bush-jacket made to his own unique specifications; it was a cross between a maternity coat and a hacking jacket with a single vent up the back so large that it could only have been designed for
scenery of hill forest (rather than jungle) was a perfect backdrop, and whenever B.B. saw a particularly attractive section of twisting road he would stop the cars and set up his cine camera. The rest of us would reverse back down the road, and then, when he had adjusted the focusing and tested for camera angles, he would wave his straw hat. This was the signal for “Action, Camera,” and, after a confirming toot on the horns, we would accelerate hard and come tearing past in a most impressive
for the next thirty miles or so we tangoed and rumba’d merrily on our way. We stopped at Kyaukme to report our safe arrival to the military commander, and to get his permission to proceed on to Maymyo. He confirmed that there had been no bandit activity on the road ahead for several weeks, but warned us to reach Maymyo before dark, as the guards around the town’s perimeter were liable to be a little trigger-happy at night. There was not much time to waste, so we got into the cars again and
infertile - even to the encroaching jungle - and the resultant areas of sterile waste become a serious problem. A subsidiary effect (but one much more disastrous in its consequences) is that, on the bare surface, the ‘run-off ’ of the monsoon rains is vastly increased, to cause choked and swollen rivers which flood their lower courses. In S. E. Asia the river deltas are invariably crowded rice-lands, and so there is often considerable loss of life in these floods - the direct result of