In 1955, six Oxford and Cambridge students set out to travel overland from London to Singapore. The 18,000 mile journey would be the first of its kind. Never before had such a long and difficult route been driven to completion. Men had attempted the London to Singapore route before, making it as far as the middle eastern deserts or the Indian plains, but the mountainous jungles of Assam and Burma had previously thwarted all efforts. In fact, the route was thought to be impassable.

The team, however, convinced sponsors that it knew what it was doing. Land Rover believed in the project enough to provide vehicles, in the form of two 86″-wheelbase Series I wagons, and a young David Attenborough, starting out his career at the BBC, provided the film. It took them just over six months to complete the journey.

This recent BBC video, featuring, now, Sir David Attenborough, and some previously unseen footage, gives more background on the trip and details as to how it was actually carried out. It’s very interesting stuff.

As the video notes, today the route would be impassable due to war and closed borders. In fact they just made it. The Indian – Burmese border closed only three years later in 1958, the same year that Beirut, another city on the route, erupted in civil war.

In 1957, expedition member Tim Slessor, published a book about the journey entitled First Overland: The Story of the Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition.

I found out about this film through Expedition Portal.