by VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
The Hundred Days of Darien by Russell Bradon, with a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh (Collins L3.25)
The Darien Gap is 200 miles long between the north of Colombia and the south of Panama. Until the British Trans-American Expedition of 1972 no wheeled vehicle had ever crossed this unhospitable area.
Russell Bradon writes a fascinating account of this journey, starting with the vast and complicated planning and finishing with the tired and ill party emerging from the end of the Green Hell.
War and great enterprises bring out the best and worst in men, and he describes how the leader, Major Blashford-Snell, chose his team, and how, under stress, they reacted in different ways. The Army found the majority but there were some civilian experts and a few women.
It took a long time for selection because Blashford-Snell was not only the main driving force hut also had to cope with public relations, which were essential to obtain the money needed for what was the largest expedition ever mounted since the Second World War. The author describes the journey with great clarity, and his account of the hardships, personal difficulties and successes are so vivid that it is difficult to realise he did not take part. Everyone made mistakes, but all had their triumphs. The innate discipline of the Army personnel stood them in good stead. False values were soon lost in what became a real struggle for survival.
Major Blashford-Snell allow
cd for the expedition to last for a very maximum of 100 days, In fact it took 99 days, and the rains which would have stopped them fell eight hours later. Against all odds, which were mostly natural, he got them through.
As Major Masters observed: "The amazing thing about any expedition is that you just don't know people you thought you knew until they're really under stress." Crossing Darien, they were.