Eastern Seaboard Rotary members enjoy ‘First Overland’ documentary


About 200 Rotary Club of Eastern Seaboard members reveled in the cinematic telling of the first successful overland expedition from London to Singapore at its latest meeting.

Member Michael Todd-White brought the British Broadcasting Corp.’s DVD compilation of the 1956 “Travelers Tales” programs for club members. For some, it was their first exposure to the 1955-56 trek in Land Rovers through France, Monaco, Germany, Austria, parts of Slovenia, Croatia and Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Nigel Quennell (center) presents a token of thanks to Michael Todd-White (right).Nigel Quennell (center) presents a token of thanks to Michael Todd-White (right).

The expedition was undertaken by six young students at Oxford and Cambridge in England: Adrian Cowell, Henry Knott, Antony Barrington-Brown, Tim Slessor, Pat Murphy und Nigel Newberry. They didn’t have money, a special education or even a car. But they were able to persuade the 80 sponsors, including the BBC, The Companion Book Club, Land Rover and legendary director David Attenborough, to support them and supply film.

They knew several expeditions had tried the journey before, but none had made the entire trip.

Seven months and 12,000 miles later, they arrived in Singapore accompanied by police and greeted by flashbulbs and champagne.

The films – shot in color but only broadcast in black and white by the BBC – actually document only a small portion of the journey. The full travelogue is detailed in Slessor’s 1957 book First Overland: London-Singapore by Land Rover. The re-mastered DVD shown in Pattaya includes additional interviews with the members and an “extras” movie produced by Barrington-Brown.

At the end of the show, club President Nigel Quennell presented a token of thanks to Todd-White for arranging the evening.

The guests really enjoyed the “journey” as if they could take part.