Historic overland journey by car from London to Singapore to be recreated after 64 years

Mr Tim Slessor with Oxford, the Land Rover Series I that he drove from London to Singapore between 1955 and 1956 and which he will be driving again from Singapore to London.
Mr Tim Slessor with Oxford, the Land Rover Series I that he drove from London to Singapore between 1955 and 1956 and which he will be driving again from Singapore to London.PHOTO: JAGUAR LAND ROVER

SINGAPORE - History was made 64 years ago when six Oxford and Cambridge university students completed the longest overland expedition at the time, driving slightly more than 16,000km from London to Singapore in six months.

In August this year, one of the original six, at the ripe age of 87, will be recreating the journey in reverse. This time, Mr Tim Slessor will be part of a core team of seven, including Singaporean Larry Leong, that will take three cars from Singapore to London, travelling through jungles, mountains and deserts in about 100 days.

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is one of the expedition's supporting organisations. Mr Chang Chee Pey, 47, assistant chief executive (International Group) at STB, described the endeavour as "a daring journey that epitomises the spirit of exploration and the very embodiment of what STB's brand, 'Passion Made Possible', stands for".

He added that the recreation of the expedition "is aptly timed alongside the commemoration of the Singapore Bicentennial this year, exemplifying the strong historical ties between Singapore and the United Kingdom".

The details of the expedition were announced on Thursday (May 30) at the Jaguar Land Rover showroom at Wearnes Automotive. There, Mr Slessor reunited with one of the two cars from the original expedition, a dark blue Land Rover Series I named "Oxford".

After being used in a separate expedition to Ascension Island in the South Atlantic, it was left there and eventually found its way to the small Saint Helena Island, where it was dismantled and used as a chicken coop. It was restored in 2017 by vehicle restoration expert Adam Bennett, 51, before being gifted to Mr Slessor for use in the upcoming expedition. Mr Bennett is also a core convoy member of the journey.

It was upon Oxford's restoration that Mr Slessor had the idea of making the return journey.



(From left) Last Overland team members Larry Leong, Marcus Allender, Silverius Purba, Tim Slessor, Thérèse-Marie Becker and Alex Bescoby. PHOTO: KLARECHO COMMUNICATION

He said: "I'm 87 now, I should do it before it's too late. You're only on this world once, so do it."

In 2015, Mr Leong, 51, drove his Land Rover from Singapore to London in 66 days. He met Mr Slessor, who authored a book on the historic expedition that took place between 1955 and 1956, and had his copy signed. Mr Leong was later invited to join the core convoy.

Besides his love of driving, what makes overland expeditions so enjoyable for the IT consultant is "seeing things off the beaten track, seeing things that are different that tour groups don't show you".

He plans to keep going on overland expeditions for a long time. Referencing Mr Slessor, he said: "He's 87, so maybe I have another 30 more years to go."