‘Mr de Baer and some friends of his at the University of Cambridge at the beginning
of 1955 asked if we could give moral support for an expedition they were planning
into Afghanistan. He has now returned to tell us of the expedition and to show
some of the slides taken by expedition members’.

I was one of those friends. I had met Oliver de Baer that first term, learnt of his plans
and that the expedition needed someone who knew something about the insides of motor
vehicles. Instead of buckling down to economics (or still escaping and finding work
somehow), I leapt at the opportunity. It was motor industry contact once again, a way of
surviving the long summer vacation without money and travelling for nearly four months
in countries which had some similarity to the delights of the North African coast. There
was also a bit of wishing to prove oneself, remembering the concerns about behaviour in
battle. Oliver explained the objectives in his lecture:

Glimpse of Hindu Kush mountains after climbing up above the Boharak Plain

‘Our expedition started because the Long Vacation gave us a gap which we had to
fill and we wanted to fill it by travel. We chose Afghanistan because it was within
easy reach of Cambridge in the time available, because one of us spoke Persian,
because the country is remote and little visited. Our aims could be summarised as
follows: firstly to compile a regional survey of a given area, agriculture, religion,
industries, customs, geology, including as much photography as possible; secondly,
a survey of the nomads of the area; and thirdly, the collection of botanical and
entomological specimens for the British Museum.’

Kuchi Nomad travelling down form summer mountain pasture to the Indus Valley

The expedition is described Afghan Interlude by Oliver Rudston de Baer - ISBN 9781299382886, whole text available on the internet

I was asked to be treasurer and it also became my task to organise transport and some
of the supplies. In addition I was advised to write to the British Museum. I had collected
moths and butterf lies (hordes of ‘blues’ then on the chalk) on the South Downs when
at Peake. There’s a nice letter, dated 26th January 1955, from ND Riley, Keeper of
Entomology: ‘I am decidedly interested in obtaining collections of insects from that area.’
It is discomforting now to read the brash letters written by this then twenty-year-old. We
were unrestrainedly using the Cambridge name for our own ends. I wrote to Mr Baldwin,
public relations officer at Rover, using our headed notepaper, on 26th January 1955:
‘A geographical and scientific expedition will be leaving this June to spend eight
weeks on research in North East Afghanistan. The most suitable vehicle for our
purpose would undoubtedly be the Land Rover and therefore ask if the Rover
Company would lend us two of their products. We realise that you must be
bombarded with many requests of this kind, but feel that further examination of
this particular expedition may convince you that it is worthy of your support.’
I laid it on about ‘following in the footsteps of Marco Polo on his way to visit the Great
Khan at the end of the fourteenth century, an area since seen by only a handful of
Europeans’, and that the expedition was supported by the Geographical department of
the university and learned societies in London.




After attending Officer Cadet School Christopher was posted to the 14th /20th Kings Hussars then at Sabratha west of Tripoli in Libya. His room in the officers mess looked out towards the remains of the still largely intact Roman statues. He has fond memories of that country then ruled by King Idris before the arrival of Gaddafi and the horrors of the present civil war,


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