48OE Blog  
Jun 20

Written by: 48OE Admin
20/06/2011 08:39  RssIcon

I conclude my words on books with the fourth section of my bookcase. We are still talking about Land Rovers, accidentally and intentionally. There are good, bad and indifferent books but if you persevere they all feature our best loved 4x4.

Most who are old enough can no longer remember a certain Group Captain Peter Townsend. After a certain amount of royal infamy he set off on a 57,000 mile journey around the world alone in a Land Rover. The result was Earth My Friend published in 1959 for 25 shillings. This ought to have been a stunning book but unfortunately his skills as an author did not quite match his skills elsewhere. If you have the stamina, give it a try but it is hard going. It probably gives a good insight into the feelings that forced him to embark on such an epic journey. It is worthy, as probably it is the longest journey in a Series 1, but lacking any literary merit.

Another period read but which if it happened today would be made into a Hollywood Blockbuster is First Overland by Tim Slessor.  First published in 1957 and is still available today.This is the story of a group of Oxbridge students who decide to make the first overland crossing from London to Singapore by vehicle.  The story is very much a period piece and highlights a bygone age. The trip took place in 1955/6 in a very different world to that which we know today. Land Rover gave them two vehicles and they set about getting help from every source possible. The book brings to life just how much things like communication has changed. Their choice of sponsorship also reveals a world of tea plantations, friendship and that the journey is all. There are some wonderful plates in all editions of the book and it is a trip all Land Rover enthusiasts would love to make.

No travel section could be complete without mention of Barbara Toy. She travelled as a single female in parts of the world where men held all the power, and she enchanted everyone she met. She did all of this in her beloved Series 1 called Pollyanna. Her books are great fun and she was one of the prolific travel writers of her time. Her very first book A Fool on Wheels is recommended. She was a true pioneer and fearless of anything she met along the way. All her books give an incisive look at the world of the 1950s and 60s.

Probably the easiest read and the most comical is Land Rover My Love by John House. This is an account of John’s travels through Africa in his first Landy in the 50s and 60s. This book was first published by Janus Publishing in 1995. You should not have to pay too much if you track a copy down and you will not be disappointed by his series of short stories and anecdotes around life with his Land Rover.

My last book in this section is a 'left of field' choice. The story is not particularly well written - it is very dry and about a missionary returning home after years of work throughout South America for the New Testament Missionary Union. The subject is unlikely to get anyone’s blood racing and anyone who does find a copy and reads the book deserves a medal. The book is 12,000 miles by Land Rover by Mary McCombe Orr and was published in America in 1957.Have I put you off?

The story only becomes remarkable when you know a few facts. The Journey started in Brazil. To quote the Orr family 'The Lord graciously supplied us with a Land Rover, an English made vehicle with four wheel drive'. This is where truth gets stranger than fiction. The family consisted of two adults and seven children aged 4 to 16. They travelled through dense jungle, barren plains and vast rivers of Brazil and Columbia and other primitive countries of South America through the United States to reach home in Canada.

For those of you lucky enough to own a Series 1, try getting two adults and seven children plus all your worldly goods into it, then consider driving 12,000 calling it home. What is so remarkable is that no roads existed for much of the journey. This is an epic tail but for me I wanted to ask far more questions than are answered in the book. Where did the Series 1 come from in early fifties South America? What happened to it? There is no doubt that their faith sustained them on this very dangerous trip. They may have been one of the very first vehicles to cover this distance in the Americas. Once again very few black and white plates but very unusual ones given the geography. If you can find a copy add it to your collection!