Expeditions and Land Rover.
by Michael Bishop.
The Land Rover Experience Expedition web site.
It’s been a busy month. Aside from the Frankfurt Motor Show, my own continued research and work on the book and this blog, I have been covering another historic story with Land Rover. I put a few teaser pics of the Freelander and myself with Gethin Bradley, Land Rovers press officer from 1955 to 1962, on facebook and twitter but the bigger story was this Tuesday at Solihull, which links back to the blog a few weeks back on Attenborough, and the Oxford and Cambridge Far East Expedition to Singapore in 1955.
Oxford and Cambridge
I was called up earlier in the year by a journalist from one of the national papers, who is very curious about the history of Land Rovers strong connections with exploring. His questions led to a phone call I made which helped opened up another huge story from Land Rovers past.
The current cover of ‘First Overland’ book and DVD, The 1955 Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition.
This phone call was to go over some points on ‘First Overland’, with Steve Kerrs who has researched and knows many form the original ‘First Overland’ team quite well. However instead of me asking the questions a number of stories fell into place.
Steve asked if I knew of the other two Oxford and Cambridge expeditions from the 1950s, which I did. Some photos of these two trips are at Gaydon in the old Rover photographic archives. Given the age of the vehicles, they looked somewhere around 1954 to Africa and 1957 to South America, before and after the Singapore run, but that was all I had.
Steve hadn’t know of them, but had recently had one of those days were everything fell into place for these two relatively unknown expeditions. He had his own ‘Cambridge’ replica overland Series 1 Station Wagon outside his house and discovered a local admirer of the vehicle in John Moore, the Camera man from the South American trip. John, surprised to see an expedition vehicle shared his story with Steve and shortly after his photos and film as well. From this Steve found that there was also an African Expedition and that Ross Charlton, the camera man from that trip, who has all his film and pictures as well. Also, he found that all three teams, Africa, Singapore and South America knew each other quite well with overlap of members throughout the three expeditions.
The 1957 Oxford and Cambridge South American Expedition by John Moore
I put Steve in touch with Roger Crathorne at Land Rover. Just as in discovering Arthur Goddard, Roger thought this was absolutely brilliant, and the three of us began planning a reunion trip of the three ‘Ox-Cam’ teams to Solihull. The material that John and Ross had in their collections is just as extensive as what we know and love of ‘First Overland’ including an unpublished book on the African trip, which I am helping to get published for later in the year.
The 1954 Oxford and Cambridge Trans-Africa Expedition before leaving London.
The Circuit of Africa
The 1954 Oxford and Cambridge Trans Africa Expedition more often than not called themselves the ‘Circuit of Africa’ and the book and photos are brilliant. The media at Solihull on Tuesday were in awe of this new material on both the African and South American Expeditions and I;m sure you will be reading more soon in many motoring magazines.
Tuesday at Solihull, members of all three 1950s Oxford and Cambridge Expeditions with Roger, Steve and the replica expedition Land Rovers.
As I mentioned my other job for the event was to collect Gethin Bradley, a Cambridge man and member of the African Expedition. After the 1954 trip, Gethin joined the Rover press office and became the in house expert on Expeditions for Land Rover, helping in many ways to get the ‘First Overland’ team on there way to Singapore and the next lot to South America. The ‘First Overland’ book on the expedition by Tim Slessor has gone on to sell well over 300,000 copies since its release in 1957. No doubt helping along with the other 1950s Land Rover explorer – writers, Barbara Toy and Lawrence Van Der Post to firmly establish the Land Rover Expedition genre that is embedded in the Land Rover brand today
Another incredible story, which is just at the beginning of coming back to life. Just as with Arthur’s story there is so much more to follow. It has been such a unexpected pleasure to get to know the three teams, and as the African book gets close to release I will keep you informed