Team to recreate historic overland trip between S'pore and UK

(From left) Mr Larry Leong, Mr Marcus Allender, Dr Silverius Purba, Mr Tim Slessor, Ms Therese-Marie Becker and Mr Alex Bescoby are part of a team that will travel overland from Singapore to London in August. They will travel in three vehicles, inclu
(From left) Mr Larry Leong, Mr Marcus Allender, Dr Silverius Purba, Mr Tim Slessor, Ms Therese-Marie Becker and Mr Alex Bescoby are part of a team that will travel overland from Singapore to London in August. They will travel in three vehicles, including this restored Land Rover, which was used in the original expedition in the 1950s.PHOTO: JAGUAR LAND ROVER

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, 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, 51, that will take three vehicles from Singapore to London, traversing 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 for international group at STB, described the trip 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 yesterday in 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, before being gifted to Mr Slessor for use in the upcoming expedition. Mr Bennett, 51, is also a core convoy member.

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

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

Besides his love of driving, the IT consultant said what makes overland expeditions so enjoyable are "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.

Referring to Mr Slessor, he said: "He's 87, so maybe I have another 30 more years to go."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2019, with the headline 'Team to recreate historic overland trip between S'pore and UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe