'First Overland' Newsletter Page


The latest news of the 'First Overland' DVD, based on Antony Barrington-Brown's original film footage of the 1955 Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition from London to Singapore.
For more information contact Graeme Aldous firstoverland@teeafit.co.uk

A Tribute to Antony Barrington-Brown MBE

BB in 1956       BB in 2009

On Tuesday January 24th 2012, 'BB' and his wife Althea were travelling in their car on the A36 near their home in Wiltshire when they were involved in a head-on collision with a loaded tipper truck. They were killed instantly.

Since then, tributes have been made from all over the world, both to BB and to Althea, who was a gifted scupltor. This special Newsletter will try to reflect those tributes, and sum up their lives.

My Own Tribute
Who Was BB?
Crick, Watson... and THAT picture!
The House
Your Tributes
Series One Club Forum Tributes
The Funeral
The Millionth Discovery
A Final Note

My Own Tribute

For the first 50 years after the six Oxford & Cambridge students completed their London-to-Singapore journey in two 86" Station Wagons, it was Tim Slessor's 'First Overland' book that inspired so many to undertake similar journeys, or just (like me) yearn to own a Land-Rover. But the three BBC 'Travellers' Tales' TV programmes from the late 50s, commissioned by David Attenborough and filmed by BB, were lost from view. Before the days of personal video recorders and DVDs, there was no way they could be captured for subsequent home viewing, and their memory faded.

But that film commission was vital to the Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition. They needed valuable help in kind, such as tyres, fuel… even the Land-Rover cars themselves. Being able to say "The BBC has commissioned three films (and we'll put your logo on the cars)" helped open the cash boxes. Although BB's film was completed after the expedition, it was the key to starting it off.

To my chagrin, as someone involved with television and early Land-Rovers, it never occurred to me to wonder what had happened to the film, mentioned so often in the book. It was a chance remark that led me to see a VHS of the original footage, loaned by BB to those planning the original 'Golden Overland' recreation of the journey — I was so blown away by its quality that I realised that it was something that should be made available to the world-wide family of Land-Rover enthusiasts. I approached BB, who invited me to his Wiltshire home to discuss things.

I got out of the train at Warminster, only knowing BB from his 1955 pictures — he, of course, didn't know me at all, but he was holding up my letterhead. He was fatter-faced than his 1955 self, and clean-shaven… but still recognisably BB. We went out to his car and drove a few yards to the nearby supermarket, where he left me in the car while he went in to buy something for Althea to make for the evening meal. Well, at least I knew there wouldn't be breakfast porridge made from compressed Quaker Oats and Nespray — you can't get them in LiDL!

We talked video business over afternoon tea. BB was (bless him!) a rather gruff character, who didn't suffer fools gladly... but had the proverbial heart of gold beneath. He tried to dissuade me, saying "You'll waste your money, dear boy... no-one will be interested in that." Knowing LR fans slightly better than him, I begged to differ about the 'interested' bit. I also managed to convince him that I wasn't in it for the money (although the DVD has now recouped its costs) but for the honour.

I think the clincher was my tale of having watched 'Cambridge' go past on the A20 Dover Road on its way to the coast on September 1st in 1955 (when I was a lad in short trousers), and how much it impressed me — how thrilled I was when 'First Overland' was my father's Companion Book Club selection some months later. I guess that somehow it showed I wasn't a rip-off merchant, cashing in on his intellectual property — that I had a direct (if tiny) link.

He obtained a broadcast quality tape of the raw film for me, which I then digitally re-mastered... but it was silent film. In order to get a commentary, I asked him and Tim if I could meet them somewhere, and film them watching (and talking about) the edited film. With no hesitation, BB invited me and my cameraman down to Wiltshire to stay while we recorded the footage in their 'garden room', he and Althea again being excellent hosts.

The revival of interest in 'First Overland' following the re-printing of the book, and then the release of the DVD, encouraged BB and Tim to visit Land-Rover gatherings. BB came to the Series One Club's National Rally on Chepstow Racecourse, and posed with a replica of the Oxford car, created by Michael Geary. This led Steve Kerss offering his Station Wagon for conversion into a Cambridge replica — both draw crowds whenever they're on display. BB and Tim also came to the Land-Rover Heritage Weekend at Gaydon to support the book and the DVD, and were mobbed by fans.

Now, through the DVD, BB's footage has gone many more times around the world — I've sent discs to every major western country, and even as far as one to 'Our Man In Yerevan, Armenia' via the diplomatic bag. And since BB's death I've received a great number of tributes, most of them saying how much the 'First Overland' book and pictures have inspired people to explore, travel… or just own Land-Rovers.

Just a few months ago, Land Rover hosted a reunion at Solihull for members of all three of the 1950's OxCam expeditions, in recognition of their contribution to LR history. 3 weeks later Adrian Cowell died of a heart attack. Now we have lost BB as well.

It's a sad day.

Who Was BB?

I'll make it clear that I'm not claiming to be an intimate friend of BB — we probably only met face-to-face a couple of dozen times, although there were many phone and email conversations while the DVD was coming to fruition, and afterwards. So for the details of his life I'm indebted to others who have posted material online... starting with the Royal Photographic Society, of which BB was a Fellow. [Links to sources will be at the end.]

BB was born in 1927, and following three years of Army service in Egypt, he went up to Cambridge in 1948 to read chemistry. Although he got his degree, academic study wasn't his strong point. Instead, he spent most of his time as a photographer for the student newspaper, Varsity — a very professional weekly which acted as a training ground for many journalists and politicians in later years. It was during his time as Picture Editor that (in his own words) “a certain Antony Armstrong-Jones asked to be taken on, but after a few weeks I fired him as unreliable. He later became the world-famous photographer Lord Snowdon, and married Princess Margaret”.

Having graduated, BB had a short spell with Esso, but then returned to Cambridge as a freelance photographer from 1951 to 1958. He undertook college portraiture and photo-journalism, and became a local 'stringer' for all the national press, as well as the BBC and Movietone News. It was during this period that he got to hear of Adrian Cowell and Tim Slessor's plans to mount an overland expedition from London to Singapore. As Tim says in the book, "Any pompous ideas [we may have had] for forming a two-man selection board to assess the worthiness of applicants were quickly dispelled by BB. Having heard of our plans through the Cambridge grape-vine, he announced that he was coming too. Now there were the three of us."

After the period of photography, BB later worked for Dexion Ltd, where he invented the Speedframe construction system — that's not the 'slotted angle' system, but the one where square-section metal tubes can be quickly and easily joined together by push-in cast shapes to make instant tables and benches. In 1967 he moved to Wiltshire, and started a company that designed and manufactured school and industrial furniture. At the time of his death, he was working with the National Portrait Gallery on a display of his 1950s Cambridge portraits. In 2003 he was appointed an MBE for his services to the community.

Crick, Watson... and THAT picture!

The most famous of those portraits was taken on May 21st 1953. A few weeks before, Cambridge professors Francis Crick and James Watson had made probably the most important scientific discovery of the 1950s — they'd identified the double-helical structure of DNA, and they'd made a demonstration model, largely out of lab equipment.

Believe it or not, there is a website dedicated to 'fans' of DNA. It describes what happened on May 21st:
The model and its proud creators were photographed by a young Cambridge photographer, Anthony Barrington Brown, who remembers: "I was affably greeted by a couple of chaps lounging at a desk by the window, drinking coffee. 'What's all this about?' I asked. With an airy wave of the hand one of them, Crick I think, said 'we've got this model' indicating an array of retort stands holding thin brass rods and balls... So I set up my lights and camera and said 'you'd better stand by it and look portentous', which they lamentably failed to do, treating my efforts as a bit of a joke." His unique and classic portrait shows the pair grinning, with the model twisting up between them and a diagram of the two-chained double helix pinned to the wall.

Crick & Watson      

That expression "lamentably failed to do" was pure BB! Now, nearly 60 years later, that picture is probably the most famous scientific photo ever taken, being used to illustrate books, newspaper articles and TV News stories whenever DNA is mentioned.

And yet, as I understand it, it's significance was largely overlooked for decades, and it was only in the past 20 years or so that BB started to seek his reproduction dues when it was used. I also now know that he had bequeathed all future earnings from it to his old Cambridge college, Caius.

Notice, by the way, that the quotation above incorrectly puts an 'h' in BB's first name. He was understandably very hot on this, to the extent that his email address started 'antonynoh@...'.

The House

Althea & BB's house

BB's house was tucked away at the end of a lane in a small Wiltshire village, and was clearly very individual. Just how individual came clear when he explained that it was to his own design, and he and Althea built it themselves. The full story, told in BB's words, I found in an online version of 'Homebuilding & Renovating' magazine (where I found the photo above), but briefly they had their eye on a plot that had twice failed to get planning permission. Taking a gamble, they bought the plot and tried again — this time they were lucky, and building could go ahead. The design of the structure was very much with an engineer's eye, and the interior layout had a very appealing and unusual flair.

One feature was a number of small extra bedrooms — more than a couple would normally require in their 'later years'. But the whole point of the project was to give Althea an artistically inspiring place to design and sculpt her artworks, and as she ran occasional courses (some of them residential) to inspire other artists, the extra bedrooms would be useful.

In fact, BB explains in the article that it was Althea's workshop that was built first... and very useful it was, too. As so often happens with the finances of self-build projects, difficulty in raising the necessary money from the slow sale of the previous house can bring delays. Although Althea really needed the working space, her workshop became a vital storage place for materials for the new-build, and a place where the intricate timber frame could be designed and constructed.

One small aspect that amused me at (the non-porridge) breakfast table was the sudden appearance of their cat. Cat flaps in doors aren't always successful, so BB had put one in the exterior wall. But a wall is thicker than a door, so how would that work? Simple... you just incorporate a ceramic drainage pipe into the lower wall, and put the cat flap at the outer end. Then train the cat to go through the pipe.

A great idea... until the cat puts on weight. I heard this scrabbling noise in the wall, and then, in a scene reminiscent of Winnie-the-Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit's front door in the EH Shepard drawings, the front end of the cat started to appear slowly out of the pipe. No more porridge for you, Puss!


BB & Althea

It's not gallant to reveal a woman's age, but Althea was one of those rare ladies whose vivacity, poise and enthusiasm belies her years. I'd have put her nearer my age, or even younger — this tragedy has revealed that she was 75, and only 10 years younger than BB. For both it was a second marriage, and between them they had 7 children.

On my first tour of the house, BB was keen to show me Althea's workshop, and its huge kiln. He was proud that it was his own design, and large enough to allow her to fire man-sized scupltures — a first. There were naturally many of her pieces around the house — in some of the shots of Tim and BB watching the film in the 'First Overland' DVD you can see a terracotta sow and piglets on a shelf to Tim's left. The photo of the house above also shows the humorous sea-serpent that 'swims' through the lawn.

Europa & The Bull      

But possibly her most ambitious piece was 'Europa and the Bull', finished a couple of years ago for a cattle breeder in North West England. In myth, Europa was a Phoenician woman (who ultimately gave her name to Europe), and was carried off by the god Zeus in the shape of a white bull.

Once Althea (who worked under her maiden name of 'Wynne') had finished the sculture in Wiltshire, it was shipped to China for casting in bronze. She and BB made the trip to see the raw cast before the finishing processes had been done, and once completed it was shipped back to the UK, where it now looks magnificent in the farmer's yard. Other commissions were for London developments and parks, for hospitals and even on board the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth II.

But not all Althea's projects were so ambitious — their Christmas card last year showed her repainting an elephant sculpture in front of a local Indian restaurant. It was a charming picture, and I very much wish now that I had kept it. But of course I had no idea that such an ephemeral piece should become so precious in just a few weeks.

In allowing me to re-master his film, BB set off a big resurgence in interest in 'First Overland', because now the re-print of Tim's book could be enhanced by seeing the film that was also so much a part of the success of the Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition. After all, this is Newsletter 31, based on the stories behind the expedition, and the people insired by it. The impact that the book and film have made on them is best shown by this selection of tributes I've received since the news broke of the terrible accident. They're in the order in which they arrived:

Your Tributes

Ajit Krishnamohan, India
That's terrible news. So sorry to hear about this. I was surprised myself at how sad I felt to read about the accident, even though I never knew BB personally or had ever met him.

Kenn Delbridge, Singapore
Wow — that's terrible news, incredibly sad. I had a lovely time visiting them at their house a number of years ago, it's a shock to hear.
(Kenn recorded the audio book version of 'First Overland'.)

Peter Griffin, Lancashire
I am so sorry to hear the sad news of the accident causing the death of BB and his wife — it is so tragic, and as you say so soon after the passing of Adrian [Cowell]. Only last evening I was looking again at the wonderful photographs of the reunion in Legend and your excellent article about Adrian. I am certain that the whole of the Series One community would like to express our sympathy to BB's family. His films will be his legacy and we can at least have happy memories whilst watching First Overland.

Roger, Thailand
What dreadful, ghastly news. They were both wonderful, generous people who will be dreadfully missed by countless friends and family. It is also important to me that this includes proper tribute being paid to Althea, who was also an equally amazing person — she just didn’t drive Landrovers!

Jamie Austin, Wiltshire
That's really sad news. My condolences to the family.

Royston Bennett, Herefordshire
Sad news indeed. The 'FO' family is shrinking sadly.

Rod Walsh, Ireland
Terribly sad to hear the tragic news about Antony and his wife. Though I never had the pleasure to meet BB, I have followed the 'First Overland' adventure enthusiastically. I am sure for you and their family and colleagues they will be sadly missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha. [May their souls rest at God's right hand.]

John Carroll, Yorkshire
I've been mulling this over all afternoon as I met him at the RGS, then at Solihull, respected him and owe much of my LR inspiration to his pics on First Overland... Two deaths, it's a tragedy alright.
(John is the Editor of the Series One Club magazine, 'Legend'.)

John Hills, USA
This is terrible news. We are praying for the families. As an early Overlander I feel quite connected to this awful loss.

Richard Henry, Dumfries & Galloway
My heartfelt thoughts go out to the family and everyone who knew them.

Jon Nott, Norfolk
WHAT an absolute tragedy for such a lovely interesting couple. I am totally shocked. It is difficult to talk of any positives but I guess neither of them suffered and it would have been far worse if one had survived and been seriously injured.
(Jon is son of the late Henry Nott, 'FO' mechanic.)

Graham McAslan, Edinburgh
To think that BB travelled around the World in those Series Land Rovers and faced far greater dangers. Thanks to the DVD, his memory will endure.

Ian Haddon, Somerset
How very very sad. When I went overland in 1967, 'First Overland' was my Bible.

David Giguere, USA
This is terrible news, but thank you for sharing it with us. Thoughts and prayers go to their family and friends, from Atlanta, Georgia. The loss is felt the world over, across many different people and diverse backgrounds. The Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition and the story of First Overland, with BB's crucial footage, continue to capture the imagination of generations of travellers. With the loss of Henry, Adrian and now, sadly, BB and Althea, I find I am at a loss to describe how important it was that a group of guys, thirty years my senior, made this journey over 50 years ago. I first read the book years ago, watched your excellent documentary, and just recently purchased the audio book version to revisit the journey on my daily commute to the office. It is fitting you sent this email today, as I just reached the chapter with BB speaking.

Richard Wallace
I am very saddened to hear this news. BB was very helpful to me in allowing use of his photos in my book on the Darjeeling Railway. Please pass on my condolences to their family. Certainly BB's memory will live on through the amazing exploits on the Overland expedition and, of course, his photographs.
(Despite the name, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Society is largely based in the UK, "to promote awareness of, interest in, and support for" the wonderful narrow-gauge railway that's such a feature of the 'FO' DVD. In fact, film footage of the coaching stock in its 1950s maroon livery is so rare that members were keen to see it, and BB asked me to prepare a special disc of that section to show to their AGM.)

Dave Cartwright, Essex
I never had a Land Rover other than a short service in the army, but I am so saddened to hear the news. I am one of many "one day I am going to buy a Landie" types, but totally inspired by the escapades of BB and colleagues. Not sure how to pass on my respects — I know from personal experience that there is no reason as to why bad things happen, but what I do know is that BB and all the 'team' certainly have left their mark, and will always be remembered as an inspiration to those who stop 'saying' one day... and just get on and do it! I look forward to the First Overland Newsletter for more great stories and uplifting adventures.

Andrew Bird, Perth and Kinross
Shocked and saddened by this news. I just watched the DVD tonight.
(Andy ordered a DVD on the day of the accident — my email about the tragedy arrived before the disc did.)

Jim Young, USA
Sad, sad news Graeme. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. The world lost a truly great man, and woman.

Karl, Falkland Islands
Very, very sad new indeed — my wife phoned me at work to tell me. After only recently watching the DVD I often day dream about those great men, adventure and their machines.

Stuart Cowap, Australia
Sad news!

Lance Thomas, Australia
No doubt you will get many responses. This is very sad news indeed. I have passed on the news to my overlanding friends from Encounter Overland via the proverbial ‘Facebook’. I corresponded with Antony and Tim Slessor a couple of years ago, thanks to you. Although none will know me at all, please pass on my condolences to his family, and Tim Slessor, if you happen to see them.

Peter Galilee, Yorkshire
BB is the more important subject — if it hadn't been for his photos (and Tim's great text) none of this would have happened.
(Peter is a dedicated LR historian, who writes regularly for 'Land Rover Owner' magazine. He has researched the ultimate fate of the Cambridge car, and the article appeared in the February issue of LRO. This Newsletter was to have featured the story, but unfortunately I was delayed in publishing it because of a technical glitch in uploading the pictures to my website. Before I could do that, news came of the accident. Peter's findings will be the main feature of the next Newsletter. The next LRO will include Peter's tribute to BB — a magnificent concise effort (I've already seen the text) considering that he was only allowed 150 words! Peter's also told me a lovely story about BB's reaction to the modern digital camera and lens that he uses for his magazine articles — that's one for a future Newsletter.)

Lynn Bowles, London
I'm so sorry to hear that sad news. Just awful.
(Lynn is the morning Travel News Reporter on BBC Radio 2, and a keen LR enthusiast.)

Tony Cantor
Very sad news indeed. I only met BB once, at a Britain-Burma Society meeting, when he told me he was trying to get information about visiting a protected reserve in north Burma in the hope of seeing the rare 'white' elephants.
(Tony first read Tim's book when serving with the Foreign Office in Rangoon — it was in a tea chest of books rescued from The British Council offices when the local authorities closed them down. Tony was able to use his stay in the country to explore (as far as the authorities would allow) the route that 'FO' used to enter Burma from the north. The full story is in
Newsletter 16. BB had filmed the 'white' elephants on an expedition shortly after 'FO', and had long wanted to go back there.)

Bridget Mawn, Warwickshire
Thanks for sending this through — very sad news indeed. We can only speculate as to the cause and mercifully it was quick, but a terrible shock and ordeal for their loved ones and for the truck driver. My prayers are with them all.
Bridget works with Roger Crathorne at Land Rover, and was very much involved in the organisation of the Solihull 'Explorers' Reunion' last September.

Robin O'Connor, Wiltshire
The news is extremely sad — my condolences to everybody who knew BB and Althea. I kept meaning to visit him to autograph my much cherished original copy of First Overland — one of my treasured possessions. I recall looking at the photos as a child... I am 57 now. For years I thought of driving to Singapore as they did... sadly I know it will never happen. My Father knew some of the area they visited in the deserts of Africa — he was in the SAS during WW2 as part of the long range desert group. I even met a chap a few years ago whose father actually used the Nairn buses on a regular basis — he travelled from Damacus to Brighton to see a girl.
There are a lot of kind words in these tributes, a lot I suspect from people that had never met BB and Althea — it goes to show the high regard people had for both of them. I rather overdosed on First Overland this weekend; I watched the DVD, read a couple of chapters from the original book and ordered a copy of the reprinted version. I even started looking at the cost of Land Rovers on Ebay.

Steve Dyer, Australia
Indeed sad news. Thanks for letting me know. If the opportunity arises, pass on my condolences from Australia.

James Turner, London
Am very sorry to learn about BB and his wife — please express my condolences. A good friend lives near Shaftesbury, so we know the area well.

Nigel Mottershead, Cheshire
This is really very sad news indeed. My condolences go with yours to the friends and family. I can’t stop thinking about BB and Althea even though I never met them. With the book and your DVD though, I feel as though I did know them in a funny sort of way, and I often think about how you yourself first saw the two Land Rovers drive past you as a boy en route to the south coast.

Philip Bashall, Dunsfold Land Rover
Sad news on BB.

Alan Stevenson, Morayshire
This is very sad news indeed — I’m sure all your contacts via First Overland would agree that this is a very tragic loss. Like many other First Overland fans, BB was someone I would have loved to have met.

Arif Al Yedaiwi, Dubai
What a loss! I am so sorry to hear such horrible news.
(Arif is planning to attend the Land Rover Series One Club International Rally in Cambridge this summer by driving his Defender 90 overland, coming via the Bosporus, and returning via Gibralta. He also wants to have his Series 1 there... but as yet hasn't made up his mind whether to ship it, or tow it all the way on a trailer!)

Chris Best, Yorkshire
What terrible sad news.

Alan Holford-Walker, Wiltshire
What a tragedy! What a loss of two wonderful people.

Helen and Peter Loveland, Hertfordshire
Thank you for passing on the sad news about the tragic accident. Our thoughts are with the family at this sad time.

Antony Griggs, Somerset
I did the overland trip in the 60's in a Land Rover, and First Overland was our bible. In 2008 we held an overlander's reunion and the event was organised around your video. The interview you did with BB and his descriptions were all memorable, and I think I will sit down tonight and watch it all again.

James Colman, Oxfordshire
I have had First Overland on my bookshelf for 55 years. My parents gave it to me for Christmas in 1957 when I was 12 years old. We lived just behind the then Rover testing ground near Elmdon and so I grew up with Series 1s. I never knew any of the First Overland team but they have been a spiritual part of my life in that I have always known of them, who they were, and what they did. So it is that when one of them dies I am aware and saddened. The recent death of BB and his wife is particularly tragic and I am very sorry. Still we must now all remember the great contribution and pleasure they have both given to the world and be grateful for it.

Brian Stewart, Highland Region
There is something particularly poignant and tragic about losing BB in a traffic accident rural England, when as part of the First Overland team (and perhaps subsequently) he had travelled in many more risky and potentially dangerous places. I was reminded of how T E Lawrence met his end — also on a small English rural road, after many years of travel and conflict across the Middle East. The banality of accidental and untimely death somehow makes it seem all the more unjust.
It is also touching to discover how so many people feel 'connected' to the First-Overlanders. For many it clearly flows from the interest in, and devotion to, Land Rovers. For others (like me) it has more to do with the way in which their initiative, and that journey, inspired a desire to make similar journeys and experience something of the adventure that, in their time, was such a remarkable odyssey.
I was a child growing up in Africa when at the age of about 10 I read my parents' 'Companion Book Club' edition of the book and looked out at the series 1 Landie that was my father's working transport, and our only vehicle in the 'bush'. Decades later it was the First Overland routes that I followed to get to, and explore around, the Middle East during my career as a diplomat in that part of the world. I crossed the plains of Anatolia from Istanbul, drove the dusty Nairn bus routes across the desert to Baghdad, walked around the ramparts of Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, and lounged by the beaches of Beirut — and the story of First Overland was never far from my mind. So I was fascinated by the DVD/film and its glimpses of familar places, and touched by the reminiscences of BB and his colleagues.
Thus it is that I now feel a genuine sense of loss at the news that BB and his wife have been taken at a time when, in these later years, they should with justification be enjoying renewed recognition and admiration from the many people who knew, or have just discovered, their story.

John Horne, Yorkshire
I have just been going through my well thumbed copy of 'First Overland' — signed by BB and other members of the team — as if I needed reminding that the book and its evocative photos were life-changing for me. In 1970 I quit a good job in the Civil Service and am now in my fifth decade of overlanding, not only for a living but for pleasure too. And I have every intention of continuing 'overland' until they prise that steering wheel 'from my cold, dead hands'.
RIP BB (your good lady Althea too) and Adrian Cowell — travellers on a journey that inspired so many.

Keith Donnison, Hertfordshire
How very sad — my sincere condolences to the family.
BB was partly influential in my overland trip in 1960. I bought 'First Overland' by Tim Slessor at WH Smiths on Euston Station in mid-1959. I couldn't put it down on the train journey to Liverpool, and within two days of arriving home, I had 'recruited' three pals to join me on an overland trip, hopefully to Singapore and beyond.
'First Overland' was my planning 'bible' — I followed the numerous guidelines from the six members of that expedition; secured a number of sponsors as detailed in the book, and left in the spring of 1960. We had severe problems entering Burma, returned to India, drove to Katmandu, flogged the Land-Rover, flew to Calcutta, sailed to Singapore, flew to Perth, Australia, and returned to Liverpool just short of two years from our departure date.
An absolutely fantastic experience, thanks to Tim Slessor, with whom I had lunch at the HAC [Honourable Artilliery Company] in London about three years ago, who brought me up to date with his overlanding university colleagues. If I hadn't popped into WH Smiths on that fateful evening, I would never have had such wonderful memories of my trip.
I never met BB personally, but seemed to 'know' him from the pages of 'First Overland'. I am sure he will be sadly missed by family, friends, and all those that knew him. May he and his wife rest in peace.

Andy Matthews, Essex
Have just heard the tragic news in the new LRO magazine that came through today — utterly shocked and deeply saddened at such an awful loss of two warm and charismatic people, who I never met but came to know (BB at least) through the DVD release of the F.O adventure and its cameraman's dryly witty and self-deprecating commentary. As others have already mentioned, such bitter irony in BB surviving the prolonged and varied dangers of that expedition and then he and Althea losing their lives so violently in a quiet, peaceful and superficially safe part of England.
It was touching to read an online tribute to the couple from guitar legend and fellow Wiltshire resident Robert Fripp in his diary/blog recalling how when he and his wife Toyah Wilcox first moved to the area knowing nobody, BB and Althea kindly took them under their wing and invited them round to the house to spend Christmas together.
It's a much overused abbreviation in this sentimentalised society of ours, but R.I.P BB and thank you for that wonderful celluloid record. It's now left to Tim, Nigel and Pat to keep the memories alive for us — best wishes and please take care, guys.

Pat Murphy has asked me to add a little explanation as to why there are no tributes here from the remaining 'First Overland' members. It has been, as you will realise, a very upsetting few months for them, with first the loss of Adrian Cowell, and now BB and Althea. He wrote:
The shock was such a personal one (at least for me, who had been on the way to see them both the next day, and most probably also for Tim who had been staying with BB only a few days before) that we just could not bring ourselves to putting it into the written word.
I think that is very fair.

Series One Club Forum Tributes

Many tributes also came in to the Series One Club Forum:

olegit, Yorkshire
BB's photos in 'First Overland' are simply inspirational. I know that most people reading this will have been inspired to some extent or other by them. It's good that in recent years BB realised how influential his work has been. A great loss.

Landie Les, Sussex
Shocking news, such a tragic end. Condolences to their family.

rickyrover, Northamptonshire
I met BB at Chepstow and thought I must get a photo of him with the Oxford car — he couldn't have been more helpful, and smiling all the time, nothing was too much trouble. In fact he was so helpful, he had me taking pictures all over the place and suggested this photo of him standing in the observation hatch in the roof. He will be missed.

     BB at Chepstow

mr.scruff, Stamford
Terrible news, thoughts go to the family.

cambridgeblue, Cambridgeshire
Very sad news indeed. A great man.

715GC, Buckingham
I find it amazing that people who travel and led colourful lives like T E Laurence, Spen King, and now the late BB. Such a shame, lovely man.

oxford replica, Cambridgeshire
This was a real shock and some of the saddest news I have received in a long time. R.I.P, BB.
(As you may have guessed, 'oxford replica' is the Forum name of Michael Geary, who decided to refurbish his 86" Station Wagon as a replica of the Oxford car (see picture above), so leading to the creation of a second replica (of the Cambridge car), and the 'FO2' proposal to recreate the original journey... currently on hold because of the political situation, and the aftermath of the floods in Pakistan. I can remember eating an Italian meal in a Chepstow restaurant with Michael and BB the day before the above picture was taken — a great meal and a great experience.)

gertie, Derbyshire
A sad loss indeed — I have no doubts that there will be many tributes to BB and his wife. It would be nice if the Series 1 community could send some token of our appreciation to their family.
(Funeral arrangements are still to be made at the time of writing this. It may be possible when more is known.)

Ivan Plachy, Czech Republic
Very, very sad... R.I.P. BB...

normous, Ireland
Such sad news — and a great shock. Both BB and Althea were extraordinary and inspiring people, each in their own right. Meeting, talking and working with BB — and all the rest of the First Overland team and Althea — will remain an important turning point in my life and I treasure those days in 2004/ 2005 when attempting to get Golden Overland under way.
BB's dry comments brought us up short on a few occasions, each one though giving us the benefit of his experience and wisdom, leading us to a more considered view of the issues involved! Fondly remembered; much missed and I trust that somehow we will be able to celebrate his life and his mighty contribution to an area of each of our lives that we hold dear. My condolences to BB's and Althea's family and friends — and to the remaining First Overlanders who have lost a lifelong colleague and dear friend.

(Nigel Hawker was a member of the original group who planned to make a 'Golden Overland' recreation of the 1955 journey, and it was he who loaned me the VHS tape of BB's footage which led to the creation of the 'FO' DVD. Although 'Golden Overland' didn't take place, this fact alone gives the venture an importance in the wider 'FO' story.)

MilkMan, Hertfordshire
I was shocked and truely sadened by the passing of BB. I met him on several occasions, the most memorable being a talk in Dunsfold Village Hall organised by Philip, and a lecture at the Royal Geographical Society to launch the reprint of 'First Overland'. The world is a sadder place for his passing.
(Mick Burn is the Registrations Officer for the Series One Club.)

Blair, California
Sad news indeed. Seems odd that a person could drive halfway around the world without incident and dies doing the mundane. The book has remained on my bedside for many years and will continue to occupy it. Godspeed BB.

SDV44, Somerset
Very sad news indeed. I was privileged to meet and photograph BB at Chepstow, when he very kindly autographed my original copy of 'FO'. A true gentleman who will be missed by all in the Series One world. My condolences to his family. R.I.P, BB.

roversrussel, Australia
Very sad news, and will be missed by all. RIP.

yedaiwi, Dubai
R.I.P. BB.

SXF, Lancashire
Tragic news. I am sure I speak for all the Series One fraternity in sending our sympathy to his family. His films will be his legacy and we can at least have happy memories whilst watching First Overland.

KAC 87, Cheshire
I too nipped out to get a copy of the Times and read his obituary with interest. I didn't know about his photos relating to the double helix of DNA and nor did I know if his MBE. I wonder how many of the Club's members use Dexion in their workshops or garages, Dexion being one of the companies that BB worked for in the past. [Note: It was the square-tube Speedframe variant that he developed, not the traditional slotted angle.] BB had crammed quite a lot into his 84 years which were cut too short.

Alanmondial, Dublin
Tragic news. I was only introduced to the wonderful account of their epic journey in the book 'First Overland' at Christmas. R.I.P.

Other tributes are welcome — contact me


The Times Obituary      

On Monday February 13th 2012, The Times published a full-page obituary to BB, which included not only the famous Crick & Watson picture, but also my favourite one from the 'First Overland' book — BB filming the Pakistani Army Bagpipers marching. To give himself enough height to take in their marching routines, he's standing on a school desk, which is itself perched on the top of the 'Oxford' car. This was, of course, before the days in which the words 'risk' and 'assessment' had been put together with quite their modern connotations! Ironically, although this so dramatically illustrates BB at work, the photo was not one that he personally took, for obvious reasons.

The text of the obituary may be available on The Times' website, but unfortunately you have to pay to access anything beyond the home page.

The Telegraph also devoted a full page to BB and Althea, in a very fitting and highly appropriate double tribute. In this case the texts are available online for BB and Althea

      The Telegraph Obituary

The Funeral

Althea and BB were buried together on February 21st in Upton Lovell churchyard, a few yards from their Wiltshire home.

      The Order of Service

Upton Lovell Funeral


It's estimated that around 300 people found room, either in the tiny St.Augustine of Canterbury church, or watching a video feed in the church hall, and a specially-erected marquee. Tim Slessor, Nigel Newbery and Pat Murphy represented 'First Overland', as well as John Deuchars, who was on the base team. Henry Nott's widow Mary, and Jutta Murphy were also there, along with Ross Charlton from the earlier Trans-Africa Expedition. I attended to represent all the 'FO' enthusiasts around the world.

Introducing the service, the Rev John Tomlinson explained that there were so many people, representing so many facets of Althea & BB's lives, that it was inevitable that sometimes unfamiliar names would be used. Formally it was 'Althea and Antony', but to the village it was 'Althea & Tony' — never once have I heard BB referred to as 'Tony' before, and for us he will always be known by his Cambridge and 'First Overland' nickname of 'BB'. To her family Althea was 'Aph' — that was all she could manage of her own name when she was a toddler, and as so often happens with families, the name followed her throughout her adult life... although as a somewhat precocious, artistic teenager she decided that 'Aph' was more in keeping with her image than the original (naff?) 'Aff'.

As well as John Tomlinson's words, there were three tributes read — BB's son Christopher spoke of his father; Althea was remembered by her daughter Ruth Dresman, and daughter-in-law April Brooks-Dresman, and Crichton Wakelin represented the thoughts of the small community of Upton Lovell, where BB came from Cheshire on his holidays when he was young, staying with his Uncle Percy, who was the Rector.

Unfortunately audio problems meant that we in the marquee couldn't hear all of Ruth and April's tribute, but Chris has very kindly sent me a copy of what he wrote — he stresses that it was written to be spoken out loud, and so is not the meticulously crafted grammatical syntax that his father believed English literature should be!

      In the marquee

I have dreaded this moment for the last 20 years. The dread was not because it would mean that our father is gone; he always had a strong sense of his own mortality and I am grateful that he went quickly and didn't suffer — he would have made a terrible patient, crotchety, depressed and argumentative, since he was so fit and vigorous for most of his life. The main problem is how to sum up in 5 minutes a life so rich, so diverse, so long, so productive. Do I mention trivial things of which he was proud, such as being for a time the youngest Sgt Major in the British Army, or Runner up in Brain of Britain, or major things such as his MBE for services to the local community. What to put in, what to leave out.

He was not a famous man. The proverbial man on the Clapham Omnibus would not have heard his name or recognised him. But that same traveller would recognise his picture of Crick & Watson. He might have seen the film of First Overland and even been inspired to go a little further or tread a path less travelled. He might have sat at a bench made of Speedframe, or learnt his computing on an ingenious Ergon Computer trolley, or slept in a study at school on an Ergon bed. He might have seen one of Dad's 8 houses, built almost entirely with his own hands, or one of his many conversions or renovations. If he was very lucky he might have visited this church and this village and seen the loving care which Dad lavished on projects here.

An ordinary man, and at the same time an extra-ordinary man. Many's the time he told Mum and we 4 children that of one of his projects was "The Open Sesame to a whole heap of scratch". They rarely were. He would say of himself "I can make anything except money" which was very true — he was the most practical man I know, always coming up with ingenious solutions to problems. But he also managed to support us, as children and adults, in accordance with our needs, whether that was financial, practical or emotional. My particular memories are of making model aircraft together, learning the history and background as well as the practical skills of making a beautiful replica, as I do with my son now. Continuity, Family.

Others will speak far more eloquently than me about Althea. I only have two personal thanks to give. Firstly, for allowing Dad to be all that he wanted to be. He could be shy, insecure and, believe it or not, under confident, hiding these with bluster and occasional pomposity. She gave him the unconditional love that allowed this bubble to be pricked with love and humour. She stood up to him, supported him, depended on him and helped him to grow. He was a far nicer and more approachable man with her. And, of course, in return he gave her the emotional and practical support that enabled her to flourish personally and professionally.

The other thanks are that she brought the two parts of the family together into a, usually harmonious, whole. We are far richer and more diverse for that union and over the past 28 years we have had some wonderful times as a whole family. Dad counted himself as fortunate in his relationships with Ruth, Bocca and Barney [Althea's children] as he did with the four of us from his earlier marriage to Pam.

One of the jobs I've had to do is go through Dad's computer, to clear down his many projects, and gather his documents and letters. In some ways these have let me look inside Dad's mind. He comes across as the man we knew, enthusiastic, passionate, interested and interesting, a little flawed, but very human. He was looking back, trying to make sense of the life he had led and the decisions that had brought him there. Explaining some of his philosophy. Looking forward to the projects still unfinished. But fundamentally content, happy in his skin, ready to go but hoping 'not just yet' as there was still so much that he wanted to do.

In amongst those letters Dad said that he had always taught us "don't expect life to be fair". I remember him saying it and thought of it when I heard about the accident. He also said that you can't get the score of your life until near the end — if the pluses outweigh the minuses. He wrote that he was beaten at school for misdemeanours that he didn't commit but got away with many others; it all balanced out. Based on that I think we should celebrate that the sum of his life was far more plus than minus.

Dad was always proud of his classical education. Unfortunately we were never good enough at Latin or Greek to call his bluff. He would have wanted a Latin tag today, and the most apposite would be " SI MONUMENTUM REQUIRIS, CIRCUMSPICE". If you wish to see his monument look about you.

Look around you and see the number of his and Althea's friends, going back over almost 80 years. See a family united and striving for future generations. See a church restored and maintained with love. See his pictures that evoke beauty, history, discovery and exploration. See generations of people inspired to follow where he led. Do not grieve. Dad and Althea would not have wanted that. Rejoice. Be thankful that we knew them and they touched and changed our lives.

The Village Bier      

When the bells of St.Augustine's Church were re-hung a few years ago, Althea & BB had an extra bell cast — it was rung at the funeral, where some very haunting music was played by The Woodside Horn Quartet. To enter the graveyard, the coffins had to be dipped to get under a wrought-iron arch — designed (if I heard right) by Althea and built by BB.

But most poignant of all were the wheeled carriages used to bring the coffins from the house to the church. When my camera colleague Mike and I stayed with the BBs to film for the DVD, we all walked up the footpath by the church to go to the village pub for an evening meal. Althea confused me no end by saying that BB had been "renovating the Village Beer" — I was very puzzled until she explained that it was 'BIER', not 'Beer'... a platform (or in this case a carriage) for carrying a coffin. You can see it in the picture on the left. I mentioned this to Chris, who confirmed the story behind it:

The Bier is a fine piece of mobile furniture built at least a hundred years ago in Lincoln . Dad found it in a cellar somewhere in the village and renovated it so he could be transported to church on it when the time came. There was much anguish when they died together, but then hilarity as 2 further biers were unexpectedly discovered in the area (unused for years), one of which was pressed into service for Althea. At the rehearsal one of the wheels came off (not the one Dad renovated of course!), but a hasty roadside repair meant that they travelled on the day in the style which (at least Dad) wished. I don't think the undertakers were that impressed in such retro technology, but it was a lovely procession from the house to church walking behind them.

I know that many of you reading this would have loved to be there to pay your own respects — but when I say that the village is so small that the police had to institute a one-way system to avoid traffic chaos, you'll appreciate that a convoy of extra Land Rovers would not have been appropriate. But the family are aware of this strength of feeling, and will bear it in mind for the future — maybe some form of more public memorial event might be possible... but they have other things to concentrate on first. They are in our thoughts.

No funerals are ever joyous, but this one wasn't bad. It was long enough away from the tragedy of the accident for the pain of that to have softened a little, and I left Wiltshire with a strong feeling that I had been able to say farewell to two people who had between them made a lasting impression on many thousands of people worldwide, and yet who had been able to keep their feet deeply rooted in the life of the small rural community they loved, and which benefitted so much from their being there. I don't think anyone could wish for more.

The Millionth Discovery

Since the above was written, the Millionth Land Rover Discovery has come off the production lines at Solihull. To mark the event, and to promote the company's vehicles (and their heritage) in the burgeoning Far Eastern market, the car will go first to the Geneva Motor Show, and then set off in a small convoy to Beijing. As far as Munich, the convoy will include a Series 1 Station Wagon, painted in the special promotional livery. The signwriting includes a special tribute:

Station Wagon Hardtop       Special Signwriting

Pictures courtesy Land Rover Monthly

Peter Galilee (already quoted above) says:
It's good to see that Land Rover have paid tribute to BB by putting his name on the Beijing support Series One Station Wagon. It is very fitting. I often wonder just how much the success of the Land Rover is attributable to 'that book' and those BBC documentaries.

Pat Murphy (who was feted at the event, along with Tim Slessor) tells me that the same dedication to BB is on the three 'Millionth' Discoveries. The legendary Roger Crathorne (of Land Rover's Press Office) repeated that it was reading Tim's original book, and seeing BB's images, that first attracted him to working in the factory just down the road from where he was born in Lode Lane, Solihull.


These web pages have been invaluable in researching this tribute:

The Royal Photographic Society
The DNA Store
Science, 'The Making of an Icon'
'This is Wiltshire' Tributes
'Homebuilding & Renovating' magazine
Althea Wynne Sculptures
'First Overland' Audio Book
Land Rover Series One Club Forum
Wikipedia Kaieteur Falls
Wikipedia Courantyne River
Land Rover Monthly magazine tributes
The Times
The Telegraph

A Final Note

BB in 1955      

BB really couldn't have avoided being an explorer. His grandfather Charles Barrington Brown, who was once the chief geologist in British Guyana, South America, was the first European to discover the Kaieteur Falls — one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Charles also found the falls on the Courantyne/Corentyne River near the Guyana/Suriname border, now known as 'The Barrington Brown Falls'.

BB invited himself on an Oxford & Cambridge expedition, photographed and filmed it, and helped forge a world-wide fraternity of men and women inspired to explore, or just love 'The World's Best 4x4xFar'.

In my book, that's as good as finding a waterfall any day — he carried on the family tradition.


The next Newsletter will reveal what happened to 'Cambridge'. Previous Newsletters are available here

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