The Last Overland: Land Rover Series 1 flags off from Singapore to London

Last Overland leaves Singapore as Land Rover Series 1 makes epic reverse 16,000 kilometre journey back to London 64 years after First Overland

In 1955, six young men set out on a historic 16,000 kilometre drive from London to Singapore. Dubbed The First Overland, it was a trek across three continents in two Land Rover Series 1s by The Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition. The men made history for being the first to successfully drive from London to Singapore overland in six months and six days. Before their epic journey, the furthest that anyone had driven from London was to Northern India.

On Sunday 25 August 2019, 64 years later, one of the two Series 1 Land Rovers, named Oxford, left Singapore to make the reverse journey to London. Oxford will be driven by one of the three surviving First Overland team members, Tim Slessor, 87, with a new team of eight, which includes his grandson Nat George and Singaporean Larry Leong.

Tim Slessor recounts, “We (The First Overland) team embarked on this journey when we were in our early twenties, and at that age, you make the impossible, possible. Now, 64 years later, I am elated to be part of the team driving her (‘Oxford’) from Singapore back to the UK – overland once more. As I get older, I have been bothered by a recurring and nagging whisper telling me that you’re only here once so go for it – before it’s too late! It is the reason why I am here today – I am 87, and if I don’t do it now, I may never get another chance. To finally see this expedition come to fruition after many months of planning and anticipation, brings me great joy. If you like, it’s a case of ‘the Old Man helps take the Old Lady home.”

The expedition flagged off from the Singapore F1 Pit Building in Marina Bay. Nigel Newbury and Patrick Murphy, the other two surviving compatriots from The First Overland, were in Singapore to see them off. Both gentlemen are in their late 80s. As before, the expedition will travel across three continents that will take them through the jungles of Malaysia and Myanmar, the mountains of the Himalayas northern Turkey, the deserts of the Middle East, as well as over twenty countries, including Nepal, China, Uzbekistan, Iran and Bulgaria. However, they will not be retracing the exact route to London as the 1955 way is now largely impassable because of the wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The aim is to arrive in London within approximately 100 days of setting out from Singapore.

Besides Slessor, his grandson Nat George, and Larry Leong, the new team includes Alex Bescoby, a film maker; Marcus Allender (logistics and planning), Thérèse-Marie Becker (social media and digital chronicler), Dr Silverius Purba (medical doctor/driver/mechanic), David Israeli (cinematographer/photographer), Léopold Belanger (photographer) and Adam Bennett, the current owner of “Oxford”. Eight of them will be on the road at a time.

The Last Overland was accompanied on the first leg of its journey to the Singapore-Malaysia border by a parade of Land Rovers driven by members of the Land Rover Owners Singapore and enthusiasts.

The team will drive from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. After an overnight stopover, they will go on to Cameron Highlands then Penang before heading for the Thai border. Their ultimate destination is the Royal Automotive Club, Pall Mall, London.

Find out more about their journey here //

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Inspired by the 1954 Oxford and Cambridge Trans-Africa expedition, six Oxford and Cambridge university students travelled in two Land Rovers named ‘Oxford’ and ‘Cambridge.’ They traversed the dusty deserts of Iran, passed through northern India (the previous limit of any overland journey from London heading east), forded treacherous streams and rivers through Burma (modern Myanmar) and down through what was then called the Federation of Malaya. Upon reaching Singapore in 1956, the expedition made headlines around the world. It was documented in three BBC films commissioned by Sir David Attenborough which showcased many remote corners of the world on film for the first time, as well as by a book authored by Tim Slessor. Writing about the original expedition, Sir David Attenborough described it as “a madcap adventure” that would be “quite impossible today.”