Charity Fund-raising

From its very early days the Club has raised money for various charities, e.g. Pestalozzi Children’s Village and the World Wildlife Fund.

The November 1984 social event raised money for 5 Venturers from Surrey who were selected to take part in Operation Raleigh.

More recently, regular raffles have been held to raise money for different charities each year, often charities with  international programmes – The Nepal Earthquake Recovery Fund (2015/16), Cheetah Conservation
Fund, Mother Theresa Homes, Water Aid etc. These are often linked to a particular evening and speaker.

Money has also been raised for local charities, for example the Home Farm Trust for ‘mentally handicapped

Operation Drake

Tall ship sailing

From a press cutting written by John Blashford-Snell:

“In the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth, a galleon sailed out from Plymouth. Aboard were Sir Francis Drake and his crew embarking on a classic round the world voyage. Four hundred years later, in the autumn of 1978, another sailing ship sets sail from Plymouth on the first phase of a different kind of historical voyage around the world.

Scheduled to take two years, the voyage is the most ambitious seafaring adventure of its kind ever launched. While providing scientists and sociologists with valuable data, it gives a group of multinational Young Explorers the most demanding and rewarding experience of their lives. There are nine separate phases in the journey. For each a fresh team of twenty-four youngsters from different countries are selected. Each phase is commanded in the field by a different leader with specialised expeditionary experience. The scientific work is directed by experts who will join the team on site.

A number of young people from the areas visited are being invited to join the expedition while it is in their region.

Eligibility of candidates between the ages of seventeen and twenty-four was not judged by socio-economic or even educational grouping, but on their capability, enthusiasm, fitness and ability to contribute to and benefit from the unique opportunity which Operation Drake undoubtedly offers.”

Fund-raising by the Club

The Club was very involved in Operation Drake and in the selection of local volunteers to take part. It undertook the challenge of raising £2000 to sponsor a young person to take part in the expedition. A sub-committee was formed and the Civic Hall booked for May 18th 1978 for a major fund raising event which raised £1000.

In total the club raised £1250 and agreed to jointly sponsor two volunteers with the local Air Training Corps. One of the volunteers contacted the club regularly with expedition news and on her return spoke to the club about her experiences.

JBS looking on

Col John Blashford-Snell OBE – Founder

Col John Blashford-Snell has been closely involved with Guildford Travel Club since his first talk in 1971. He has returned a further sixteen times over the years to give talks about his adventures and expeditions, which were usually in very remote areas of the world. Between 1972 and 1975 he was Club President. He has appeared on Desert Island Discs, This Is Your Life and was featured in a Telegraph Magazine article in December 2015.

Richard Snailham (another regular speaker, 14 talks, and President in 1975/78) has been involved in many of these expeditions.

In 1978 with Prince Charles, John established Operation Drake – a round the world voyage for young people aged 17 – 24. Operation Raleigh followed which took more than 4000 people across 27 countries. It continues today as Raleigh International. John involved Guildford Travel Club in both the fundraising and the selection of volunteers.

drake lecture

Audrey Olley – Memories

In 1978, through Colonel John Blashford-Snell, the Club became involved in Operation Drake, a round the world expedition to give young people from all walks of life the chance to experience, what the expedition patron HRH The Prince of Wales described as, some of the challenges of war in a peacetime situation. The Club undertook to sponsor two young people to each go on one stage of the expedition.

advert for Civic Hall event
Surrey Advertiser Ad for the Civic Hall fund-raising event

In The Wake of Drake

On 18th May 1978 the Club put on a special fund raising evening in Guildford presented by John Blashford-Snell and Richard Snailham. One of the giant zodiacs being used on the expedition was displayed as a feature outside the Civic Hall. The big problem was that it had to be inflated and my friend Bob Watson (a club member) who at that time was home on leave from his job in Hong Kong, was roped in to help. He blames the Club (and me) for a lifetime of back trouble since!

“As part of the ‘show’ the army delivered one of the inflatables which was eventually sited outside the Civic Hall, to be viewed in the interval. I was on leave from Hong Kong and was ‘press ganged’ to help with the ‘boat’, and the photo shows us (Bob and Gerry Holman) unloading an extremely heavy metal structure which was placed in the inflatable for seating and storage. I spent the first half of the talk inflating the damn thing with a small pump. The boat was 15-20 ft long and HUGE and as Audrey noted my back has never recovered.”

heavy lifting
Bob Watson and Gerry Holman assist with unloading part of an inflatable at the Civic Hall

The Voyage of The Eye of the Wind

On 21st October 1978, Terry Burke, our Chairman, and his wife Vera together with Gerry & Norah Holman and myself were invited to a reception in Plymouth. The following morning the expedition ship, The Eye of the Wind, set sail, past cheering crowds on Plymouth Hoe and with Prince Charles at the helm.

Audrey Olley (right), Terry & Vera Burke (rear) , Gerry & Norah Holman (left) with a Young Volunteer and his parents

The Club was able to follow regularly weekly updates on the expedition on the radio. On 13th December 1980, The Eye of the Wind passed under Tower Bridge to mark the end of the epic journey. The Holmans and myself had the pleasure of greeting the returning adventurers at St Katherine’s Pier.

Serving on the Selection Panel

Operation Drake received over 58,000 applications for the 216 vacancies and I was on the Surrey Selection Panel to interview groups of candidates. The lucky ones would then go on to face a Selection Weekend. The interviews were very comprehensive and amongst other things we asked how they would work to raise the necessary money to fund their place on the expedition, if they were successful. Having parents with deep pockets was not an acceptable answer!

I was also one of the adjudicators (a great and rewarding experience although hard work) on two of the Selection Weekends which were held at Hawley Hard near Camberley. The weekends were organised by John Blashford-Snell and a team of army personnel. The qualities we were looking for included zeal and energy, tempered with reliability, common sense and sound judgement, also initiative, matched with tact and steadfastness under adverse and trying conditions, and by no means least, a sense of compatibility.

pushing a vehicle uphill
Part of the selection process involving mud and some muscle power

The first weekend particularly comes to mind so many years later, as it took place in atrocious weather, and to do tasks by day and night really tested the candidates to their limits. I remember them trying to set up their bivouacs between the trees hoping we would allow them some sleep during the night and I recall one girl asking if she could sleep in the Mess which was our HQ rather than out in the rain - OK but not if she wanted to be selected!

Even inside they had the challenge of measuring the weight of the occupant of the hut which turned out to be a rather large python called Monty.

weighing a python
How to weigh a python

The candidates were given chickens to cook for their supper (dead but not plucked or drawn). Some tried to roast the chickens whole, but the sensible ones plucked and jointed the birds so that they could be quickly cooked. In teams, after a gruelling night, they had to build rafts to cross a lake - a rather wet experience for those on the rafts that sank on the way. The bad weather brought out the best in many candidates, particularly those supporting and helping each other.

On the second weekend, in better weather, once again the young people had to go into a darkened room to identify the occupants a selection of rats. For some candidates this was scarier than the python!

The expedition for real!