Taking the scenic route home in ‘The Last Overland: Singapore To London’

Two men in one vintage land rover recreate an epic 19,000km road trip from singapore to london in this new documentary series..

The Last Overland - Alex and Nat on top of Oxford in Eastern Thailand-

‘The Last Overland: Singapore to London’. Source: Grammar Productions

The Last Overland: Singapore To London, Alex Bescoby

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Adventures Overland has launched its very own dream bus which will recreate the vibrant era gone by where hordes of young men and women packed themselves in “magic buses” and travelled overland from Europe to Asia, in search of ‘enlightenment’. Mid-1950s to the late 1970s was the period during which this trend of journeying overland peaked, and saw thousands undertake the almost impossible in vehicles. Now, the time has come to roll that dice the other way! How would you feel about becoming a part of the longest bus journey in the world spanning two continents, 18 countries and covering 20,000 km? Bus to London is the biggest, the grandest and the most epic bus journey in the world, and you have a chance to experience it first-hand. After reaching London, the bus will embark on its maiden journey back home taking the same route to reach India.

To know more about this historic journey between India and UK, click on the link below:

It is not often that one gets a chance to be a part of something truly historic and unique. How would you feel about undertaking a cross-border bus journey that takes you from India to Singapore, crossing the land borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia along the way? Covering a distance of 4500 kilometres and traversing five countries in 20 days, Bus to Singapore promises to be a groundbreaking journey that will leave an everlasting impression on your life. As part of the expedition, you will get to cruise upon the silky tarmacs of Asian Highway 1 – the longest highway network in Asia – explore thousands of pagodas in Bagan, witness Burmese culture and sample their exotic cuisine in Yangon (Rangoon). Add to it all the buzzing vibe of Bangkok and relaxing blue waters of the beach town of Krabi, and what you have is one matchless experience indeed. You will also get to admire the scenic beauty of Mount Jerai and Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, spend time in the lap of luxury in Kuala Lumpur and finally cross the border and conclude the journey in the charming city of Singapore. After reaching Singapore, the bus will embark on its maiden journey back home, taking the same route to reach India.

To know more about this historic journey between India and Singapore, click on the link given below:

overland trip singapore to london

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overland trip singapore to london

The Last Overland: Singapore to London

The Last Overland: Singapore to London

21,000km, 23 countries and one very old car.

Find out what happened when grammar recreated the greatest road trip of all time in a 4 episode series on all4 launching october 2022..

Read the full behind the scenes story from Alex Bescoby, launching 29th September 2022 and available for pre-order now .

overland trip singapore to london

"A marvellous piece of history." BBC News

IN 1955, six young graduates from Oxford & Cambridge set out to make history by being the first to drive 19,000 miles overland from London to Singapore. Many had tried, all had failed. But after six months of hard slog this team finally made it, and a bedazzled young BBC producer, David Attenborough, commissioned a TV series to share their incredible adventure with a post-war-weary British public. The book written about the journey – The First Overland – has never been out of print, and has inspired generations of adventurers since.

overland trip singapore to london

" Epic." The Financial Times

Many years later, (now Sir) David paid tribute in a special programme to mark “this wonderful journey”. It was a journey, however, he was sure “could not be made again today.” Attenborough’s words planted a seed in the mind of 87 year old Tim Slessor, one of the surviving ‘First Overlanders’, who was determined to prove otherwise. In 2019, backed by a team from across the world, Tim finally got his chance. So began “the mother of all road trips”, an audacious, madcap and heart-warming adventure in a 64 year old car crossing 23 countries, in which absolutely nothing went to plan right from the very start.

overland trip singapore to london

Throughout The Last Overland Series, Grammar Productions handled various services across the TV Production, Events Management and Content Creation industries. These include:

  • Branded Content
  • Documentary
  • Photography
  • Live Events
  • Charity Fundraising

For more information about the services Grammar Productions offers, please contact: [email protected]

This 87-year-old filmmaker is recreating one of the 20th centuries most iconic road trips

Sasha Brady

Oct 15, 2019 • 2 min read

overland trip singapore to london

87-year-old filmmaker Tim Slessor is set to recreate one of the 20th centuries most iconic road trips. Image by The Last Overland

A team of explorers is set to recreate one of the 20th century's most iconic road trips by driving from Singapore to London in August.

Tim Slessor (87) at the door of his restored Land Rover

Tim Slessor, the award-winning British filmmaker, presenter and author, was part of the six-man Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition that travelled overland from Singapore to London in 1955-56. They made history as the first team to successfully drive the 10,000 miles between the two cities. A journey that naysayers at the time believed couldn't be done. Now, 64-years later, Slessor will recreate the trip in the reverse direction from Singapore to London and in the very same 1955 Land Rover that was part of the original expedition.

Tim Slessor (87) and two cameramen stand by a Land Rover vehicle

Slessor's trip is famous for popularising the "overlanding," travel movement for a generation of adventurers who cared more about the journey than the destination. The groundbreaking trip, known as "The First Overland, was even documented in three BBC films, commissioned by Sir David Attenborough , who described it as a "madcap adventure" that would be "impossible to recreate today." 

"Before we had set out, the experts had told us that we were geographically ignorant and politically naive; the journey couldn’t be done," Slessor said of the original journey. "All that did was to make us more determined. Six months later, we pulled in to Champion Motors on Singapore’s Orchard Road. I can tell you, the champagne and flash-bulbs really popped that day. We’d made it."

World map showing London to Singapore route

The 2019 trip, billed as " The Last Overland " will see the 87-year-old pioneer and a new team of eight, fresh-faced explorers cross three continents and 20 countries; through the jungles of Myanmar and Malaysia , the mountains of the Himalayas , the deserts of the Middle East and the plains of  Kyrgyzstan and  Uzbekistan . If all goes to plan, the team will flag off from Singapore's Formula One circuit on 25 August.

Tim Slessor

Regarding his motivation to recreate history, Slessor said: "As I get older, I have been bothered by a recurring and nagging whisper: ‘Go for it – before it’s too late.’ Which is why I am here today – I am 87, and if I don’t do It now, I may never get another chance. After all, as that whisper reminds me, ‘you’re only here once'."

The Last Overland aims to raise funds for  Dementia UK , Walking with the Wounded and The Gurkha Welfare Trust . 

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  • Expeditions & Discoveries

The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the Iconic Land Rover Expedition

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The last overland: singapore to london: the return journey of the iconic land rover expedition audible audiobook – unabridged.

In 1955, a young TV producer named David Attenborough was approached by six recent graduates from Oxford and Cambridge universities determined to drive the entire length of Eurasia, as it was then known, from London to Singapore. Many tried this before, but none succeeded. Sensing this time might be different, Attenborough gave The Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition enough film reels to cover their attempt.

The 19,000-mile journey completed by Tim Slessor and the team was told in Attenborough's Travellers' Tales and captivated a nation emerging from postwar austerity. Tim's book, The First Overland, was published shortly after and soon became the Bible of the overlanding religion. Inspired by Attenborough's comment fifty years on that it was a journey "that I don't think could be made again today," Alex made contact with now eighty-six-year-old Tim, and together they planned an epic recreation of the original trip, this time from Singapore to London.

With their improbable team and the prospect of getting the original Oxford, their goal was to complete the heroic journey that started more than sixty years earlier. In awe of the unstoppable Tim, and haunted by his own grandfather's deterioration due to tragedy and then dementia, Alex soon finds himself on the defining trip of his life and discovers how the world has changed for better, and for worse, since the First Overland...

  • Listening Length 10 hours and 21 minutes
  • Author Alex Bescoby
  • Narrator Alex Bescoby
  • Audible release date September 29, 2022
  • Language English
  • Publisher Dreamscape Media, LLC
  • ASIN B0B621NBX7
  • Version Unabridged
  • Program Type Audiobook
  • See all details

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RailTravel Station

RailTravel Station

Singapore, Malaysia & ASEAN Railway Travel Blog • RailTravel Station features pictures and information of railways and other means of travel with a special focus on Singapore, Malaysia and ASEAN.

overland trip singapore to london

From London to Singapore by Train in 40 Days

London to Singapore Montage Text Box

When I first started RailTravel Station , the original purpose was to document such an overland trip. However, due to circumstances, I was not able to proceed with the trip as I had originally planned, as there were other issues I considered more important to complete first.

TRAINS1M3 From London to Singapore in 40 Days.png

Finally, I was on my way backpacking across Europe and Asia, departing at the end of April 2016 and arriving back in June 2016. The London to Singapore overland trip by train has been completed successfully by many, and is considered one of the most adventurous and interesting rail routes in the world. It was also the best time for me to travel as I was still eligible for youth discounts for travel in the UK (so now you can roughly guess my age).

I had mentally (and also on an Excel sheet) planned this trip for about 6 years now, so it was relatively easy for me to start sorting out my tickets and times. This planning was done with my own knowledge and sources online, typically for Asian routes, and also with assistance from an excellent railway travel website and some email correspondence with The Man in Seat Sixty-One , especially for European routes which I was not exactly familiar with.

From train rides to tuk-tuks, Vatican City to Angkor Wat, Eurostar to ETS. 40 days, 14 countries, 23 cities, 27 train journeys, 17 nights spent on overnight travels, 1 incredible, memorable and epic journey.

Follow my journey:

  • From London to Singapore in 40 Days: Prologue
  • Day 0: Garuda Indonesia GA86 from Singapore to London by Boeing 777-300ER
  • Day 1-3: London
  • Day 3: Megabus from London to Sheffield
  • Day 4: CrossCountry from Sheffield to York
  • Day 4: National Railway Museum
  • Day 4: CrossCountry from York to Sheffield
  • Day 5: National Express from Sheffield to London
  • Day 5: London
  • Day 5: Virgin Trains East Coast & Northern Rail from London to Sheffield
  • Day 5: Sheffield Supertram
  • Day 6: First Transpennine, Virgin EC, Eurostar and TGV from Sheffield to Marseille
  • Day 7: Marseille
  • Day 8: Cassis
  • Day 9: Thello and Trenitalia from Marseille to Rome
  • Day 10-13: Rome
  • Day 10-13: Rome Metro, Trams and Ferrovie Laziali
  • Day 12: Vatican Gardens by Open Bus
  • Day 13: Papal Audience
  • Day 13-14: Trenitalia from Rome to Venice
  • Day 14: Cheap Venice Luggage Storage
  • Day 14: Venice
  • Day 14: Venice People Mover
  • Day 14-15: Thello from Venice to Paris
  • Day 15: Paris
  • Day 16-18: RZD from Paris to Moscow
  • Day 17: “Detained” at the Belarus border
  • Day 18-19: Moscow
  • Day 18-19: 6 Most Interesting Stations on the Moscow Metro
  • Day 18: Moscow Monorail
  • Day 19: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 1)
  • Day 20: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 2)
  • Day 21: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 3)
  • Day 22: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 4)
  • Day 23: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 5)
  • Day 24: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 6)
  • Day 25: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 7)
  • Day 19-25: 7 days on the Trans-Siberian
  • Day 25: Picking up pre-purchased tickets from Beijing Railway Station
  • Day 25-27: Beijing Subway
  • Day 26: Purchasing train tickets to Hanoi in Beijing
  • Day 26: Tiananmen & The Imperial City
  • Day 27: China Railway Museum (Zhengyangmen Branch)
  • Day 27: How to get from Beijing Railway Station to Beijing West Railway Station
  • Day 27-28: China Railway from Beijing to Nanning
  • Day 28: Purchasing train tickets to Hanoi in Nanning
  • Day 28-29: China Railway from Nanning to Hanoi
  • Day 29: Hanoi
  • Day 29-30: Vietnam Railways from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City Part 1
  • Day 31: Vietnam Railways from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City Part 2
  • Day 31-32: Ho Chi Minh City
  • Day 31: Purchasing Phnom Penh and Siem Reap bus tickets in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Day 32: Sapaco Tourist from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh
  • Day 32-33: Phnom Penh
  • Day 33: Royal Railways – Phnom Penh Royal Railway Station
  • Day 33-34: Giant Ibis from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Purchasing an Angkor Pass
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Angkor Wat
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Angkor Thom
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Thommanon & Chau Say Tevoda
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Ta Keo
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Ta Prohm
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Banteay Kdei & Srah Srang
  • Day 34: Angkor Small Circuit – Prasat Kravan
  • Day 35: Hang Tep Travel from Siem Reap to Poipet
  • Day 35: Poipet to Aranyaprathet Border Crossing by Foot & Tuk-Tuk
  • Day 35: State Railway of Thailand from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok
  • Day 36: The cheapest way around Bangkok
  • Day 37: Talad Rot Fai Ratchada
  • Day 38-39: State Railway of Thailand from Bangkok to Padang Besar
  • Day 39: KTM Komuter from Padang Besar to Butterworth
  • Day 39: ETS Gold from Butterworth to Kuala Lumpur
  • Day 40: ETS Gold from Kuala Lumpur to Gemas
  • Day 40: Ekspres Selatan from Gemas to Johor Bahru
  • Day 40: Shuttle Tebrau from Johor Bahru to Woodlands CIQ
  • Day 40: SMRT Buses & SMRT Trains from Woodlands CIQ to Home
  • From London to Singapore in 40 Days: Epilogue
  • From London to Singapore in 40 Days: Total Cost

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74 comments

Looking forward to your entry here

Hello there! I hope you will publish your 40 days journey in details as in the price, place and all. Have fun! Will be waiting for your updates. Hoping that my request is not burdening you.

Yes, certainly. However this will only be complete once I return from the trip.

when will you be going and when will you return?

you never read uh. “departing at the end of April 2016.”

Hi there, this looks like a dream to me. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you save up for a trip like this?

Sorry, I meant how much? 😀

I will update the final prices as I go along, and the final total once I return from the trip.

I find it too short for 40 days. It will be a touch and go for all countries.

All the best! Enjoy this beautiful journey.. 🙂

Looking forward to your updates. Have a safe trip!

Best of luck in your jourrney. Looking forward to your sharing since this is my plan in the future as well.

That’s what me and my bestfriend have planned when we returned back to Malaysia once we finished our study in UK. Will be patiently waiting for your full updates once you landed back to Singapore. Have fun! 😀 P/s: if you don’t mind please update every single thing later on as in where you stay, price etc. 😀

Found your website before going on a 3-month Europe trip in June. Hope to see some interesting stories and get some useful information. Have a safe trip!

Can’t wait to see your updates and interesting moments! Have fun:)

Good luck and all the best! 🙂

Lake Baikal at Irkutsk is beautiful. Spend a day there if you have time!

I agreed, make a stop at Irkutsk for Lake Baikal, its really beautiful!!

I did the Russia >> Singapore 2 years back and i still miss Lake Baikal.

Oh and Mongolia!! It seems that you are not stopping at Mongolia?

Haha i had a blog like you but i got busy and lazy to update. Maybe its tine for me to get a laptop and start writing again!

I’ll just be passing through Mongolia – will be on the Trans-Mongolian throughout the train’s journey.

Wow! Can’t wait to hear more about your trip! Would love to do it as well

Please do vlogs on youtube. Would be interesting to watch. Will subscribe for sure!

Don’t think I’ll be doing vlogs, but thanks for your suggestion. I’ll just post pictures and short commentaries or descriptions during the trip.

May you have an amazing and blessed journey with many adventures and exciting moments. Was daydreaming about Venice last week so do spare a thought for a Malaysian girl who longs to (but for practical reasons can’t) to satisfy her wanderlust.

there is a story of Thai twin ladies who manage to travel from London back to Bangkok by Rail using info from Seat61 and they have written a book about their journey.

I just checked online at Seat61, which link you just referred about Thai twin ladies i look for?

Wow….enjoy your 40 days trip. I bet it’s going to be one of your most priceless journey! Enjoy and stay safe!!

Have taken the Siem Reap – Aranyaprathet – Bangkok route !

Seems like a really cool trip plan. Looking forward to the whole experience! (:

Looking forward to your travel log! Stay safe and fun!

All the best for your trip! If you need a SIM card in the UK, check out https://m.facebook.com/Giffgaff-in-Singapore-570433863009162/ 🙂

wow, looking forward at your trip too~

Im excited looking forward to your updates… Happy Journey

looking forward for your journey updates…am sure your experience will inspired others and the choice of station to start on will be vary…:-)

This should be interesting.All the best

Please inform of you have alocated stopovers i may want to do the same.

don’t you need a visa for Russia??

Hey, just to share, I met this couple at Xi’an in 2012 and they did it from London to SG whilst I did the opposite way from SG to London.

Below here is their blog. Hope you find it useful and good luck to your travels!

http://why-didnt-we-fly.blogspot.sg/

That would be a wonderful trip! Enjoy your trip! Looking forward to your update!

Have an awesome trip that add colors to your lufe journey. Looking forward to your sharing which will help many others to fulfill their dream trip too. Play safe and have fun

Wow, im thinking of doing the other way round, that is from Malaysia to Londo overland. Will definifely follow ur blog. Stopover in Mongolia & Irkutsk for Lake Baikal will be fun. I just came back from winter lake baikal and it’s just too beautiful. Good luck & stay safe.

hi im actually working on a similar trip which you have in mind…..maybe we could get in touch….my contact number 019 262 4694 dave….tks

hi, what about visa? many country for transit 🙂 please tell me.. thanks

Bon Voyage for the trip and looking forward for your Itinerary 😀

its gonna be an interesting journey thats for sure, wish you all the best and any chance of me travelling with you….:-)

Good luck in your adventure. Will look fwd to your stories…

That’s what I have been thinking to do! Was planning to take train back to SG from London by train after omplete my study two years ago..but failed…hope you will share more! Im looking forward to reading your exciting trip!

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Hi everyone,

I am looking for for adventurous people who is keen to cross London to Singapore on train in August.

If anybody knows someone interested, please let me know… I started to organize it by myself, but it would be great have a nice companion.

can you give me any suggestion from Malaysia to Latvia?

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Scheduled to take place from 6 August to 10 November, the driving holiday trip consisting of a convoy of 12 cars will cover a staggering distance of 25,000 kilometres, with participants traversing from the United Kingdom through 19 countries before returning to Singapore. This is an increase from the previous expedition which covered 21,000 kilometres and crossed through 16 countries.

overland trip singapore to london

The official flag-off ceremony for the expedition drive will be held on August 6, 2023, at the Intercontinental London – The O2 Hotel, with His Excellency Mr Lim Thuan Kuan, the Singapore High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, gracing the event as the Guest-of-Honour.

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London to Singapore: Epic Family Road Trip in an Old Land Rover

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land rover expedition

Could you survive a nine-month road trip with your family? The Hyland family of five drove from London to Singapore in a 1954 Land Rover. They took the family road trip to all new heights!

land rover expedition

The Hyland family traveled more than 16,000 miles from London to Singapore from mid-summer 2015 to spring 2016. They managed this feat in a tiny 61-year-old Land Rover found in a Canadian farmer’s field and purchased for $300.

Ray and Marianne Hyland, along with their three teenage boys, not only survived a massive nine-month road trip but thrived in every sense of the word.

As Land Rover celebrates its 70th anniversary this week, let’s have a look at a modern adventure family that fully embraces all things Land Rover.

Land Rover: London to Singapore Expedition

The Hylands set out on this overland journey on the 60th anniversary of the 1956 London to Singapore “Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition” in nearly the same exact vehicle. It was the first time a vehicle had traveled the entire route from London to Singapore.

https://youtu.be/V8nQXRpo3AY?t=12

The original route went through England, France, Monaco, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and, finally, Singapore. The trip took six months and six days to complete, traversing 18,000 miles.

The Hylands’ route was a bit different than the original, spanning 16,000 miles. It took them through England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Monaco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, UAE, India, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.

They couldn’t visit Syria, as it was in the middle of a civil war. But with a huge stroke of luck, Burma had just opened its borders to travelers after many years of civil unrest.

Burma opening its borders was a large impetus to do the trip.

1954 Land Rover Series 1 Station Wagon

The original expedition was done in two 1954 Land Rover Series 1 86-inch Station Wagons. It was the first year Land Rover offered a wagon model.

The Hylands have been a Land Rover family for years, owning a wide range of the brand’s vehicles. They purchased an old Series 1 from a farm in British Columbia, Canada, for just $300 in hopes of getting it back on the road.

After investigating, they learned their vehicle is one of only three 1954 Series 1 Station Wagons known to exist.

The $300 Land Rover was in rough shape when the Hylands got their hands on it. It needed a ton of attention and new parts to make it road worthy again.

Luckily, the family is mechanically capable, and the simple old truck was relatively easy to work on. Besides replacing the bigger parts that were missing or broken, like the doors and windows, the Hylands did just enough to get the old Land Rover running again.

overland trip singapore to london

Then, they fixed the other issues as things broke along the journey.

“Our truck was terrible. It broke down every single day,” said Ray Hyland.

They added a few simple, inexpensive upgrades to make the truck slightly more capable of completing the journey ahead of it. They sourced an old Astro Van rear bench seat off Craigslist for $25 so the three boys would have a more comfortable place to sit. General AT2 tires were fitted to better handle the long paved sections of the route while still being durable and capable off-road.

Besides those small modifications, this old Land Rover was the same as the original expedition’s vehicle.

Car Camping Taken to a Whole New Level

The Hylands packed light and small in the underpowered Land Rover. They needed to be comfortable living in a tight space for extended periods of time.

Camp Sleep System

One big way they kept things light, small, and simple was through their chosen sleep/shelter system. They had a Nemo Dagger two-person tent for the adults and a Nemo Galaxi three-person tent for the kids.

They used Nemo Tango backless bags for the kids, and the adults shared a Tango Duo .

overland trip singapore to london

To complete the system, they used Nemo Fillo pillows and stuffed Nemo Zor pads under a Nemo Pawprint snap-in tent liner inside the tent. The Pawprint provided the comfort and feel of a fitted sheet.

This lightweight backpacking setup saved the family a ton of weight and valuable storage space.

Cooking along the way was essential to keep costs low and allow for remote camping. The family ate a lot of rice and claim it’s the “ultimate camping food.” It’s nutritious, filling, packs small, doesn’t go bad, and can be combined with a wide variety of other ingredients to make tasty, diverse meals.

overland trip singapore to london

Rice can be difficult to cook well in conventional camp pots. Most are really thin, and the rice burns and sticks to the bottom. To get around this issue, the Hylands chose the Snow Peak Aluminum Caldero , a cast aluminum pot with a thick bottom, for more even heating.

This pot is not small, but the Hylands found a perfect out-of-the-way home for it. They stored it on the hood of the tiny Land Rover, inside the spare tire and under the Front Runner grill.

An MSR DragonFly stove heated the big pot. They chose it for its ability to run on various fuels, reliability, and its true simmer function — a critical feature to properly cook rice. While noisy, it also packs up pretty small and is lightweight.

MiiR stainless steel pint glasses , an MSR plate set, and a large Platypus GravityWorks water filter rounded out the cooking kit.

Camp Comfort

Nearly all the Hylands agreed that the most important gear on the trip was the Kermit chairs . These lightweight canvas-on-wood-frame camp chairs pack up small and set up quickly. They provided invaluable comfort for roadside lunch stops and around camp, especially after long days in the hot, cramped little Land Rover.

overland trip singapore to london

Personal Items

Each person got to bring two sets of clothes with them: one on their back and one spare. They chose ExOfficio synthetic underwear and tees as well as Clothing Arts pants and shirts. These key pieces are all durable, easy to wash, dry quickly, and are comfortable in a variety of environments.

Each person also got their own small duffel-sized dry bag. That small bag contained all their personal items, including their change of clothes. The personal item dry duffels were strapped to the roof during transit, keeping them out of the tight confines of the Land Rover’s interior and protecting their contents from dust, water, and general road grime.

Old vehicles require lots of tools, spare parts, and fluids to keep them moving. The Hylands managed to pack all their tools, spare parts, and fluids into one Front Runner Wolf Pack . An impressive feat with all that they needed to bring with them!

overland trip singapore to london

The old Land Rover leaked so much oil that they needed to continually buy it in bulk along the route. And it didn’t fit in the Wolf Pack. The leaks got so bad that they resorted to using thicker and thicker oil, eventually getting 50-weight oil in gallon jugs from agriculture shops.

All About the People

While the trip was about family and retracing an iconic expedition’s path, the people the Hylands met on the way profoundly impacted them. The family made the conscious decision to trust people on this trip, and it worked out.

They had no issues with theft, bribery, or muggings. Iran offered up some of the best remote camping and friendliest people of the entire route.

Besides all the generous, smiling people they randomly bumped into, they also regularly reached out for help online. Facebook was an amazing tool to connect with Land Rover groups, overland travelers, and mechanics on their route.

The hospitality of random strangers was something to behold. They stayed in a free villa for a week in Dubai. They even started the trip with free use of a Land Rover Defender 110 in England when their truck was delayed in shipping.

If you want to know more about this amazing journey and inspiring family, be sure to check out the NW Overland Rally and BC Overland Rally . The Hyland family runs these gatherings of the overland tribe and regularly spins amazing adventure stories around the campfire.

On occasion, they’ve also been known to show up with their little old 1954 Series 1 Land Rover Station Wagon. The truck has now traveled most of the way around the globe and still runs — sometimes.

overland trip singapore to london

Bryon Dorr is the Motors Editor of GearJunkie. He has been writing about overland travel, off-road vehicles, general automotive, whitewater kayaks, and outdoor and travel gear for 12+ years. He has created content for a wide range of outdoor, automotive, and travel media outlets, both online and in print, as well as for a wide range of commercial clients as a photographer, social media marketer, business consultant, and copy editor.

After living on the road for nearly eight years, he is now based in Portland, Ore. Bryon is an avid kayaker, cyclist, skier/snowboarder, runner, and photographer. When not outdoors doing human-powered adventures, you’ll find him behind the wheel or bars of something with a motor and wheels finding adventure around the globe. You can keep up with his life of adventure on your favorite social media @ExplorElements .

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First Overland, London to Singapore – Tim Slessor shares memories of the epic 1955 expedition

  • November 22, 2017

German

The 1955/56 Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition—a milestone in overlanding history as inspirational today as it was 60 years ago.

We scroll back to 1955, Tim Slessor was one of a six-man team who pioneered the longest overland trip ever undertaken by a vehicle—London to Singapore. A journey that would take six months and cover over 14,000 miles through some of the most demanding terrain…quite an impossible undertaking. Luckily, they found support from The Rover Company, and from this trip, the most famous Land Rover expedition of the 50s-to-date has often been cited.

Today, aged 86, Tim is sitting opposite me in his beautiful cottage in Brittany, sipping Whisky Mac in front a blazing fire. He is just as much the live wire he has been throughout his fulfilled life and his passion for Land Rover is as strong now as it was when they returned from their monumental journey.

The following story summarises the epic journey, some of the challenges, surprises and pleasures they encountered en route. But it also underlines what can be achieved with what we today would consider a minimalistic approach to equipment and technology—after all, what is a 1955 Series I Land Rover compared to the latest cars in your local showroom? Not to mention the limited off-road experience of these six young men.

Over the last six decades, this journey has become an inspiration for countless adventurers who have followed in the footsteps of these pioneers. I hope that these pages will motivate you, the reader, to pick up a copy of Tim’s book, First Overland , and let its narrative encourage you to stop merely dreaming about the journey you would like to take…but instead to get up and go.

first overland london to singapore

WELL, WHY NOT?

After all, no-one had done it before—though a few had tried. It would be one of the longest of all overland journeys: nearly halfway round the world, from the English Channel to Singapore.

They knew that some earlier overland drivers had made it all the way to India. But no-one had ever managed to go on from there. At Bombay or Calcutta, one had to take a ship. Nevertheless, maps (well, some of them) showed that a road had, once-upon-a-time, been bulldozed through the jungle hills between India and northern Burma. But that was during the war and, in the ten years since 1945, it seemed that the one-time strategic Ledo Road, nearly 200 miles of it, had been totally abandoned. Further, given that those frontier hills have the heaviest rainfall in the world (over 400 inches a year), it was probable that most of the road would have been long since washed away. But the fact was, so remote were those parts, that no-one really knew…

In fact, the problems began much earlier that that. As mere undergraduates, they had no money, no cars, no nothing.

Like much else in 1950’s Cambridge, the idea had its genesis late one evening over gas-ring coffee. Tim had gone along to a friend’s room for a nightcap; presently Adrian started dreaming—out loud. How about putting together an expedition to drive to Singapore? Crazy? Maybe. But why not? After all, no-one else had done it. They would be the first. So, they got out an atlas, roughed out a possible route, guessed at mileages, made plans, and talked long into the night.

And that, more or less, was how the expedition was born or, more accurately, how it was conceived. But, over the next few months, their planning had to give way to the business of swotting for their final exams. Nevertheless, even then, they knew that to have any chance they would need to raise some serious financial steam…and a team…and two cars. And that was just for starters.

first overland london to singapore

In fact, the team came together almost before they knew it. First aboard was the cameraman: Antony Barrington Brown (always known as B.B.). He had graduated a few years earlier, and he already ran his own photo studio. Next up was Henry Nott: as secretary of the University Motor Club, it was natural that he became the expedition’s mechanic. Then there was Pat Murphy; with excellent French, passable German, and the prospect of a good Geography degree, he became the map man and visa-negotiating diplomat. Then one of them (B.B.?) had the bright idea of recruiting someone from Oxford: they reasoned that, if they ever got those two cars, they could have one painted light blue and the other dark blue. The resulting media interest would massively multiply their chances of getting sponsorship. So a posse was despatched to the Other Place: it returned with Nigel Newbery who, in time, became the quartermaster and second mechanic. Adrian, who, after all, had provided the initial spark, was already the “busyness manager”—cashier, accountant and secretary. Now, first with a letter and then a visit to Birmingham, he set about persuading the Rover Company that they were capable of pulling off a journey that was, according to some, quite impossible. But, as Adrian pointed out, if, against all the odds, they did make the first “overland to Singapore”, the publicity for Rover would be, well, considerable.

A week later, Rovers wrote (amazingly) to say that they understood the logic of Adrian’s proposal. Celebrations—and then some!

So now, with the glistening promise of two specially equipped Land Rovers, the expedition was up and running. Well, sort of…

First, B.B. was despatched to convince the BBC that the journey would made good TV programmes. A young producer called David Attenborough was partly persuaded. He arranged a £200 advance—enough to buy a wind-up 16 mm camera. He also gave them enough film to start them down the track. If all went well, more would follow. Then there was the possibility of a book; it was Tim’s job to chase after a publisher. Tim eventually landed a £250 advance. With these key elements in place they next approached a whole range of possible sponsors: Dunlop for tyres, Mobil for petrol, Burroughs Wellcome for “medicals”, Coleman Quick Lite for cookers, and over seventy others—for everything from tea-bags and a tape recorder to whiskey and an electric shaver.

On September 1st, 1955 they took off—literally. Silver Cities Airways, one of their sponsors, took some publicity photos and then flew them and their cars across the Channel. By the time they reached Paris a day later they found that they had become L’Expedition d’Oxford et Cambridge à l’Extréme Orient .

Two weeks later, they were in Istanbul. So far, so very good. Here, the cars were checked by the local Rover garage—before an eight-minute ferry ride over the Bosporus to the Asian shore. (Yes, they “allowed” themselves that one and only salt-water crossing.)

first overland london to singapore

On landing in Asia, the expedition got out its dark glasses and suncream, put on a floppy hat, and decided to wear its shirt outside its trousers. Now, rather than driving directly east through Turkey to Persia (today’s Iran) they diverted south to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. This was partly because B.B. wanted to photograph places like Ba’albek’s Temple of Jupiter, the magnificent but long-deserted Roman city of Apamea, the Crusader castle of Krak des Chevaliers (judged by some to be the most perfect castle ever built) and the enormous water wheel at Hama (it had been turning, on and off, for nearly 2,000 years). Then there were the pleasures and sights of Beirut, Aleppo, Damascus and Baghdad. (Yes, when one looks at those place names from today’s perspective, one is reminded rather sharply that their route through the Middle East belonged to a totally different age.)

By the time they had driven across 500 miles of desert from Damascus to Baghdad, the expedition had been on the road for nearly two months. Now, after a brief pause to catch their breath, it was north through another frontier and over the mountains to Tehran. There the local Rover agent welcomed them with the news that they were to demonstrate their vehicles to the Persian Army. So, after a long afternoon of low-gear driving up and down near-impossible slopes (and taking a general for a spin), they were more than merely pleased when they heard that an order had been placed for a hundred Land Rovers.

It was well over 1,000 lonely and mostly desert miles from Tehran to the border of Pakistan. Then, skirting the mountainous margins of southern Afghanistan, it was another 1,000 miles to Lahore, Pakistan’s cultural capital. On arrival, an English language newspaper heralded the expedition as “A Boat Race on Wheels” and, in reporting on the sizeable winches on the front of each vehicle, it said that the expedition was equipped with “two very powerful wenches”.

first overland london to singapore

Next stop: Delhi. Then down the famous Grand Trunk Road to Calcutta. This, they had always reckoned, was where the nursery slopes ended and the expedition really began. So now, for ten days over Christmas, while kindly housed by Brooke Bond (the tea people, and another of their sponsors), they prepared for the Big Push. They gathered an armoury of crowbars, picks, shovels and machetes; put together a basic inventory of tinned foods—to keep them going for a week if they should get stuck in the Burmese jungle; they also found a small lake (on a golf course) where they practised techniques for fording rivers: “Take the fan-belt off, spray the electrics with a water-repellent, put only one vehicle in at a time, and keep the revs as high as possible.”

Such was the state of the roads and the delays at umpteen river-crossings, that the 1,000 miles from Calcutta across Assam to Ledo—the start of that wartime road—took them more than two weeks. Then, not too surprisingly, there seemed to be no formal (or even informal) frontier with Burma. After a couple of hours driving up a steepening and ever-worsening jungle track, their Indian police escort (in old Jeeps) suddenly stopped and announced that this was as far as they were going. Evidently, the expedition was now in Burma.

On that first day there were some problems: fallen logs had to be winched and crow-barred out of the way, boulder-strewn streams had to be forded, they had to use those machetes to hack aside the encroaching jungle. But, amazingly, there was still just enough of the old Ledo Road left to allow progress. By evening, they had made 30 twisting miles. They camped in light rain—elated. The next day was even better and at dusk, after another 60 miles, the jungle thinned and the track wound down to a small village. The locals were even more amazed than they themselves were, and told them that the road would get better. The fact was that, while they had always planned to “hit” northern Burma in the driest month of the dry season, they later learnt that that year’s dry season had been the driest for at least a decade. On the third day, they came to the fabled Chindwin River where, to their relief, there was a raft big enough to take the Land Rovers—one at a time. Under the guidance of some locals, they poled themselves across. On the far side, in the undergrowth, was the rusting carcass of a Japanese two-man tank. A little later they came to what, eleven or twelve years earlier, had obviously been an airfield: there were the overgrown remains of what they judged to be a Bristol Beaufighter.

first overland london to singapore

After all the problems that they had so long anticipated, the 270 miles and four days to Myitkyina (Mich-in-ah), the most northerly town in Burma, were a delightful anticlimax.

On several stretches of their way further across Burma, they were given a police escort—against the possibility of ambush by insurgents. But, so often did the escort’s Jeeps (of wartime vintage) splutter to a halt, that Henry and Nigel, the mechanics, in helping with repairs, reckoned their guardians were at least as dependent on the expedition as the expedition was on them.

Onward, they crossed the sluggish Irrawaddy on a bridge and, later, they crossed the rushing Salween on a raft. Beyond, were the hills and opium poppies of Kengtung. Here, in his remote and tiny capital, the local Sawbwa (“Just call me Shorty”; he had been evacuated to Australia during the war) welcomed them to afternoon tea and a bizarre game of cricket. Even today, looking back across over sixty years, if anywhere on the long journey comes back to Tim as being an earthly, even heavenly, Shangri-La, it would have to be Kengtung. In just a few days (yes, I know that it is cliché), they fell in love with the place. They were cosseted and looked after by Shorty’s two aunts, lovely ladies whose names (when translated) were Princess Lily of the Heavens and Princess Moonlit Waters. They were really sorry to leave. Another police escort took them 100 miles south to the Thai border where, after yet one more up-to-the-wheel-arches river, they splashed ashore to the thirteenth country. They had been five months on (and sometimes off) the road.

Bangkok, 600 miles further south, was now their destination. It was raining and, in their hurry to keep to a self-imposed schedule, they skidded one of their cars over onto its side. Nearby, a local bus lay immobile in a ditch. The expedition helped them; they helped the expedition. Then they hurried on. On arriving in the capital a day later, their priority was to ask about the one remaining barrier: a rumoured 100-mile roadless gap away to the south, some way short of the Malayan border. Paradoxically, while there was no road (and never had been), the map showed a railway line. So maybe (at, say, 20 or 25 miles a day?) they would have to bump along over the sleepers—having first checked the railway timetable. Alternatively also on the map, there was a wriggling line marked: “Elephant Path”. Once again, it seemed that the Gods who look after Land Rovers and All those who Travel in Them were listening to their prayers: the military attaché at the American Embassy got in touch with the news that, while in southern Thailand a few weeks earlier, he had learnt that some bulldozers were grading and widening that elephant track—so that surveyors could get in to plot the alignment of a future highway. Maybe the bulldozers would have finished their work…

first overland london to singapore EN

And so it turned out. Several times they had to use one of those “powerful wenches”. But, in one very long day, they made it across the gap. The damage? Two fractured shock absorbers, a grumbling rear-wheel bearing, a broken spring and a big dent in one of Oxford’s doors. But there were no dents in their euphoria. With only 700 miles to go, and good roads now nearly all the way, nothing could stop them. Accordingly, the next morning they delayed while, on the back door of each Land Rover, B.B. painted a sign in bold capitals. He had been quietly carrying the paint and a brush since Cambridge.

A few days later, they crossed the famous causeway that leads from the Malayan mainland to the island of Singapore. It was a moment that they had talked about since long before they had even started—since, in fact, that evening of gas-ring coffee. Now, at last, they were almost there…six months, six days and nearly 14,000 miles.

They gave the expedition a motorcycle escort over the last few miles to the Rover showroom on Orchard Road. As they pulled in and switched off, everybody clapped and cheered, opened the champagne, flash bulbs popped, cameras whirred, reporters buzzed about. They were the centre of attention. Immodestly, they enjoyed every moment. After all, with the help of hundreds of people along the way, they had achieved exactly what they had set out to achieve. On cue and as if prompted, the reporter from America’s Time magazine commented: “I guess you boys have run plumb outta road.” Indeed, they had. And it was wonderful.

And the journey home?

Well, that’s a story for another time. Suffice it to say, almost a year later and 32,000 miles since they set out, they had another drink—this time for a road they now knew did exist.

Photos: digitalised historical b/w photographs from Tim Slessor’s personal collection

This article was  first published in the Winter 2017 edition of Overland Journal Europe.

FIRST OVERLAND – THE BOOK A full account of this epic, very first overland expedition can be found in Tim Slessor’s book: First Overland: London—Singapore by Land Rover. Foreword by Sir David Attenborough. ISBN 978-1-909930-36-0.

Mike Brailey

Mike Brailey

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Vintage Video: The First Overland, London to Singapore, 1955-56

Long time readers of CC may remember a history of the Land Rover series 1 I posted back in 2015. In it, I mentioned a trip made in 1955 from London to Singapore by a group from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, as an a example of the adventures early Land Rovers were put to, and enabled. This follows that up, and with an up to date twist.

overland trip singapore to london

Back in 1955, a group of recent graduates with some spare time, a certain air of confidence and a fair amount of gung-ho spirit decided to try to drive from London to Singapore. This was a drive that had never been previously completed, and certain elements, notably through Burma (now Myanmar) from India were not supported by roads, paved or otherwise. And the politics of it were as complex as you’d expect.

overland trip singapore to london

But still, Britain was confident back then and with some planning, the expedition, named the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition was off, taking the aircraft ferry from Lympe in south east England to France.

overland trip singapore to london

The vehicle choice was obvious in 1955 Britain – Land Rover series 1 station wagons, essentially standard specification cars with the 1997cc four cylinder petrol engine, selectable four wheel drive and twin ratio transfer box. Only larger fuel tanks and winches differentiated them from many others, along with the expedition specific camping and equipment. And the inevitable light and dark blue paint schemes.

overland trip singapore to london

Getting it off the ground was a challenge but once Land Rover (or Rovers as the team referred to the company) had come on board with the cars and a young TV producer had offered some cameras and film to record their journey for a travel series he was producing for the BBC’s travel unit, sponsors came forward and the trip became viable. Like the Land Rover, the young TV producer has gone on to a long career, for he was (now Sir) David Attenborough.

overland trip singapore to london

The route, shown in blue on the map above, went through France, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Persia (now Iran), Pakistan, India, Burma (now Myanmar), Siam (now Thailand) and Malaya (now Malaysia), of which Singapore was then a part.

overland trip singapore to london

This shot shows the Oxford Land Rover crossing the River Ganges, one of many instances where it seems that the Land Rovers were among the first vehicles many people had got close to. The accounts of driving through Syria, Iraq and Persia are very revealing too – the team demonstrated the Land Rover to the Shah of Persia’s army, which promptly ordered 500 from Rovers.

overland trip singapore to london

After 18,000 miles, the Land Rovers arrived in Singapore on March 1956, and the team were excited to be able to read letters from home.

The Land Rovers made their way back to Solihull, after being shipped to India and supporting some geographic research in northern India and Pakistan before being shipped  onto Turkey and driven back through Europe. The Cambridge car was later lost in an accident in Turkey on another adventure, in 1957. The Oxford car meanwhile was loaned by Rovers to an ornithological expedition to Ascension Island and them found its way to St Helena in the South Atlantic, about as remote as remote can be.

overland trip singapore to london

Remarkably, Oxford was recovered in 2017 and shipped to the UK, to be restored to a road worthy and legal condition consistent with its original expedition configuration, but retaining as much patina as possible. And then some more inspiration, as it became a feature on the Land Rover enthusiasts’ circuit. How about, suggested TV film maker Alex Bescoby, taking this to Singapore and driving it back to London? Tim Slessor, seen above with Alex Bescoby, a travel writer and former BBC producer, was up to help, and qualified to do so. After all, he had driven it to Singapore in 1956.

overland trip singapore to london

In the event, Tim Slessor was unable to join the trip – at 87, his age was creeping up on him – but his grandson Nat George did join the trip in the same car his grandfather had used over 60 years before. Politics dictated a different route – the red route on the map above. The expedition, known as the Last Overland, left Singapore in late August 2019 and made it back to London for Christmas, despite this happening in Turkmenistan. The car has since been worldwide tours, meeting some of the many Land Rover fans worldwide.

But before you search further on that remarkable story (Slessor and Bescoby have both written excellent accounts of their Overlands), how about a longer look at the 1955 trip, as shown by the BBC in 2005? You might want to make a cup of proper tea as you settle back for this.

14 Comments

avatar

Roger, thanks for posting that. I love the photos and the original BBC documentary. The update is fascinating too for seeing how many of the original participants are or at least were still around.

It strikes me that this was at the tail end of history for that kind of expedition/adventure that the British in particular seemed to specialize in. Fantastic stuff, and they looked like they were have a real blast on the adventure. I know I would have.

Thanks for posting, and I’ll watch the videos later today. But I’m prompted to ask a question about British English usage; the pluralization of company names. I’ve often read references to people who spent their whole career “at Fords”, or as in this story, the support from “Rovers”. I know that British are more likely to use the plural verb with a singular noun, as “the Rover company are supporting this expedition”, which makes sense as the company is a collective which consists of many people. And in certain cases, I could see a possessive form with an apostrophe, as “I worked at Rover’s [factory]” with the word factory left out. But the pluralization I don’t get and was unable to find any info online. Any British grammarians who can shed a light on this?

(A long-time reader de-lurks…)

It’s definitely the possessive, not plural. Why the apostrophe’s so often missing, I’m not sure, but I suspect it comes from some firms adopting this form officially and dropping the punctuation, perhaps because it’s thought to look “untidy” or something (e.g. Boots, Woolworths, Morrisons), so it’s crept into informal usage as well.

avatar

Seconded, on all counts.

There are a lot of instances where British English omits punctuation where not only Americans but writers from most Commonwealth countries and even Ireland would use it. This particular form dates at least to the early 20th century but a lot more are so much more modern that more than once I’ve half-jokingly asked whether British punctuation went on strike in 1981 and got fired by Thatcher.

avatar

Actually, given the many and varied ways it is now executed, I suspect she privatised punctuation.

Grammatically, in English English, it should be “the Rover Company is supporting the expedition”, as the support is coming from thw singular company, though we all know actual usual usage and “correct” do diverge. Also, this usage notes that the name Land Rover (or Land-Rover) was then a product, not a company as it is now. “Rovers” as used here is an abbreviation of the “The Rover Company”

“Working at Rover’s” is, as you suggest, an abbreviation of working at Rover’s factory/shop/warehouse/whatever. Some businesses get it correct – Sainsbury’s supermarkets and trucks are signed as “Sainsbury’s” but the company is formally named “J Sainsbury plc”. “Cadbury’s” is another example; “Boots the Chemist” is arguably incorrect, as it derives from “Mr Boot is the Chemist” or from “Mr Boot has the Chemist’s Shop” Likewise, Woolworths, Morrisons but not Marks and Spencer. Catching the difference between Tescos and Tesco’s can be an art sometimes.

Another shorthand you have seen is people stating that they worked, for example, at “the Austin”, meaning the Longbridge factory of Austin Motor Co. Some of these were regional and quite precise, and implicitly understood, if never fully explained.

For several years. I worked for a business called Marshall of Cambridge, which had a an aerospace business and a motor retailing businesses. Locally, everyone referred to Marshalls (or maybe Marshall’s?), as did our customers, competitors and suppliers but the formal title was (and is) Marshall of Cambridge. Woe betide anyone answering the phone by saying “hello, Marshalls”. But, did you buy your car from Marshall, Marshalls (the plural as there were several family members involved) or from Marshall’s (Marshall’s garage)?

Apostrophe usage and discipline is a sensitive subject for some – a misplaced one make a difference. Should it have been the Rootes Group or the Rootes’ Group?

Thanks everyone for the education. Though I’m an American my dad attended Oxford and lived in England for many years before coming to the US, He was a stickler for grammar, punctuation and general usage, and detested modern American usage of the English language … though he was not a native speaker, having been born and raised in Russia. He worked for Reuters in London during WWII. Or should that be Reuter’s?

Wonderful stuff. When I heard about this trip years ago, I bought the book. A recommended read.

Interesting vids I see them using the Nairn route that was a Kiwi owned and operated outfit Beruit to Baghdad bus line via Palestine, good bit of advertising for Rover co too. Ive got a lot of spanner time on a couple of 55 Landrovers putting a 2.6L vauxhall engine into one and canibalising the other to build the body, they will go nearly anywhere.

It seems like a lot of the Land Rover legend comes from it having just gotten in on the tail end of British imperial colonialism.

Certainly, Rover timed it right, coming at a time when the British empire and commonwealth still supported the home industry as a default.

But also, Rover did nothing many, many others, British or not, could have done.

In 1947 two Czech college friends, Jiří Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund, talked the Tatra company into giving them a Tatra T-87 streamlined sedan, and without any additional factory support, they drove 40,000 miles from Prague to Cape town, South Africa, then by ship to Argentina & north to the coast of Peru. They would have gone further north except for the fact no vehicles of any type had made it through the Darien gap in Panama, an area that even today, has no navigable road.*

It should be noted the TatraT-87 was a high speed 2WD luxury automobile, not a 4WD truck. Yet they managed to drive the car in areas that had never seen an automobile, and only a few 4WD trucks. Jalopnik did a nice write-up on the story in 2011: https://jalopnik.com/the-two-czechs-who-drove-across-the-world-in-a-tatra-5822618

*In January 1961 a team of 12 men from Chevrolet decided to drive a trio of red 1961 Corvair sedans from Chicago down to central America, in an attempt to cross the roadless Darien Gap. They were supported by a pair of 4X4 Suburban Carry-all wagons and a Chevy 4X4 tanker truck for fuel. The Suburbans and tanker never made it to the end. Only 2 Corvairs made it out of the jungle and into the civilized world. The 3rd Corvair was said to have run out of fuel about 1 mile from the nearest road. This 3rd Corvair was finally found a few years ago [see photo] The fate of the other 2 Corvairs is unknown, as they were left just after crossing the Colombian border, & the crew flew back to the USA.

overland trip singapore to london

https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/cc-cinema/cc-cinema-from-here-to-there-1960-corvairs-tackle-the-inter-american-highway-and-some-wild-river-crossings-near-the-end/

The 1961 voyage is also linked in the comments to the above…

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Meet the overlanders.

27th July 2021 by Rebecca Bisset 9 Min Read

https://expatliving.sg/land-rover-defender-overland-trip-london-singapore/

This piece is a tribute to a trusted Land Rover Defender 90 that’s having to go out to pasture – it’s reached the end of its COE life. Over that time, the vehicle has taken its Singaporean owners LARRY LEONG and SIMONE CHAN on all kinds of adventures and overland trips in different parts of the world.

Among these was an epic Singapore to London overland trip in 2015, when they were joined by the couple’s daughter Lucy. She was just five years old at the time, making her the youngest Singaporean ever to make the journey.

overland trip singapore to london

Larry has done the long drive between Singapore and London on two other occasions – both in the trusty Land Rover. The first was a west-to-east journey in 2007 when Simone joined him for the leg from London to Turkey. (He’d managed to get unpaid leave from IBM for the whole trip, but she had to go back to work.) Most recently in 2019, Larry was part of an official team on an expedition called “The Last Overland” (lastoverland.com). Simone and Lucy joined him for the last leg from Paris to London.

Here, we chat with the pair about their journeys, and ask them for a grab-bag of insights into their time on the road.

Land Rover Defender trip Tibet

What got you started with overlanding?

Larry: I bought my first Land Rover Freelander in 1999, and we started with camping trips and off-roading in Malaysia. I added the Defender when I realised that it was the “Real McCoy” – or the “King of the Jungle”, you could say. We moved from driving and camping to overlanding, doing a few drives up to Thailand and Cambodia, before heading to China in 2005.

The inspiration for the first long trip in 2007 came initially from Tim Slessor; he was one of six university students from Oxford and Cambridge who drove two Land Rovers on a famous journey from London to Singapore in 1955 (known as “The First Overland”). We met him at the 50th anniversary of the trip, at the Old Ford Factory in Bukit Timah. And that really got our wheels turning!

What do you need by way of background for these kinds of trips?

Larry: Basic mechanical knowledge is a must. For all three trips, we had a “bush mechanic” who needed to adapt quick fixes at different times to get the vehicles going. We could hit the potholes at great speed and survive, but the vehicle might break down due to accelerated wear and tear on bad roads. You do need to remember to drive accordingly to the road and vehicle conditions.

Land Rover Defender

What have you enjoyed most about overlanding?

Simone: For me, it’s more about the journey than the destination. It’s about the people we meet and the friendships we make from those encounters – friendships that last long after a trip is over.

What was it like travelling with your five-year-old daughter?

Simone: Traveling with Lucy on the 2015 trip gave us a chance to see the world through her eyes. There were plenty of memorable moments, from our first snowball fight high up on the pass between two mountain ranges, to dancing with a donkey in the Himalayans, and getting a piggy back ride into the Potala Palace at Lhasa! We also visited the living quarters of the first space astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, in Kazakhstan, and explored an ancient city carved from a rock mountain. And Lucy loved the cows and cowbells in Switzerland too.

These are just some memories we built together that I hope she will always remember.

Land Rover Defender

What’s been your favourite country to visit?

Larry: One of the most hospitable and wonderful countries on the 2007 trip was definitely Iran. The scenery was exceptional – Tehran and Isfahan were especially wonderful. Everything was so cheap too: it was US$1 for a full tank of diesel, and $1 for a tip. The people were so generous and so accommodating – they didn’t want us to pay for anything. I even had a knock on the door one day asking if I would marry someone’s sister!

What about the most beautiful countryside?

Larry: Tibet! The scenery of the snowy peaks while driving at 5,000m above sea level was literally breathtaking. In the vast emptiness, we could see humans and animals adapting to the harsh environment. There were clear blue skies and no pollution, and seeing Everest from the North Face and up close was priceless. There was also a lake near Mount Kailash, in the far west of Tibet, with gorgeous colours by day and night.

Having said that, the fjords of Norway can compete with Tibet – every picture we took there is “calendar grade”! We were equally amazed by the road infrastructure; we travelled all the way to the North Cape, and visited the Arctic Circle and saw engineering marvels – tunnels cutting through the mountains, with roundabouts for exits to different locations. The North Atlantic Highway was a rollercoaster ride; our Defender got baptised by the sea while travelling along it.

Land Rover Defender Singapore to London trip

For a long and complex overland trip, it’s not a simple matter of jumping in your vehicle and taking off. There’s loads to plan and consider. Here, Larry and Simone provide a few small insights into the “day to day” of this kind of adventure.

Communications

“We’ve learnt things like not to charge your phone in the hotel, as you might leave your cable there or the electrics might fry your phone if it’s too unstable. In 2007, we used ‘proper’ paper maps and a Garmin GPS. In 2015, we had a Wi-Fi router in the back of the car (and others in our convoy drove very closely together to access it!). For our first two trips, we needed cash, all in the different countries’ currencies. In 2019, we didn’t need cash at all!”

“We take lots of bak kwa, vacuum-packed food, plenty of snacks and orange juice, and we always have a thermos and a slow-cooker. We had to be a little more organised with food and supplies when Lucy was with us. On the road, milk can come from anything, cows, sheep, goats, yaks, reindeers or even donkeys! We once made a rendang from reindeer meat – that was interesting!”

“You should probably budget US$25,000 per person for the whole Singapore to London route. That includes all hotels, local fees, food, air fares, and extras like support vehicles and staff in certain places. You could probably do it for less for a family of four if you’re on your own rather than with a group of vehicles, but it will take you a lot longer too! Also, factor in shipping the car back; most recently for us, this was about US$5,000, but costs have increased.”

Land Rover Defender Singapore to London trip

Land Rovers are very safe and sturdy vehicles, but that doesn’t mean you won’t encounter some hairy moments after weeks and even months of longdistance driving, over roads of questionable quality. Larry recounts some specific challenges, from potholes to politics.

Which countries are the worst to drive in?

India is bad in general for animals on the roads, but in Assam in particular there seemed to be a lot of buffalos and cows making love on the road! China has a lot of tunnels, and roads that are under construction or repair, but also some great highways and even full 4G coverage.

The roads in Nepal were terrible after the earthquake of 2015; it was pretty upsetting to see the impact of that, and difficult to manage the road damage.

When we were in Tibet in 2019, some of the GPS devices would say we were in India; others said we were in China. That was confusing!

Land Rover Defender Singapore to London trip

8 Scary moments on the road!

• Once while crossing the border into Russia from Kazakhstan, we were asked to unpack the whole car. It was high up on the mountain pass and it took them one hour to clear us – we were freezing! The ultraviolet holograms in our Singapore passports were all different, because the passports were issued in different years; they thought ours were fakes. That was nerve-wracking!

• The starter motor caught fire in Yunnan, China, in 2007. After a push-start, we drove it all the way to Luang Prabang in Laos without turning it off. There were no brakes while going downhill, and no power steering.

• In Kazakhstan, it was often 300km between towns, with no petrol stations!

• In China, there were so many army manoeuvres – it was like a war movie! You’re not allowed to take any photos of the army or police, so just keep your phone tucked away to be safe.

• The shock absorber broke in Pakistan, but we had to drive the whole night without stopping because of nuclear testing in the region.

• Between Finland and Norway, you go through a tunnel in the mountain that’s like a corkscrew!

• On our first trip, we didn’t know that Asian diesel turns to gel at zero degrees Celsius. The slopping noise stopped and we had no idea what was going on.

• At one border, some guys had put washing powder in a zip-lock bag and the police thought it was drugs! We were waiting for more than six hours!

overland trip singapore to london

What have been some particularly challenging moments behind the wheel?

The drive from Moscow to St Petersburg is 700km, which you’d normally do in eight hours, but we had wheel bearing and steering issues. We were topping up lubricants into the bearings, but any speed above 40km meant a horrible metal-hitting-metal sound. Every time we hit a pothole, the Defender swerved. It was the longest and scariest drive in my life! When we got to a workshop in St Petersburg, it showed the wheel bearings were in smithereens. Absolutely amazing that the car managed to keep going. (What a car!)

Another memorable moment was trying to exit the Champs-Élysées with our whole troupe of Land Rovers on the 2019 trip; we had to go round several times to get the courage to make a charge out at an exit!

Speaking of which, what’s the hardest thing about travelling in a group of vehicles?

The most difficult task is moving the entire convoy as one. Getting everyone to head off was easy for the first two weeks. After that, people start getting restless; the initial euphoria goes, and tempers flare. Human interactions can become difficult.

On our first two trips, we travelled with some of the people we had done our shorter trips with, so that was easier. The last one in 2019 was different – it was a meeting of strangers. Other than Tim Slessor, whom I’d spent some time with, the rest I’d only met briefly. I was the most experienced overlander, and my concern was getting everyone to London safely; it reminded me of military training.

You get to know others as well as you know yourself. The most important lesson is that it’s okay to lose your temper once in a while – just move on and remember it’s never personal. Team members have to rely on each other.

Land Rover Defender Singapore to London trip

What about political issues and complications?

Travelling in 2007 was very different to 2019. We were a bit of a novelty back in 2007, and people and countries seemed far more welcoming. In 2019, regulations were tighter all round. We had to remove almost every piece of luggage and equipment at the Chinese border, and the exit from the Nepal border was just as difficult. Our belongings were searched and all our prayer scarfs given by well-wishers in Nepal were confiscated as they were deemed prohibited items in Tibet.

There were more border checks in 2019 too. Our routes through Tibet and Xinjiang had to be submitted to various ministries for approval before entry. And the locals didn’t seem as friendly as before. We didn’t see any detention camps while driving in Xinjiang, but we did see razor wire along some stretches of desert highway, designed to “keep people in”.

Petrol stations were also fortified. You would need the proper permit to enter and purchase fuel. During one security check, my gas canister used for a portable gas stove was confiscated; we also weren’t allowed to carry extra fuel in jerry cans.

There was no access to Facebook and Google in these areas, though the biggest problem was that WhatsApp wasn’t working, which made communications difficult; many of the team resorted to VPN. At our last exit point, one member was questioned because she was typing on her MacBook.

The powerful Singapore passport was useful across all the trips. For one thing, one of my team members from Indonesia had to spend a fortune on visas, and they occupied quite a few pages in his passport.

trans scandinavia overland

What’s next for Larry and Simone? “With the recent purchase of a seven-year-old Land Rover Discovery 4, we would like to do another big trip in about nine years’ time, when Lucy is 20. We have Africa, New Zealand and Mongolia on our bucket list! While the original Land Rover from 1955 (named ‘Oxford’) is currently touring New Zealand after travelling through the US in 2020, and the Queen of England still has her one from 1972, sadly our Defender – aka ‘Enterprise’ – can’t have its COE renewed here in Singapore. But we’re looking forward to more adventures nonetheless.”

We’re not sure we’re brave enough to take a trip like this, but we hope the story helps if you’re planning your own journey! We’re sure Larry and Simone would be happy to give you more tips, too – email us at [email protected] and we’ll link you up.

This article first appeared in the July 2021 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe , so you never miss a copy!

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overland trip singapore to london

Rebecca Bisset

Heading up Expat Living, Rebecca started off in photography and video. A bit of a nomad before Singapore, she likes to travel when she can but she finds looking at properties as exciting!

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5 Road Trips in Western Australia

Jetstar Asia announces direct flights from Broome to Singapore, promises low airfares

The tail of a Jetstar plane with its logo parked at an airport on a sunny day.

Jetstar Asia has this morning announced direct flights between Broome and Singapore, reconnecting Western Australia's north to the bustling south-east Asian hub. 

The Singapore carrier today launched its new route with the seasonal service set to begin operation on June 25.

It will offer two return flights each week until October 26. 

Flights from Broome to Singapore through Silk Air were  previously launched in 2018 , at a time when the state's tourism industry had experienced a drop in spending from overseas visitors.

Last year, the Broome International Airport sought federal government support to recommence the flights between the Kimberley and Singapore.

The primary barrier to run the international flights was approval to establish permanent, regular border services at the site. 

Three people with suitcases walk past a Broome sign smiling

Broome will be reconnected with Changi International Airport, which will expand the hub's network to eight Australian cities. 

Tickets for the new route will be on sale today, including special one-way fares starting at $145, with the flights to recommence in April next year. 

Hopes to boost WA's international visitors 

WA tourism minister Rita Saffioti said the new flight link would expand the state's aviation capacity through the gateway to Asia. 

"This Singapore to Broome service presents an incredible opportunity to turbocharge international visitor numbers to Australia's north west, and inject millions into the region's accommodation, hospitality and tourism businesses," she said. 

A plane flies over a statue of Sam Male in Broome's Chinatown

Broome International Airport chief executive Craig Shaw said the direct flights would bring the outback town closer to the rest of the world and recognised the region's desirability as a visitor destination. 

"International connections to Broome as the gateway to the Kimberley region have been a long-held ambition for the local tourism industry and the airport," he said. 

"As well as being a game changer for the region in terms of tourism, this new regular connection can support new trade opportunities from the north-west of Australia.

"Connectivity is the key to prosperity and livability for any town."

Departure gates at Broome Airport

Jetstar Asia chief executive John Simeone thanked the state government and Broome International Airport for their collaboration and said the route would provide an "incredible" travel experience for visitors. 

"Just over four hours away from Singapore, Broome is an amazing destination for those looking for a holiday of a lifetime," he said.

ABC Kimberley — local news in your inbox

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IMAGES

  1. Epic 100-day Singapore to London overland expedition flags off

    overland trip singapore to london

  2. The Last Overland : road trip de Singapour à Londres

    overland trip singapore to london

  3. The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the

    overland trip singapore to london

  4. The Last Overland expedition completes 16,000-km journey from Singapore

    overland trip singapore to london

  5. The Last Overland

    overland trip singapore to london

  6. The Last Overland Completes Historic Expedition from Singapore to London

    overland trip singapore to london

COMMENTS

  1. The Route

    The Route — The Last Overland. The map below was updated daily during The Last Overland expedition, and showed our location with a 24 hour delay. Our route was constantly evolving and subject to tweaking due to political developments in the countries we were travelling through. Below you can see our planned route back home to London, and also ...

  2. The Last Overland

    The Last Overland Expedition will leave from Singapore on 25.08.2019 with the Land Rover Series1 Oxford SNX891, aiming to arrive in London 100 days later. ... IN 1955, six young men set out to make history by being the first to drive 19,000 miles overland from London to Singapore. Many had tried, all had failed. But after six months of hard ...

  3. Taking the scenic route home in 'The Last Overland: Singapore To London

    Two men in one vintage Land Rover recreate an epic 19,000km road trip from Singapore to London in this new documentary series. 'The Last Overland: Singapore to London'. Source: Grammar Productions

  4. London & Singapore Bus Tours

    We have you covered, as we offer two ground-breaking Epic Bus Journeys. Hop onto the longest bus journey in the world, Bus to London or the exciting Bus to Singapore, for an experience to remember. Adventures Overland has launched its very own dream bus which will recreate the vibrant era gone by where hordes of young men and women packed ...

  5. The Last Overland: Singapore to London

    The Last Overland: Singapore to London. 21,000km, 23 countries and one very old car. Find out what happened when Grammar recreated the greatest road trip of all time in a 4 episode series on All4 launching October 2022. Read the full behind the scenes story from Alex Bescoby, launching 29th September 2022 and available for pre-order now.

  6. The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the

    Inspired by the First Overland, Alex made contact with now eighty-six-year-old Tim and together they planned an epic recreation of the original trip, this time from Singapore to London. Their goal was to complete the legendary journey started more than sixty years ago in the original Oxford Land Rover .

  7. The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the

    The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the Iconic Land Rover Expedition Audio CD - MP3 Audio, November 15, 2022 by Alex Bescoby (Author, Reader) 4.7 4.7 out of 5 stars 102 ratings

  8. This 87-year-old filmmaker is travelling overland from London to

    The Last Overland's route from Singapore to London in red. Image by The Last Overland. The 2019 trip, billed as "The Last Overland" will see the 87-year-old pioneer and a new team of eight, fresh-faced explorers cross three continents and 20 countries; through the jungles of Myanmar and Malaysia, the mountains of the Himalayas, the deserts of ...

  9. Singapore to London Overland in 4 minutes! (Train / Rail Travel)

    In 2016/17, I embarked on an overland journey, from Singapore to London, by train, bus and cruise ship. Some of the major routes include the Trans-Siberian a...

  10. The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the

    The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Journey of the Iconic Land Rover Expedition Audible Audiobook - Unabridged . Alex Bescoby (Author, ... ," Alex made contact with now eighty-six-year-old Tim, and together they planned an epic recreation of the original trip, this time from Singapore to London. ...

  11. From London to Singapore by Train in 40 Days

    Follow my journey: From London to Singapore in 40 Days: Prologue. Day 0: Garuda Indonesia GA86 from Singapore to London by Boeing 777-300ER. Day 1-3: London. Day 3: Megabus from London to Sheffield. Day 4: CrossCountry from Sheffield to York. Day 4: National Railway Museum. Day 4: CrossCountry from York to Sheffield.

  12. Retracing an epic 1955 road trip from London to Singapore

    Retracing an epic 1955 road trip from London to Singapore Alex Bescoby 14 February 2020 • 2:45pm Alex ... There in south-west London, the concept of The Last Overland expedition was born. We'd ...

  13. How the World's Changed From the First to the Last Overland

    On Sunday, August 25th, this 1955 Land Rover Series I set off from Marina Bay, Singapore for a 100-day trip to London called The Last Overland. Land Rover Singapore On September 1st, 1955 six college students from the U.K. set out from London in two "normal 86-inch wheelbase Land Rover station wagons."

  14. The Last Overland: Singapore to London: The Return Jour…

    The Last Overland is the story behind the four-part documentary series on All 4 - the extraordinary journey of filmmaker Alex Bescoby and his team across 13,000 miles to recreate the legendary overlanding expedition of 1956. In 1955, a young TV producer named David Attenborough was approached by six recent graduates from Oxford and Cambridge universities determined to drive the entire length ...

  15. London to Singapore Overland

    This expedition will have her and the rest of the team experience the countries that lie between London and Singapore and see the gradual changes in climate, timezones, and culture. To get from London to Singapore overland we will cover a distance of more than 13,000 kilometers, travel in 14 countries, and spend more than 2 weeks on trains.

  16. Overland Adventures

    Driving from London to Singapore is no walk in the park. Organised by AA Singapore, the 98-day trip is one of its AUTOVENTURE™ packages. On 17 June 2023, a pre-trip briefing was held at the AA Centre for the 33 adventurers. Officially known as AA's 98-day Autoventure™ London-Singapore Expedition Drive 2023, this marks the second London ...

  17. London to Singapore: Epic Family Road Trip in an Old Land Rover

    The Hyland family traveled more than 16,000 miles from London to Singapore from mid-summer 2015 to spring 2016. They managed this feat in a tiny 61-year-old Land Rover found in a Canadian farmer ...

  18. First Overland, London to Singapore

    We scroll back to 1955, Tim Slessor was one of a six-man team who pioneered the longest overland trip ever undertaken by a vehicle—London to Singapore. A journey that would take six months and cover over 14,000 miles through some of the most demanding terrain…quite an impossible undertaking.

  19. Vintage Video: The First Overland, London to Singapore, 1955-56

    Politics dictated a different route - the red route on the map above. The expedition, known as the Last Overland, left Singapore in late August 2019 and made it back to London for Christmas, despite this happening in Turkmenistan. The car has since been worldwide tours, meeting some of the many Land Rover fans worldwide.

  20. This Land Rover has completed 3 trips between London and Singapore!

    The inspiration for the first long trip in 2007 came initially from Tim Slessor; he was one of six university students from Oxford and Cambridge who drove two Land Rovers on a famous journey from London to Singapore in 1955 (known as "The First Overland"). We met him at the 50th anniversary of the trip, at the Old Ford Factory in Bukit Timah.

  21. Road trip from Singapore to London

    Road trip from Singapore to London - Travel Massive - 25.08.19. therese-marie becker. September 2, 2019. Media Coverage ...

  22. Jetstar Asia announces direct flights from Broome to Singapore

    Flights from Broome to Singapore through Silk Air were previously launched in 2018, at a time when the state's tourism industry had experienced a drop in spending from overseas visitors.