The Last Overland is the story behind the four-part documentary series on All 4 - the extraordinary journey of filmmaker Alex Bescoby and his team across 13,000 miles to recreate the legendary overlanding expedition of 1956.
In 1955, a young TV producer named David Attenborough was approached by six recent graduates from Oxford and Cambridge universities determined to drive the entire length of Eurasia, as it was then known, from London to Singapore. It was the unclimbed Everest of motoring - many had tried, none had succeeded. Sensing this time might be different, Attenborough gave The Oxford and Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition enough film reel to cover their attempt. The 19,000-mile journey completed by Tim Slessor and the team was told in Attenboroughs Travellers Tales, and captivated a nation emerging from postwar austerity. Tims book, The First Overland, was published shortly after and soon became the Bible of the overlanding religion.
Inspired by Attenboroughs comment fifty years on that it was a journey that I dont think could be made again today, Alex made contact with now eighty-six-year-old Tim and together they planned an epic recreation of the original trip, this time from Singapore to London. With their improbable team and the prospect of getting the original Oxford - arguably the worlds most famous Land Rover - home to London, their goal was to complete the heroic journey started more than sixty years earlier.
In awe of the unstoppable Tim, and haunted by his own grandfathers deterioration due to tragedy and then dementia, Alex soon finds himself on the defining trip of his lifetime and discovers how the world has changed for better, and for worse, since the First Overland.
Alex Bescoby is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, writer and presenter with a love of history, travel and storytelling. A Cambridge University history and politics graduate, he has written for BBC News, the Telegraph, National Geographic and Lonely Planet. His long- and short-form films have been shown by global broadcasters including the BBC, History Channel, Discovery and Canal.