The British Empire Library

Four Wheels and Frontiers: The First Overland Singapore To England Willy's Jeep Expedition

by Roy Follows

Courtesy of OSPA

Simon Hutchinson (Malaya and Borneo 1948-67)
It is an adventure story of human ingenuity, a unique travelog unlikely ever to be repeated", writes Lord Steel of Aikwood (better known as the former Liberal Party leader, David Steel) in his foreword - and so it is. In 1958 two Malayan policemen, Roy Follows and Noel Dudgeon, driving an ancient reconditioned jeep, travelled over 13,000 miles overland from Singapore to England. This was long before the days of package holidays, double-lane highways and five star hotels on the Coast of Coromandel. Rivers were almost invariably unbridged, jungle tracks were overgrown and metalled roads were rare.

The adventurers were well qualified. Both had plenty of jungle experience and a record of very active service in the Malayan guerrilla war known euphemistically as The Emergency. Both could have made a living as mechanics and both shared a badly needed sense of humour. Their jeep was well equipped with a winch and spare parts and could carry forty two gallons of petrol and nine of water. They also had a good supply of tinned rations, a compass and a (63 miles to the inch) map of South East Asia to help them navigate the wilds of Thailand and Burma. Their ingenuity in frequent do-ityourself major repairs to the jeep and in outwitting uncooperative officialdom was severely tested but never failed. (Refused visas for Yugoslavia as colonialist policemen oppressing the working class they applied again at a smaller consulate giving their profession as 'Dustman'. Visas granted.)

Hardships and dangers en route included malaria, dengue fever, suffering near shipwreck while crossing the Ganges and temporary captivity as prisoners of Pathan tribesmen. Lack of local currency was solved by bartering socks, tinned rations and cigarettes. Facilities which are usually taken for granted were notably absent; for example when boarding a ferry they had to build their own entry ramp. When possible they preferred to sleep out at night as local accommodation varied between the bearable (sometimes) and the really horrible (frequently). At one cockroach-infested ruin of a lodging house in Iran the housekeeper, who hoped to attract foreign tourists, invited them to a meal - of rancid meat. Immigration and Customs in every country were usually a pain in the neck but the local police, once aware of the travellers' identity, were almost invariably helpful. So were the many ordinary folk they encountered on that epic journey who somehow overcame the language barrier and did what they could to help the travellers on their way.

The book is excellently produced and its photographs and maps give the reader some idea of the difficulties that the author and his friend overcame. Roy Fellows ends the story, most appropriately, with a quotation from Kipling's The Explorer.

Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges -
Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!

British Empire Book
Roy Follows
Ulric Publishing
0 9537577 8 1


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