Published on August 26th, 2019 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez0
Land Rover Oxford leaves Singapore for London
At the time it was the longest of all overland journeys: halfway around the world, from the English Channel to Singapore.
In 1955, six British students set out on an epic expedition in two Series I Land Rovers. The destination was Singapore and the prize was a place in history. One team member shares his best moments.
The Last Overland expedition team started their journey from Singapore to London yesterday, in one of the most historic automotive events of the 21st Century. The team aims to recreate the original 1955 route charted by The Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition (The First Overland).
The team of eight, including Nat George, grandson of Tim Slessor (a member of The First Overland), and Singaporean Larry Leong, will drive the original 1955 ‘Oxford’ Land Rover Series I used in The First Overland.
The Flag-of in Singapore
On an expedition to return ‘Oxford’ to its home in the UK, the team was flagged off from the start line at the Singapore F1 Pit Building in Marina Bay, a location fitting for the beginnings of all grand motoring adventures. In attendance were the Expedition’s key supporters – including Singapore Tourism Board, Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific, Opihr Gin and AKE Group – and members of the public.
As part of the fanfare to commemorate the flag off, a record-breaking convoy of 90 Land Rovers escorted ‘Oxford’ to Singapore’s border with Malaysia. Driven by local enthusiasts, including members of the Land Rover Owners Singapore, this momentous occasion is a celebration of a global love affair between Land Rover and the motoring world.
Tim Slessor, 87
One of the three surviving First Overland team members – also joined the start of the journey alongside his grandson Nat. He was cheered on by Nigel Newbury and Patrick Murphy, his two surviving compatriots from The First Overland, who were also present at the F1 Pit Building. Now both in their late eighties, Nigel and Patrick were on hand to give some sound last-minute advice to the Last Overland team.
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.”
Tourism Board Speaks
Mr. Chang Chee Pey, Assistant Chief Executive, International Group, Singapore Tourism Board, was also present at the flag off. He shares, “This year, we mark the 200th anniversary of Sir Stamford Raffles arriving in Singapore that provided the catalyst and foundation to pave the way for present-day Singapore, and UK-Singapore collaborations that followed. The Last Overland aptly represents the deep and special relationship between the United Kingdom and Singapore, as well as the collaboration and friendship between the two countries. We hope the inspirational story of The Last Overland, comprising core team members from both Singapore and the UK, will ignite the interest of many more British travellers to Singapore, as well as inspire travellers to pursue their passions as The Last Overlanders have.”
A crossover of generations
Between 1955 and 1956, a team of six young men embarked on The First Overland and made history by being the first to successfully drive 18,000 miles from London to Singapore in a Land Rover. In it, was a young man named Tim Slessor. Now, 64 years later, he returns to form the team of eight retracing the original route, in reverse. Alongside Tim are Alex Bescoby (age 31), award-winning filmmaker, and Nat George (age 21), Tim’s grandson.
An explorer at heart, Nat George, the youngest member of the Overland team, will provide a fresh, cross-generational perspective for the expedition. He shares his excitement about the expedition, “Growing up, I have heard so much about The First Overland from my grandfather. His passion and enthusiasm have greatly inspired me, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to be able to continue the journey that he has started. I’m excited to visit parts of the world I never considered going to, countries that I was aware existed but other than that knew nothing else about. It’ll be nothing like anything I’ve ever experienced or seen.”
The team will also be accompanied by a team of professional advisors, Land Rover enthusiasts and travel experts – all united in their passion for automotive history and adventure.
The Last Overland expedition a celebration of friendships
Travelling through multiple cities, this expedition not only marks the historical recreation of an iconic journey in motoring history, but also celebrates friendships forged across borders. Along the way back to London, the Overland team will be welcomed by Land Rover enthusiasts from across twenty countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bulgaria and Belgium in a line-up of various major press and marketing events.
Mr Robin Colgan, Managing Director, Jaguar Land Rover Asia Pacific Region, said, “Land Rover has always been synonymous with exploration and we have never lost our spirit of adventure. For more than 70 years, our vehicles have taken people to the far reaches of the world. We are extremely proud that ‘Oxford’ is still going strong after all these years and is ready to do it all again. As Alex and the team embark on The Last Overland, we wish them the very best of luck on their adventures to come.”
Not Getting Lost
Supporting the team on the road with safety equipment, satellite tracking and risk advisory, will be security firm, AKE International and their offices in London and Singapore. AKE’s Chairman, Richard Mitchelson said, “We are delighted to be supporting the Last Overland as they are kindred spirits who mirror the ‘frontier’ ethos of our own organisation. The expedition also leverages our significant operational experience in some of the world’s most challenging places. Robust journey management is all about detailed planning and analysis. We just wish we could jump in the AKE Land Rover and join for the entire journey!”
Keeping Spirits High
Providing a bit of much-needed refreshment at the end of each long driving day is Last Overland supporter Opihr Gin. Opihr’s International Brand Director, Robert Milton, said: “Opihr Oriental Spiced Gin is proud to sponsor the Last Overland. It truly resonates with our brand’s values to never stop exploring, stay curious and take people on a journey of discovery along the Ancient Spice Route.”
The Last Leg
Back in London, another gathering of classic Land Rovers of record-breaking numbers will mark the end of the journey in December 2019. Escorting ‘Oxford’ on her final leg of the trip, the final Land Rover convoy continues the celebration of the global love affair shared across the motoring world.