King's Jerusalem expedition

Holy LandImage: Ian Zass-Ogilvie

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In the summer of 1964, before satnav, mobile phones, cruise control or cars with dependable radiators, 16 young adults – half of them students at King’s – undertook the journey of a lifetime. By any measurement, it was a memorable road trip: driving three vehicles 5,000 miles from London to Jerusalem and back.

‘It was an unforgettable and, for me, life-changing, seven-week expedition and it was all done on a shoestring – just £84 per person, if I remember correctly,’ says Dr John Belham (Zoology, 1965).

The Rt Revd David Jennings (Theology, 1966), retired Bishop of Warrington, still has his diary from the trip, as well as memories that haven’t dimmed after half a century. ‘There were very important moments during that trip for me, which have been sustaining all the way down the years.’

Holy LandImage: (L-R) Carolyn Adams, Robin Gill, Ernest Hepworth, Andrew Baily, Ruth Lacy, Rupert Furze (behind Ruth), John Belham, Frank Selkirk, David Jennings, Eleanor Hayward, David Hellard, Sherwood Burge (behind David), Ann Baily, Roger Fry.

King's College Jerusalem Expedition

This adventure, which participants dubbed the King’s College Jerusalem Expedition, saw them drive three vehicles across 12 countries, through western Europe and USSR-controlled eastern Europe, and then into the Middle East, which at that time was a mysterious, unknown part of the world. On the return trip, they took a ferry from Israel to Greece, sleeping on the deck.

The idea for the expedition – a spiritual journey for some and a youthful adventure for others – grew out of a series of conversations amongst several King’s theology students. Sixteen people eventually signed up: half were from King’s, joined by students from LSE, Royal Free, Oxford and the College of Estate Management.

Two of the organisers had vehicles: Robin Gill brought his parents’ Land Rover and Frank Selkirk had his parents’ Bedford Dormobile, a camper-van. Everyone in the group pitched in and bought a third vehicle, a Morris J2 minibus that ‘boiled like mad’ on steep hills or in hot weather, according to the Revd Ian Zass-Ogilvie. ‘By the Dead Sea, it could only manage a few hundred yards at a time!’

‘The journey took us across western Europe and into the then occupied satellite states of the USSR – Hungary, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria,’ says Dr Belham. The Dormobile could sleep a couple of people, but the entourage needed campsites, which, in the first few days of the trip, were relatively clean.

‘The farther we travelled east, the rarer and less pleasant they became,’ he says. To make matters worse, they often arrived late – pulling into one campsite at 3am – frequently because of the J2’s unreliable radiator.

Holy LandImage: Border Crossing into Yugoslavia at Horgos. (L-R) Helen Cooper and Eleanor Hayward

Crossing the borders

Their time in eastern Europe was occasionally tense, with many Russian soldiers around, and once they crossed the Bosphorus the students attracted a lot of attention.

‘Clearly, we were a bit of an oddity,’ says Bishop Jennings. ‘Three vehicles trailing all the way down to Jerusalem, and driving into places where I shouldn’t think they saw Europeans terribly often.’

‘We were very fortunate, my generation,’ says Rupert Furze, then a student at the College of Estate Management. ‘A British passport got you through places that otherwise you would have found more difficult. There was still an advantage to being British and having won the war – that sort of thing.’ He remembers when a young Jordanian led a few of them through Hezekaiah’s Tunnel, an underground passageway from the Pool of Siloam to its source, a spring outside the old city walls of Jerusalem. A guard stopped them, let the British students go, but marched the young Jordanian to a police station. When the students threatened to write to The Times to complain about the young man’s treatment, he was released.

Holy LandImage: Ernest Hepworth getting his shoes shined, photo taken through a butcher’s window

Coming of age

Each member of the expedition came away with favourite memories. Bishop Jennings was moved by the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem and walking the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem. Mr Zass-Ogilvie fondly recalls the Blue Mosque, Masada and the Dead Sea. Beyond any single site, however, the trip had a profound effect on several of the students.

‘Of course, it’s a wonderful way of growing up. You don’t know that at the time, but that’s the truth of it,’ says Bishop Jennings. ‘The thing that I learned, very particularly, was that it didn’t matter a hoot whether it was here or there, but for me Jesus was in this neck of the woods and he did all these things, and that was hugely important to my faith.’

‘For me it was the beginning of itchy feet,’ says Mr Furze, who trekked across North Africa the following year with several friends, including David Hellard and Sherwood Burge, who were also on the Holy Land expedition. ‘You’d be surprised how well you can get on, if you’re young, uninhibited and prepared to make an effort.’

Look out for a longer version of this article and other road trip memories, which will appear in the spring 2015 issue of In Touch. Send your story to

The members of the King’s College Jerusalem Expedition were Carolyn Adams, Andrew Baily (Theology, 1966) & Ann Baily, John Belham (Zoology, 1965), Sherwood Burge, Helen Cooper, Roger Fry (Theology, 1966), Rupert Furze, Robin Gill (Theology,1966), Eleanor Hayward, David Hellard, Ernest Hepworth (Theology, 1965), David Jennings (Theology, 1966), Ruth Lacy, Frank Selkirk (Theology, 1965), and Ian Zass-Ogilvie (Theology, 1965). In the intervening years, five were ordained priests, three became professors, one received a CBE and one received a knighthood and an OBE. Most are now retired or nearing retirement; Andrew Baily is deceased.

As they are nowImage: A 2004 reunion of half the group in Warrington. L-R: Ian Zass-Ogilvie, David Jennings, Frank Selkirk, Ruth Lacy, Ann Baily, Eleanor Hayward, Sherwood Burge, John Belham.

Holy LandImage: (L-R) David Jennings and Sherwood Burge

Holy LandImage: (L-R) Frank Selkirk, John Belham, Roger Fry, Helen Cooper, Carolyn Adams and Ann Baily.

>> Find out what the road trippers are up to now in our follow up article London to Jerusalem: Where next?

Article posted: December, 2014






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