Green PennantComex 3.Green Pennant
The Yorkshire Diary.

"It is often claimed that international friendship and Commonwealth understanding depend on people getting to know each other and each others' countries. If this is the case, then the Comex expeditions are the most realistic and worthwhile programmes ever devised."

His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh at the launch of Comex 3



The Commonwealth expeditions (Comex) were founded by Lt Col Lionel Gregory OBE (Greg to his friends), a man I am proud to have met. Although I didn't appreciate it at the time, I suspect that taking part in the third Commonwealth Expedition (Comex 3) to India, in the summer of 1969, changed my life. I was one of the radio operators on the Yorkshire coach, and later elected leader in a 'bloodless' coup staged by members from York University. The expedition consisted of 20 contingents of 25 people each: the largest peaceful overland expedition ever to be mounted. Each coach kept an official diary of the journey, and what follows represents an edited version of the experiences of one contingent - Yorkshire. The opinions expressed are those of the diarist on duty each day (The original un-edited diary without additional explanatory material can be found here).

A film of Comex 3, entitled Crying Drums, was made by Ron Crompton and Pete Wolf of the Bristol University contingent.

Stephen Stewart

The Yorkshire contingent.

Andrews Sally - Student, University.
Barakova Dagmar - Student, University.
Bavage Trevor -Graduate, Chemistry.
Bennett Martin -Graduate, Pharmacy.
Coleman Hilary - Secretary.
Collins Jenny - Student, University.
Fixter Kenneth - Police Cadet *.
Harvey Peter - Graduate, Engineering.
Horn Valerie - Police Cadet.
Katik Nadia - Student, University.
Krolitlova Regina - Student, University.
Kairm-Caudle Patricia - Teacher.

Lloyd Maggie - Student, University.
Novak Brigitte - Bank Clerk.
Nutland Anita - Office Manageress.
Nutland John - Fitter.
Porter Malcolm - Police Cadet
Reynolds Celia - Student, University.
Stewart Stephen- Graduate, Physics.
Smith John - Student, University.
Shere John - Teacher.
Venables Michael - Police Cadet.
Whaley Peter - Graduate, Chemistry.
Wilson Andrew - Scholar.
Walker Michael - Student, Engineering.

* Some additional photographs of Comex 3 taken by Kenneth Fixter can be found here.

Preparation.

We held weekly meetings in various parts of Yorkshire, including Sheffield, York, Wakefield and Bradford. During these meetings we made preparations for the journey and had several talks on relevant subjects. Among these was one by the medical officer from Bradford University who spoke about likely illnesses, injections, and hygiene. At the beginning of a 'Comex Week' we held a reception for all our Yorkshire sponsors which was greatly enjoyed. During this week the coach was on show in many of the areas represented. On the Wednesday, unfortunately, the gearbox failed and we remained without it for three days!

The Comex 3 camp for all 500 was held at Woollaton Park, Nottingham from 1 - 4 July. Here there were courses for first aiders and mechanics. The drivers had been sent to the Army Transport Regiment in Aldershot, the cooks to the Polytechnic in Newcastle-under-Lyne, and the radio operators to Pye of Cambridge. Duples, the coach-builders, looked after the mechanics. Overall, many problems and queries were sorted out. "T'Owd Tup", our Yorkshire Mummies play, was rehearsed at every available opportunity and the general feeling in the contingent - especially 'Rolling, Tolling, Tippling Tom' (that is John Shere our Cultural Liaison Officer) - was that it needed rehearsing much more!

Monday 14th July Bradford - Dover

The coach started out from Bradford at approximately 0845 collecting members on the way, while the remainder met us at the Duke of York School in Dover where we camped for the night. The girls slept in dormitories, the boys in the gym.

Tuesday 15th July Dover - Frankfurt

Lt.-Col. Lionel Gregory, MBEWe awoke at 0630. There was a great deal to do before 12 noon. The packers wanted the luggage before 0715 so that loading could be finished before Greg's briefing. Greg told us that Brigitte had been to see him and would be flying to Istanbul because she could not get a visa for Yugoslavia - being classed as a stateless person. We were unhappy about this but nothing else could be done

Celia informed us that the coach would be leaving by 0845. Members who had not yet received their travellers' cheques could get them in Dover. (This was due to the long delay waiting for visas at the Afghan Embassy.) As soon as Greg had finished speaking there was a mad rush for the dining room and breakfast; but when we assembled at the coach, all in good order, it was only to be told that there was to be a briefing for Regional Leaders. When we eventually arrived in the city centre some members still had last minute shopping to do. So, we regrouped at 1000 and took the coach for a wash. We closed all the windows and pushed the aerials down, but forgot about the flag-mast - which was duly broken.

On then to the docks, through the customs and aboard the Enterprise 4. A message from Prince Philip wishing us 'bon voyage' was read out over the Tannoy. The crossing was calm and we arrived on schedule at 1600. Once more through the customs and on to take up our position in the convoy.

We followed what the navigators thought was the Brussels Ring Road, which was in fact the Brussels-Antwerp Road. The difficulty arose because the navigator was following the lead coach which had taken the wrong turning. About an hour later, when most of us were dozing, Mike Walker, the driver, pulled into the side shouting for first aiders as he jumped out. There were two cars on either side of the road on their roofs. Grabbing torches, the boys dashed back to the cars. Ken and Val, both police cadets, used their first aid knowledge to deal with one of the drivers - his face covered in blood. Ken's T-shirt was torn in two to make a bandage. The road was strewn with glass and petrol so some of the boys heroically directed the traffic. A Belgian car passing stopped and went to phone for an ambulance. When it arrived we decided to press on: not having actually seen the accident we would be of little help to the police. At the border town of Aachen we were asked to pay road tax (normally levied on commercial vehicles). The radio operator tried to contact Greg without success. 20 Comex Coaches at FrankfurtHowever, on being assured that we could reclaim the money on our return, we paid up and moved on to the United States Air Force Base - arriving at about 1800.

Wednesday 16th July Frankfurt

The sun woke us up. After breakfast, some inspected the base while others sunbathed. At 1500 everyone attended a meeting of Commonwealth representatives from Malta, Tanzania, Pakistan and India. The Lord Mayor of Frankfurt presented us with flags for the coaches and told us a bit about the city.

There followed a wonderful meal provided by our hosts. Many of us were so full we had difficulty walking. The rest of the afternoon was spent rehearsing and sunbathing. At 1800 the drivers met to discuss the advantages of travelling in convoy and opted to give it a try the following day. A few of us were invited to go to a Folk Club but decided instead to spend the time sewing seat covers - and an early night.

It was very warm in the gymnasium so some of us slept outside. One of the two large ground sheets was spread on the grass, sleeping bags placed on top, and the second ground sheet used for protection from the dew. Half an hour later two American patrolmen asked us if we would mind moving to the other side of the building. Pandemonium! Four of us handled the ground sheets. Unable to find his shorts, Mike hopped across in his sleeping bag - but with his sandals on; Martin looked extremely funny in pyjamas and bush hat, and how I wished I had some flash bulbs for my camera. The whole episode was well intentioned - even enjoyable - and in that mood we were soon asleep.

Thursday 17th July

Up at 0600. Breakfast was as delicious as dinner the night before. We then dispersed to pack up in readiness to set off in convoy at 0742. The scenery was much like Derbyshire, wooded and hilly; the houses with whitewashed fronts and small windows. We pulled into a lay-by for a lunch of larded bread - which was very nice - with cheese, meat spread and melon. When we arrived at the frontier, Ken had our passports stamped with the minimum delay and we were on or way to the next camp, in Salzburg - to a welcome of thunder and lightening. Despite this, Maggie and Ken prepared a delicious risotto with rice for tea. Some of us then went to the nearby bier garten and had a wonderful evening dancing and singing with a party of Austrians. After the Austrian wine and beer in jolly company, we slept soundly.

Friday 18th July

Up at 0630 and breakfast at 0700. It was damp and raining lightly. We left at 0735 to do some shopping before forming convoy. By the time we left it was raining heavily. Convoy formed by 0930, at Bad-Schau, and we moved slowly up into the mountains. It rained heavily in some places and there was a lot of mist in others, so few photographs were taken. But it was a beautiful journey and we stopped at Rottermann for coffee - and toilets - at 1140. It was now hot, but not so mountainous. We had a meal on board of just two sandwiches and kept going for the Austrian-Yugoslav border.

A message from Greg's car reported that there was more trouble over road tax. (Greg himself was travelling for awhile with St Andrews, so we stopped to act as relay station.) Having experienced the same problem earlier, we paid the tax and were then informed that we were on the same wavelength as the Austrian Fire Service. This proved to be a false alarm but, apparently, we were contravening Yugoslav Radio Acts. Consequently, officials began taking the serial numbers of all Comex radios, as well as the names and addresses of the operators.

We stayed until 1810 and spent the time eating, drinking and chatting, and playing football, before setting off in good voice to rejoin the convoy. Here there was more singing with a few local people listening appreciatively, and Manchester went round with the hat!

Crew change at 2010. The main road was rough, unmade in places, and quite unlike the autobahn. Progress was slow and we reached the outskirts of Zagreb at 2230. We waited for twelve coaches to form convoy before moving towards camp led by a Yugoslav guide. Zagreb has so many red lights that we didn't arrive till 2315 - tired and hungry. Although the journey was no more than 300 miles, we saw an enormous change in the scenery, the weather, and in the economy.

Saturday 19th July

After a late night we had breakfast at 0900. The morning was given over to domestic chores: cleaning the coach, washing clothes and shopping in Zagreb. And when that was over, we enjoyed the sun around the swimming pool. Lunch was waived in favour of these pleasures. But there was a rehearsal in the afternoon - much needed - from which there was no escape: we would be facing a formal audience for the first time that night. Changes and improvements were being introduced up to the last minute. Everyone looked brown and healthy.

The stage consisted of two ground sheets surrounded by the coaches, and illuminated by headlights. Our contribution brought some earthy, broad humour to the programme and it was well received. Afterwards, we celebrated in the appropriate fashion with our friends, and were also entertained by Greg who sang Baba Noma fluently. The Yugoslav Tourist Boad presented us with a bottle of bottle of Plum Brandy (Sljivovica) that we decided to save for some future emergency.

Sunday 20th July

A late call at 0830 and breakfast at 0900. We were to be guests at the Zagreb International Folklore Festival in Republic Square. In the milling crowds we caught glimpses of traditional costumes - very colourful - set off against happy, smiling faces. A series of explosions above the shops signalled the start of festivities, moving along side streets, singing or folk dancing according to the predilection of each group. There was also a play about a typical Slav wedding that attracted a lot of interest; and here too there was much singing and dancing, with lavish hospitality on the touch lines. Our presence was obviously appreciated, and we enjoyed ourselves.

Back in camp, John the banker asked if we would be prepared to contribute an additional £4.00 to be saved for the return journey. It seemed sensible enough and we all agreed. After tea, we began making preparations for an early start the next morning and retired early, while the packers stayed up till midnight, and the mechanics till 0130 doing routine maintenance and wheel changing.

With our arrival in Zagreb we had completed the first 1000 miles of the journey, and this is what a local newspaper, Vjesnik, had to say: 'The British invented football, but the five hundred Britons on the football field at Mladost Camp left the impression that they have invented - speed. They arrived in twenty coaches about fifteen minutes before midnight, and by midnight twenty huge tents, with as many lamps and gas cookers, were already up, and in the dishes there were hot soup and vegetables. They prepared their supper before the representatives of the Zagreb Tourist Federation could offer them a welcome. They completed this without noise, nimbly but in whispers, with suppressed laughter and amusing incidents. They behaved as if they were the hosts and we the guests: "You seem to have practised life under tents for three years," I suggested to a fair-haired girl student from Cambridge. "Three weeks," she replied. "In each coach, every student knows exactly what he or she has to do. We even have members who are assigned the tasks of singers, players and comics."… The following day, these charming visitors gave a rousing welcome to the participants in the Folklore Festival…'

Monday 21st July

We set off in convoy at 0537 after a hearty breakfast heading for Skopje - our banker complaining meanwhile that we spreading our jam too thick. At 0630, Steve, the radio operator, joined the Sussex coach in order to mend their radio. It came to life with a 'test' call to Greg asking him to arrange for some spare parts.

At a roadside café, around 1100, we stopped for coffee and were persuaded to buy some wooden pipes from an aged peasant woman. The new owners of these instruments felt obliged to entertain us as we drove on. At 1215, while stuck in a traffic jam, a woman tried to board our coach thinking it was a tourist bus. Beyond Belgrade, we stopped on the autobahn to buy apples for lunch from peasants on the roadside. A little skilful haggling and they were ours for five pence each. Shortly afterwards, we stopped by a garage for a crew change and the mechanics tried to buy some paraffin only to be offered 50 litres of paraffin wax instead!

A donkey being photographedOn the final lap to Skopje, we passed a donkey laden with sheaves of barley - the first of this kind of transport we had seen. In fact, the last part of the journey saw quite a change in greener scenery and a richer economy. Peasants were dressed in black - for the women - and baggy trousers with Cossack style hats for the men. And there were many quaint villages - quite different from the day before.

We arrived at the campsite at 2000 and found we couldn't drive into the limited space. After a heated discussion about whether to drive on to the Greek border, we decided to stay, unpacked the coach and made camp. Then most of us went for a drink and a singing session. This was the first time we had to use Sterotabs - and squatting loos.

Tuesday 22nd July

A leisurely breakfast at 0800 and we were on the road by 1020. Passing through Skopje it was difficult to decide how much of the shabbiness and destruction was due to the recent earthquake, and how much to poverty and neglect. Well cared for farmland outside the town presented a more hopeful picture.

Titov Veles seemed more prosperous than Skopje. The houses, visible up the hillside, were attractive and well kept, and the shops stocked with smart western clothes. Small donkeys, with crude wooden saddles resting on thick sacking, walked briskly along the roads before disappearing up dirt tracks towards the poorer quarters. We shopped for bread and ice creams, and took some photographs. The banker, filled with anxiety over the state of our finances, was delighted with the price of bread. The cost of living was coming down.

Vineyards gave way to stretches of mountainous, barren scenery as we journeyed on towards Greece. Arriving at 1430 we thought that we would have to wait for Greg, who had the road tax receipts, but there was no problem and we were through the border in record time. Crossing into Greece produced no problems either. Within an hour we were on our way enjoying lunch on the move: bread, paste, jam and apple - washed down with water!

The impression changed rapidly from a rural landscape to more affluent surroundings, and signs of growing everywhere. After Thessalonika, twisting and turning down a steep decline to the coast was hazardous enough, but the coast road itself was even more difficult - running through small villages, around sharp bends and over narrow bridges - easing past oncoming articulated lorries. Arriving at Kavalla around 2200 we tucked into a delicious mutton stew, cleaned up, and settled down for the night.

Wednesday 23rd July Kavalla

Kavalla (Greece)A late lie-in and breakfast at 1100. There was a diarists meeting at 1045 during which Greg went over the background and aims of Comex , and suggested that there was perhaps a little too much squabbling over the cost of campsites. These things would adjust themselves as we went along. Meanwhile, he thought that Comex 3 was of a higher standard than Comex 1 and 2 - and rightly so.

There was also a contingent meeting to discuss topics of general interest including whether we should travel to Hyderabad (still six thousand miles away) by coach or train, but decided to leave that until we could get a better idea of the cost. We then turned to the matter of how best to welcome Brigitte in Istanbul the following day.

Tup HeadDiscussion concluded, some of us went shopping in town and others swimming in the sea. A tourist policeman came over and very kindly invited the police cadets for a drink, meanwhile accepting our invitation to tea consisting of fish, peppers and aubergines mixed with rice, followed by melon. John the banker was delighted with the cost of fish: 12 Drachmas (3 shillings) for 3 kilos - thanks to Trevor's skilful bargaining. At 2000 we had a Tup rehearsal on the beach before taking part in a cultural performance for our hosts.

Thursday 24th July

We set off at 0515 - only half an hour late after over sleeping - to be ahead of the lead coach for the day, Edinburgh, and in order to be first into Istanbul to greet Brigitte flying out from London. At 0815 we reached a place called Kimitini, where we took a wrong turning down a side street, and in doing so passed an excellent fruit and vegetable market. Ken bought a pumpkin, mistaking it for a melon. The stall holder was amused, exchanged it for him, and he gallantly shared it .

At 0940 we stopped at Alexandropolis so that our Banker could change some money, but no such luck. So we pressed on arriving at the border at 1030, just ahead of Edinburgh, and were first through. After a crew change, and an introduction to unisex loos, we moved on, stopping a few kilometres later to buy petrol. We drove off leaving John the banker at the garage still paying the bill. But he didn't seem to mind and walked up the road to join us.

Passing peasants in traditional costumes, and two camels - a new experience for most of us - we travelled non-stop to Istanbul, declining Edinburgh's invitation to join them for a swim in the sea of Marmara on the way. By 1630 we were at the gates of the city where we met Ned Yescombe of the Oxford contingent. He was meant to be accompanying Brigitte and informed us that she would not be arriving on the 0615 flight on Friday. The early morning sortie had been in vain. It was now rush hour in Istanbul, but we carried on - first making radio contact with the next coach. At the ferry we were waved on to the head of the queue and set foot in Asia at 1930. Ned had collected our mail from the British Embassy so we were able to catch up with news from home.

The campsite was at the Institute of Education, and we found it easily enough, but not without a wrong turning or two, and then radioed the other coaches in. After dinner, we listened to reports of the Apollo splash down on the coach radio before retiring early - apart from a few die-hards for whom a visit to the 'local' was a tradition not to be neglected even in Asia.

Friday 25th July

A domestic day in camp fitting and covering coach seats. Celia and Pat went into Istanbul to meet Brigitte who does not hold a British passport. She had been unable to obtain alternative papers to pass through Yugoslavia - so Comex had flown her out. A Yorkshire hospitality night was organised to welcome her: campfire, baked potatoes, wine, Beatles music on tape and guests from other contingents. Meanwhile, the men had organised a security guard for the night - in response to some personal items found missing from the tents.

Saturday 26th July

We awoke to the sound of rain. It seems to be following us. Breakfast of porridge, bread and jam, eaten on the coach and then a small group from various contingents went into town to exchange money and, quote Maggie the cook: 'to have a good meal.' Another group caught a Dormus (minibus) for a 15 minute hair-raising ride to the ferry, and to explore the other side of the Bosporus . Most of the passengers on the ferry were sitting on one side, and it was soon revealed why when the rain came pouring in from a missing window on our side. The Turks, unsmiling, watched this bit of stupidity with incredulous expressions.

Sally, Pete, Jenny, John from Kent, John from Yorkshire and Anita decided to visit the bazaar. After following Pete's tourist map with little success, they co-opted the services of a German speaking youth and asked him to show them the way to a restaurant. Here the manager directed them towards the kitchen (a not uncommon practice in Turkey) to inspect the food, which looked absolutely delicious. And so it was - at the equivalent of 8 shillings a head. But the bazaar itself was full of tourists, so they headed for what is known as the 'Old Bazaar' - a more interesting prospect - and succeeded in losing Jennie and John. There was nothing for it but to move on, through back streets - where no women were to be seen, and the men were inclined to be hostile - to the Blue Mosque.

A Mosque in IstanbulThis proved to be a convenient rendezvous for strays. We removed our shoes, as bidden, and Sally and Anita were given long blue coats to wear. The floors were covered in carpets and the ceiling inlaid with beautifully patterned ceramic tiles. The mosque was built in 1609-1619 by order of Sultan Ahmet 1st, and is the only Turkish mosque with six minarets. In due course we returned to the ferry and climbed aboard Edinburgh for the journey back to camp. Apparently, when Jenny and John had crossed the ferry they called a taxi and gave the driver directions; but he drove them to the wrong place, and also managed to get stuck in the mud - for which service he tried to charge them 60 liras. A few Turks joined in the ensuing negotiations (also normal practice) and it was resolved that the driver would take them to the right place - but for just 15 liras. After an evening of songs and wine around a campfire we settled down for he night.

Sunday 27th July

There was a rehearsal after breakfast followed by a second visit to town for some, and a quiet day for others - apart from the mechanics. The coach had been on site since Thursday, and inactive, apart from excessive use of its lights. Consequently, the battery was flat. A brother coach was persuaded to lend a hand, and once started the mechanics decided to take the coach out for a run to recharge the battery. We were thus able to transport a few passengers (free) to the ferry and then continue along the waterfront for a pleasant drive before returning to camp at about 1300.

We had tomato sandwiches for lunch, with a few chores to follow. There was another rehearsal at 1830 and a meal at 1745. Some if us then went to watch the Shakespeare rehearsal while a few slipped away to the local. Mike Walker and John Nutland returned from having tea with a Turk who had been busy brazing broken flagposts, and had apparently enjoyed the experience.

Monday 28th July

We were up at 0415 for a 0615 start. Arriving at the outskirts of Ankara at 1515 we drove on to the campsite, about three quarters of an hour's drive south of the city, along a dirt road. An attractive looking lake turned out to be part of a sewage disposal unit, so we reconnoitred the surrounding area and found an open field alongside the road. After putting up the tent, the banker made, for him, a bold suggestion: 'Let's have a big splash. We've got to eat, even if we have to borrow the money.' The 'big splash' took place at 2030 after which we played cards, sang a few songs and went to bed.

Tuesday 29th July

0400 was the time we should have been up, but it was 0500 before anyone stirred. Breakfast of bread and jam and the boys took the tent down. We set off at 0615 - only a quarter of an hour late. The road was steep and twisting with a sheer drop on one side. The vegetation was sparse with little clumps of grass dotted about. We stopped for diesel and air at a small garage, and within a few minutes there were about 50 children around the coach. Val tried to take a photograph but a man put his hand over the lens and pushed her away. When the mechanic checked the air pressure gauge, he noticed that it was made in Sheffield by Pneumatic Components.

The vegetation changed once more to farmland with acres of corn - being threshed by throwing the grain in the air. We stopped in a small town for the cooks to do some shopping, and to sample the local honey - complete with honeycomb. And here the coach suffered its first dent from the hands of children throwing stones. It was unpleasant, but to be expected. Lunch was at 1330 consisting of an ounce of salad with bread and jam, before Yorkshire took on some Turkish boys at football.

We travelled along the coast until we reached the Teacher Training College at Persembe out camp for the night. Some of us slept inside the college on bunk beds and others in the tent. After a tiring day, everyone settled down quickly with thoughts of another long day to come. The night was quiet and still - apart from the gentle patter of rain. As it began to get heavier, finding its way under the sides of the tent, precautions were taken: first by making a channel to divert the water, and then by placing tent pegs under the ground sheet to allow the water to pass freely.

About half an hour later the tent collapsed in pouring rain. The boys ran out with torches and managed to re-erect it in about four inches of mud. The guy ropes had become so taunt and the ground so muddy that the pegs would not hold. Poor Pete Whaley was rudely awakened when the poles and the Tilly lamp fell on him. Most sleeping bags were soaked. A lucky few found places to sleep in the college leaving the rest to tidy up the mess.

Wednesday 30th July

We were up at 0400. The rain would not let up, and a great communal effort was required to ease the six coaches - parked on the football field - down the narrow muddy track to the main road. Greg lent a light touch to the proceedings by directing operations with an umbrella over his head. A massive cleaning operation followed. Clothes, shoes, tents, poles and groundsheets were washed in the Black Sea. TrabzonThe spot chosen was also a sewage outlet, so the whole procedure had to be repeated elsewhere - in the forecourt of a local café. The proprietor and locals were extremely helpful, and Yorkshire emerged looking well satisfied, and cleaner than its passengers. After a most enjoyable and inexpensive meal, we said goodbye to Persembe at 0945.

Everyone was in high spirits. We were about 10 km from Trabzon, to the east end of the Black Sea, when Greg came on the radio to ask if we would like to camp at the American Air Force Base. We agreed enthusiastically and arrived there at 1530. The Americans, taken by surprise, were very welcoming. After cooking our evening meal most people found American companions for the evening and a great time was had by all.

Thursday 31st July

A late start at 1000. Showered, beautifully entertained, well fed, and refreshed after a first rate overnight stop we were in a happy mood. Soon after passing a sign saying Konak Pass - at about 1150 - a mile along the road beyond Trabzon, a medium sized bolder came bouncing down from some houses on the hillside. It smashed into the driver's side front wing damaging the grill, the air ducts, and the angle iron supports. The accelerator pedal was also jammed. Mike the driver, Pat and others saw the bolder coming but could do nothing to avoid it.Damage to the Yorkshire coach

We stopped at the first garage about 400 yards along the road to tidy up the damage. Police Officer 25682 from Trabzon appeared in his car with three other policemen within five minutes. (Ken had got a lift back into town to report the incident.) The policeman didn't speak any English and left after inspecting the damage - accompanied by Mike Walker and Ken. After a short while they returned. Meanwhile, Lancaster stopped by and offered their condolences. They had sustained a broken window near the same spot the day before - from a smaller stone launched by catapult.

Celia was concerned about the insurance implications. Peter, the mechanic, John Nutland and Trevor visited the four houses up the hill and found a dry stone wall from which the boulder could have become dislodged - accidentally or deliberately. At 1230, Newcastle pulled in to commiserate and to examine the damage. The Trabzon police would not accept any responsibility for an accident outside the city limits and gave us a certificate for insurance purposes. Brigitte went on with Newcastle because she could not get her visa for Iran at the consulate in Trabzon. She hoped to get it in Erzurum - the last major city before the border.

We eventually decided to return to the USAF Base for repairs, picking up the boulder on the way, and arrived there at 1255. The Americans welcomed us back for another night and set to work producing spares and generally helping to restore the damage. Most of the contingent went water skiing in the afternoon and spent the evening singing in the club. The Americans were marvellous, and seemed to enjoy having Comex 3 contingents moving in and out of their base. Only one member of Comex 3 was American - Mary Abendroth of Minneapolis - with the Keele University contingent.

Friday 1st August

We set off at 0400 with Oxford and S Andrews, and stopped at the scene of the accident to look for part of the radiator we had not collected the previous day, but without luck. Progress through the mountains was slow and the surrounding vegetation sparse. Lunch amounted to a slice of bread with meat paste and tomato, followed by a slice of bread and marmalade - eaten on the side of the road while watching a group of children.

We passed through a number of small villages with equally small shops, crowded and badly lit. The further east we travelled, the more the women appeared to be completely covered, with only their eyes showing. Their clothes, made of heavy material, must have been extremely hot. All this was new to us travelling far away from home for the first time.

We lost radio contact with Oxford and St Andrews: we could hear them but they could not hear us. To re-establish contact, we had to go back along the road and in turning lost the back bumper in a pothole. But we did join both contingents for tea and camped the night with them. Food consisted of fresh meat, green beans, potatoes, and onion stew. And it was much appreciated.

Saturday 2nd August - Turkey - Iran (Tabriz)

Camping in TurkeyAfter breakfast we left ahead of the other two coaches at about 0430. Two Frenchmen who had spent the night with us having broken the front axle of their car - also in a pothole - moved out ahead. In Agri, at the foot of the hills, we checked the level of diesel and decided we would need a couple of gallons to get us over the border to the cheaper fuel in Iran. Passing Mount Ararat en route we stopped for a crew change and pictures

Arriving at the border post near Bazargan, we were reunited with Brigette who had managed to get her visa and was travelling with Greg. Border formalities completed we left at 1230 stopping in the town for lunch in the grounds of a local café. The proprietor was most amused and allowed us to wash up in his kitchen. We had some coffee - by way of a change - put our clocks forward an hour and left at 1530 for Tabriz. The road was well surfaced and we made good time arriving at 2000; pitched tent on a terraced hill by the campsite and, after a delicious evening meal, slept under the stars for the first time since leaving Zagreb.

Sunday 3rd August

Left camp at 0600. The road was full of potholes, and men working on it. Progress was slow. By 1030 the surface improved but the countryside was more like a desert. At 1130 Trevor saw two carpets lying on the road - off the back of a lorry perhaps - and jumped out to load them on board. Some motor cyclists had observed this and pursued us. A few hundred yards on we came to a village and saw two men standing in the middle of the road. Martin, who was driving, had to stop and Trevor threw the carpets to them. (We had not realised that it is quite normal for carpets to be left on the road.) There was a loo stop at 1400 and everyone was in high spirits with Ken, up front, and John at the back engaged in a duel with water pistols.

We were due to rendezvous at 1800 at a place called Karaj, on the outskirts of Tehran. And sure enough a police escort was waiting to lead the first seven contingents through the city to the campsite at Manzariah, a hill overlooking Tehran. At about 2250, while some of us were trying to sleep to the sound of very loud Arab music relayed through the camp, the music suddenly stopped. Mike Walker had cut the connecting wire in two places.

Monday 4th August - Tehran

After four days without a break we had a lie in until 0900 and looked forward to having a swim, but the pool was being cleaned. Looking around the camp we found excellent facilities: a bank, post office, shop, showers, and a medical tent, all specially put in place for Comex.

Anita, Ben and John were singing in the evening at the Youth Palace in Tehran so they had to leave at 1330, with members from other the contingents, for a rehearsal. The audience, meant to include some ambassadors, was mainly of students. And they sang only one song by themselves - the show was running an hour late - before joining the main choir for the rest of the programme. Back in camp, Pete Waley and Ken, with John from Kent, played basketball at a school near by, and had tea there. After tea, the three boys with whom they had been playing came back to camp and spent the evening teaching us Persian words.

Tuesday 5th August - In camp at Tehran

We were awake early. It was hot, with insects hopping about and flies landing on our faces. A few sunbathed before breakfast and all had a very refreshing cold shower. Breakfast at 0900 and then everyone dispersed: some to their contingent duties, others to go sightseeing and a few to do nothing. We spent the best part of the morning, while it was not too hot, working slowly. Then, following a light lunch of chapattis, jam and fruit, most of us succumbed to the local custom of an afternoon siesta.

Because Anita, Ben and John were billed to appear again in an evening performance at anotherYouth Palace in Tehran, we had an early meal. They left at 1700 for rehearsals and the whole contingent followed at 1800. We arrived outside the Youth Palace at 1900 and after wandering around for a bit went in. There was a concrete apron stage with the audience seated around three sides. It was well lit and had a public address system. The performance was well received by the Iranians, but the most popular item was the appearance of a local pop group. Four young men simply beat out a rhythm on pots held between their knees, and it is amazing how compelling the sound was. They also simulated the noise of a train. An equally popular item was our own pop group of Anita, John and Ben who sang really well to great applause. At the end of the performance the choirmaster, John Stevens, invited all Comex members to join in singing KumbaYa. It was very well received and provided a fitting end to a good evening. Afterwards, we were treated to some typical Iranian hospitality of fruit, nuts and sweets, and returned to camp by midnight.

Wednesday 6th August

It was a most enjoyable day. There were some domestic chores of course, but also some swimming and visits into Tehran. Our folk singing group was asked to perform in the evening for a VIP audience. It was to be at the same Youth Palace but in the grounds previously barred. Anita reports:

'The grounds were set around a miniature lake - the habitat of swans and pelicans - with a connecting bridge to the building where we changed into smart clothes. We followed the Scottish dancers who were first on to great applause, and then the Newcastle rapper dancers, making an excellent contrast with their Scottish compatriots. The singing was well received too and most of it familiar to the audience. Afterwards, the Iranians sang and danced, and their pop group was extremely popular. Cold drinks were provided throughout. The audience clearly represented the more conservative elite, with a sprinkling of the Iranian jet set. They were all beautifully dressed in modern western clothes, and were very friendly. Some of them had visited Britain or were studying there.

'The appreciative eye caught sight of tables spread with exotic Iranian food: stuffed tomatoes, a variety of vegetables and chello kabab (rice and kebab), which is perhaps the best known Iranian dish. The rice was certainly of a quality we had never seen or tasted before. And there were the usual fruit, sweets and nuts. We listened to speeches (in English), enjoyed the hospitality, and then changed before leaving at about 2300.'Iranian Gymnastsd

While our companions were enjoying themselves at the Youth Palace, we were entertained to an exhibition by 25 'champions': Iranian gymnasts. They were extremely muscular and one was about seven foot tall, a giant of a man. Another was 88 years old, and he performed complicated press ups to the rhythm of a drum - from the hands of a master who chanted instructions throughout the show - just as efficiently as the younger champions. They were dressed in patterned knickerbockers with green towels draped round their shoulders. The towels were discarded as soon as the exercising began. After prolonged press ups, one of the champions performed a series of swinging and juggling exercises with a 50 kilo club. Following this, the 'giant' and two others lay on their backs lifting 150 kilo weights - one in each hand. We had never seen anything like this, anywhere, and cheered appreciatively.

To bed at 2230 - with the prospect of an early start in the morning. Expected time of departure 0300. But we were not ready before 0500 - a delay attributed to the inefficiency of the 'other' contingents! A friendly discussion ensued, and that led to a further delay of half an hour.

Thursday 7th August - Tehran - Shah Pasand

Convoy in IranIt was the beginning of the rush hour and not the best time for 20 coaches in close convoy to be challenging the right of way of the indigenous people. But we had a police escort, which added an aura of prestige to out passing, and were feeling rather good in our Comex livery. This encouraged us to wave - and the waving was cheerfully returned. About an hour out of town the police flagged us down and advised that we remain in close convoy for the next 90 km to Amol - crossing the Taurus mountains. We tried, but the convoy soon broke up: some contingents to refuel and others to go shopping.

The houses were beginning to change from stone and brick to mud; many of them with doomed roofs; and the villages themselves were encircled by mud walls with ornate doors and grills set in them. Passing through one village we were bombarded with mud, fruit and sewage water - an odd mixture - the latter finding its way through the small open windows of the coach. The contradiction here is that waving children also enjoy throwing stones.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived at Shah Pasand (Shah's Pleasure) at 1630. Provisions were bought, and as we had stopped outside a chai shop it was obligatory to sample the local brew, made all the more pleasant with waiter service operating between shop and coach. The camp was only a few hundred yards down the road, and for the first time since leaving Nottingham we were able to put up the tent in the light. It was hot, so the tent was erected with the two halves end to end and the flaps rolled up. One side was left completely open. The tents had in fact been designed with such contingencies in mind.

Hillary had not been well, and was attended to by Dr Ennis. He advised Val to keep her cool. Meanwhile, Martin was trying to get into the Guinness book or records for drinking coke at four bottles in the hour. The insects here were enormous, much bigger than elsewhere. One of the lads from a fellow contingent had adopted one, which looked very much like a cricket, for a pet and it made its home inside his jumper for the rest of the evening. It had to be an early night, but the heat made it a restless one.

Friday 8th August - Shah Pasand - Mashad

We set off at 0530 - half an hour late. But we had a good breakfast, and plenty of it. After ten minutes we took a wrong turning but were radioed back into line. The road was very dusty and bumpy and we were averaging between 20 and 25 miles per hour. After a loo stop and crew change at 0740, the road improved, the scenery changed with green trees and distant hills overlooking the Caspian Sea. There was less dust too. Greg's car passed at 0800 - he had driven overnight from Tehran with the Afghan passports. Once again the road deteriorated and remained that way until we reached Bodjnurd at 1245 where we stopped for shopping. The climate was pleasant and we had lunch on the move, at 1330, followed by a melon and loo stop, and a crew change.

At 1445 we hit a bump in the road and landed in a ditch. We piled out to have a look, but there were no visible signs of damage and we were ready to move on. But the mechanics thought we should stop at the next village to tighten the bolts under the chassis. The locals here were welcoming and we stayed with them - always an opportunity to exchange experiences and learn something about the country - until 1645. They were amused by our unexpected presence and cheered us on when we left. Arrived in Mashad without further incident and found that we were to camp in the Shah's park. However, we were not allowed on the lawns and had to pitch tent on the gravel path - perfectly satisfactory - and then proceeded to cook the evening meal. After a tiring day it was early to bed for most of us, but a few set off to explore the surroundings and spent some time talking to the many policemen on duty to guard us.

Saturday 9th August - Mashad - Herat

Breakfast at 0645 and we left camp at 0720. A quick tour of the town before we hit the road for Herat. But an unfortunate wrong turn at 1030 led us away on a detour of about 40 miles. We had become used to this sort of thing and the mistake was soon corrected. At 1400 Ken was feeling poorly so we rigged up an Aslam hammock * at the back of the coach to make him more comfortable. The men held it in place, Val administered tablets, while others fanned him, and kept him cool with damp towels. We tried to contact Dr Ennis without success. Everyone else seemed perfectly well and cheerful.

There were plenty of road works, not just picks and shovels either: bulldozers and earth movers were operating in force. With luck some of the new sections of road would be ready for use on our return journey. Most of the men wore white turbans with loose shirts and coloured baggy trousers - often with a waistband. They waved and laughed as we passed. And when we stopped to do some shopping, a policeman firmly dispersed the crowd gathering around Maggie and John.

About 6 miles from the Afghan border we went through a fascinating village surrounded by a mud wall with small bastions dotted along its length - like a medieval fortress. The houses had interconnected round roofs, with fan-shaped window lights above the entrance. At 1541 an ambulance met us and a doctor came on board to examine Ken. He spoke French only but managed to make himself understood. He gave us some pills, vitamin tablets, liquid for gargling, and left with the reassurance that Ken would be all right in 5 to 6 hours.

We got the passports ready for the border, picked up some petrol and left at 1625 - passing a fenced-in Iranian hospital unit in tents just outside the town boundary - and then moved onto a dirt road: straight, flat, windy and empty. There were no people, no animals, no huts; just telegraph wires and what looked like a better-surfaced road running parallel to ours. We reached the border at 1745 and were through in half an hour. An Afghan soldier came aboard just as we were leaving and was offered a seat. We drove on into the dusk when, at about 1900, he signalled us to take another road. Assuming that he was a guide we turned, but with considerable difficulty which led John Smith, the driver, and Jenny, the navigator, to conclude that he was in reality hitching a lift - at his convenience. No further prompting was necessary; he got out and disappeared into the night, and we turned back onto the original road.

At the outskirts of Herat we found ourselves driving through a magnificent avenue of poplars for about 5 miles, leading straight to the airport where we camped on the tarmac in the full glare of searchlights. Some of us enjoyed an impromptu concert given by an Afghan trio in the hallway before going to sleep at around 0100. But not having put our watches forward at the border the time was in fact 0200.

* The Aslam Hammock was designed in the workshops of a garage off the Mall Road in Lahore by the elder son (Aslam) of the owner, ex-soldier Mohammad Hussain. Unfortunately, the idea was never developed. All the Comex 3 coaches were serviced in Mohammad Hussain's garage. His younger son (Saleem) was later sponsored to represent Pakistan on Comex as chief mechanic.

Sunday 10th August - Herat - Kandahar

During breakfast at the airport in Herat there seemed to be a little uncertainty about the journey to Kandahar. So, after clearing up and packing we decided to go into town for John the banker to change some money, and to replace our broken water containers. No sooner had we parked than there was a rush for the shops selling Afghan coats. The object was to find out how much money would need to be saved in order to buy one on the return journey. It was not easy looking without buying, but we had all agreed that carrying these coats all the way to India and back would not be a good idea.

Camp Yorkshire The main problem in Herat was that the moment six coaches hit town prices were doubled, even trebled for embroidered skirts. Ken was still suffering from the heat but managed to get out of the coach for long enough to buy English cigarettes - cheaper here than on the boat. After a while we returned to the coach and set off.

We arrived at the hotel where we were to camp at 2205 but were not happy about it. The toilets were filthy and the kitchen was situated opposite them. Added to this, the charges per head were extortionate. We decided therefore to camp outside the town, and found a suitable site off the road - in the desert - and radioed the other contingents to join us at 'Camp Yorkshire'. The camp was comfortable enough; but fell short of the prescribed standards of Nottingham or Manzariah. After a meal of egg curry, we settled down for the night - in tribal territory and without incident.

Monday 11th August - Kandahar to Kabul

We were up at 0715, had breakfast and packed up. St Andrews arrived at 0930 with Dr Ennis on board. Ken was still not well and we were worried about him. A few members of the contingent had diarrhoea and others appeared to be developing similar symptoms. We finally left for Kabul at 1045 with only 18 people on the coach, including Angie from Oxford, who was nursing Ken, and Karen from Manchester who was quite ill. We had plenty of room for the sick having deployed one or two members elsewhere. Lunch on the move at 1300, was one of the most enjoyable so far: rice, delicious tomatoes and cucumber, with chapattis and refreshing melon slices.

We stopped at 1515 in the town of Gazni for shopping. There were beautiful fur goods in the shops tucked away behind the main street, where we were entertained by a local tourist policeman. He told us that many of the goods made here would be cheaper than in Istanbul, and we were easily persuaded to make our purchases there on the way back. The chai too was very refreshing, very hot and very cheap. We left for Kabul at 1630 and arrived at the outskirts at 1730 to join the rest of the convoy. There was a choice of campsite: one in Kabul, on the banks of the Kabul river next to the zoo, and the other 15 km out of town at Quarga Dam. We chose the latter and arrived at dusk. The first task was to reclaim our missing members, and then pitch tent, before preparing a leisurely meal.

Wednesday 13th August - Kabul

Man with pipeBreakfast at 0800. The coach went into town to collect the new front flown out from London. Pete and Andrew, the mechanics, were informed that an invoice was needed which could be collected from the City Office, but found there that this vital piece of paper had already been sent to the British Embassy. The embassy meanwhile had sent it with the Comex mail an hour before they arrived. When it was finally run to ground, they were promised a rendezvous at the 'zoo' camp at 1400, with officials from the Tourist Board and the British Embassy, to assist in getting the crate cleared through customs.

At 1430, Greg turned up with a letter from the tourist board requesting a waiver on customs duty. But the President of customs would not go along with this and added his own note to the letter - which was never translated. The negotiating body then returned to the airport reconciled to pay the duty - which, inevitably, came to much more than had been anticipated. Although Greg produced the extra money, it was by then too late to collect the crate: the bank was closed, and the customs office due to follow in five minutes. A thoroughly dispirited party returned to camp.Khyber Restaurant

By contrast, a stronger and more determined detachment was out buying embroidered shirts, hats and coats, and topping that with a meal at the Khyber Restaurant - blissfully unaware that their comrades back in camp were without food or water. However, all were invited, along with the rest of Comex 3 to see the film of the Apollo Moon Landing at the American Library, and followed that with lunch in town.

While this was going on a splinter group headed by Pat, with Maggie, Jenny and Regina, broke away to have lunch with an Afghani family. Pat reports: 'Smartly dressed, we were ready at 1100. Looking equally smart, our hosts arrived in Ibrahim's Volvo - standing in for his Mercedes awaiting a spare part. It was a wonderful day being entertained by four charming young men to lunch, Afghan style, sheltered by vines and sitting on a carpet surrounded by cushions. We were waited on by male servants and served with pilau, spiced dishes, chapattis and water.

After the meal we rested, smoked and enjoyed the music, rode on a grey horse and strolled in the gardens. Tea arrived at 1630. Hadi, who was going to Czechoslovakia in ten days to study architecture, does not smoke in front of his father. When the latter appeared, the men leapt to their feet and remained standing until one of the servants brought him a chair. Nasim's mother, who had prepared our meal, did not appear. Nasim is to study engineering in Poland. Sheri Allah, who doesn't speak English but is supposed to understand it, is dedicated too body building. Ibrahim took the initiative throughout. He had spent 20 months in the United States and enjoyed it immensely. His father had recalled him to do his year's military service, which he had half finished, and hoped to come to London to study engineering. We returned to camp in time for the evening's cultural performance, which they seemed to enjoy, and left soon afterwards with every courtesy. We had stew for supper and retired at midnight.

Thursday August 14th - Kabul

Kabul GorgeLeft camp at 0700 heading for Kabul Airport with 6 Indian members refused visas to enter Pakistan. They had to fly to Amritsar and rejoin Comex 3 at the Indian border. We also had to clear the grill and other spare parts (the crate) through customs, and to prepare space for them in the coach. Repairs would have to wait for a suitable opportunity in Pakistan. For Nadia, Regina and Dana there was a more pleasing experience; they met and enjoyed an interesting conversation with two Afghani engineers - in Czech - who had spent six years in Prague doing an engineering course. They were returning to Prague the following week, which made the girls not a little envious.

Kyber PassAt 1055 Celia dashed up to the coach and announced that the spares had been cleared. Cheers from everyone as we finally left Kabul at 1200 - the spare parts stacked along the aisle of the coach: an inconvenience eased by unloading a few members onto the other coaches. At 1800 we arrived at the Pakistan border (Thorkam), cleared it and moved on to the Khyber Pass, arriving at that famous landmark in history at 1905 - five minutes after it had closed. We took with us only happy memories of Afghanistan, where the Kabul Times had described Comex 3 as 'A Commonwealth Village on Wheels'.

The officer on duty was pleased to inform us that, as we were special guests, permission had been given for us to 'pass freely'. He also warned us not to stop on any account as we would be driving through tribal territory, adding that some gates might be closed and urged us to hurry - without solving that dilemma.

Pakistan checkpointThe sun was setting as we drove off, ghoulishly reminding each other of massacres, wild animals, guns, knife happy bandits and other tourist attractions! On the other hand, there was the glorious sunset, the magnificent scenery, the new road - bumpy perhaps, but excellent by comparison with its predecessor running alongside - and adventurous traffic hazards, to mitigate against immediate anxiety. The traffic consisted of highly decorated lorries, over-loaded taxis, and some private cars racing through the twilight before darkness fell. And, of course, there was the largest single convoy to cross the Khyber in peace for the others to contend with. Our driver, Martin Bennett, was the hero of the hour for driving into the Pakistan checkpoint, on the outskirts of Peshawar, in total darkness. Here we were told to unload any fruit and vegetables on board - even grapes - before moving to our accommodation for the night in the university.

500 beds had been set out on the grass around a central fountain. It was a remarkable gesture of hospitality, and we were invited to make ourselves at home, which we did by preparing an evening meal, and then washing up before settling down at about midnight. At 0100 the rain came. We scrambled within five minutes and carried our beds to the shelter of the surrounding patio and settled down - with little difficulty - for the second time. There were no further incidents, apart from Pat being disturbed twice by a shadowy figure which vanished when she stirred. It could have been a friendly night watchman.

Friday 15th August - Peshawar - Rawalpindi - Murree Hills

The Murrey HillsAfter the gentle rain during the night it was hot and humid, and we were up early for a breakfast of melon and coffee, before leaving the university at 0945 for Rawalpindi. Stopping in Peshawar on the way for immediate essentials, and a crew change, we pressed on arriving in Rawalpindi at 1315, and parked in a shopping centre to load up with supplies for four days. A large crowd gathered around the coach. It was not a particularly friendly crowd, but there were no serious incidents. We finally left at 1515 and joined the rest of the convoy a few miles outside Rawalpindi so that the film unit could take some shots. After driving along a new road lined with impressive embassy buildings, we began the journey up into the Murree Hills.

It took two and a half hours - in a never ending climb - to reach a point about 10 miles from the main town. But the last few miles were even hillier, and the final section quite dangerous. Even so, the journey itself was refreshing and the scenery breathtakingly beautiful. We arrived at Kanspur, where we were to be accommodated - in the summer quarters of Lahore University, a few miles beyond the cantonment town of Murree - at about 1930, and established our kitchen on the verandah outside a row of dormitories shared by all the contingents. It was very military in a way, and would require a lot of patience in the days ahead. Nevertheless, we were looking forward to the prospect of a good rest in an old hill station (well known to the British) where it was quite cool, making a welcome change from the heat of the plains below.

Saturday 16th August - Murree Hills

We awoke at 1000. Breakfasted on scramble eggs and chapattis, did some washing, and attended to the sick. Regina, John and Celia cleaned the coach thoroughly - inside and out. The menu for lunch was jam, meat paste, marmite and chapattis, followed by a heavy downpour. A group of Pakistani teachers visited the camp to discover what this invasion was all about. We chatted with them for a while and photographs were taken. On the whole, it was an uneventful day and the evening was no better: stew for the 29th time. There were letters to write, and some singing practice. We also discussed the route back in the light of the experiences we had just come through, but to no specific purpose - apart from reviewing what we had done, or failed to do. John Shere was invited back for chai by a visiting Pakistani and enjoyed himself very much. Ben's back was covered with huge bites to which Val attended, and Steve took photographs of us hunting for mosquitoes. We retired at 2200.

Sunday 17th August - Murree Hills

Once again we got up late for a slow and hearty breakfast at 0830, very much enjoyed by everyone. The morning was spent carrying out sundry duties and helping to organise, and staff, our own field hospital. This was in its way a triumph, and greatly appreciated by all in need of medical attention. In their turn, our mechanics decided to replace the damaged glass fibre front of the coach - an equally heroic effort - in readiness for the journey to India. To these noble tasks the ensuing days were committed.

The following is an extract from Greg's book Crying Drums to which Prince Philip contributed the foreword:

The Murree Hills povided the perfect resting place for Comex 3. The cool mountain air so very much like England in Autumn, rambles in the wooded mountainside, rides on the chair lifts and horses, and friendly exchanges with the locals. It is as such a resting place that Farid Rahman, Chairman of the Murree Hills Trust, hopes to see the district flourish, so that people may once more find employment and a means of living at a higher standard………

The film crew had collected a lot of material for the Comex 3 film but still required a number of interviews and musical recordings. Singers, dancers and musicians assembled in rooms or in coaches to rehearse. Shakespeare players walked among the trees to read parts or take to the foil. It was all very satisfactory………

In this remote place a canteen, presumably once part of a military establishment, with a tailor's shop, barber and general store next door, supplied our needs of coffee and light refreshments, and occasionally more substantial fare of chicken or mutton, eggs, vegetables and chapattis. Tea and coffee were available night and day. The canteen became a community centre and the operations room of our village on wheels………

The 'Old Man of Kanspur', as we called him, who ran the canteen had some words of wisdom for his customers: 'The birth of Pakistan was for us a very great event, and for many the beginning of a new life - even a new world. But for most of us in these hills it was difficult to see any difference. Your people left and many long friendships came to an end. With thanks to God we live; but we can only be truly happy if the values of the past and present are brought together, and the future built on them. You know our people; we have been friends for many years. Why don't you buy this camp, then people from Britain can come every year. Yes, sahib, let them all come, even from India………

A few days before we left Kanspur we had our first emergency. Ruth Spencer of the St Andrews contingent was rushed to Murree proper with suspected appendicitis. One immediately thought of a military hospital, a common feature of hill stations in this part of the world. Here we found Major Miah, F.R.C.S. Edinburgh. Two hours later Ruth, herself a medical student, was sound asleep minus appendix, and three days later took her place on the coach stretched across the back seat on an Aslam Hammock. On the way down from Kanspur, Comex 3 divided into two groups. The main body headed towards Lahore, and the remainder, with a few individuals switched around, went to the studios of Pakistan Television in Rawalpindi. Rehearsals lasted seven hours but the half-hour programme was well worth the effort. An unexpected fee of a thousand rupees was handed over to the university………

A second emergency in Lahore (where we were now camped in the Stadium) brought Rosamund Peck of Oxford to hospital with a more serious abdominal complaint. An American surgeon operated in a mission hospital near the stadium and she was later flown home.

Friday 22nd August - Lahore to Delhi

Lahore StadiumAfter mentally setting the alarm clocks we awoke at 0630 to a breakfast of two slices of bread and marmalade. Steve, Trevor and Ken had half packed the coach the previous evening so we were able to get away by 0730.

The scenery is still quite green, the road dusty and bumpy - despite the tarmac. We arrived at the Pakistan border at about 1030 by which time the temperature in the coach was very high. Two small stalls at the side of the road, selling limes, and crispy food in one ounce portions at 25 paise each caught out attention. In about half an hour we were cleared and moved on to join the long line of vehicles waiting at the Indian border. There was a warm welcome here and everyone was given free cokes. Ken had caught the sun again and was taken to the bank to rest on a bed of straw. He later returned to the Aslam Hammock.

At 1425 we stopped at a town called Wagha to shop. The dress was different again - men wearing brightly coloured turbans, some with the end hanging down the back. A small crowd gathered outside the coach, but the people were very friendly and chatted to us through the windows. At 1530 we had banana sandwiches. Ben was driving and there were calls for loo stops every 20 miles. This may have had something to do with the crispy food earlier. At 2000 we stopped to buy some curried pastries, reckoning it would be late before we could stop for a proper meal.

The funniest event of the day was when a loo stop was called for John. By the time the message got through to the driver we had stopped directly outside Delhi Gate - no disrespect intended. Ahead of us was the Rabindra Rangshala, our main base in India at the end, as Greg would say, of a long dusty road. The time was 2300. Tired and hungry, we had arrived without any major mishaps. Some Indian students were already there to greet us, and together we had a meal in camp. Everyone ate Indian food, bananas and ice cream, and drank coffee. Ken was taken to see the camp doctor who arranged for him to go to the local hospital. For the rest of us, unable to find the tents allocated toYorkshire, it was a night on the lawn - under the stars.

Saturday 23rd August - Camp in Delhi

Ganadhi's TombWe were up early in time for the set breakfast followed by a regional meeting at 0900. But the latter was delayed until Celia returned from another meeting. Meanwhile, a few of us spent the time cleaning the coach in readiness for the main event of the day: a ceremonial drive in convoy, with a police escort, to Mahatma Gandhi's tomb, and then along Raj Path towards the Government Secretariat.

We drove through the gates of the Delhi University and twice around the main square to the encouraging cheers of the students. Back in camp by 1500 for tea - which had been cancelled in favour of an invitation to join Manchester, Sussex and Newcastle at the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations. It was a welcome break and began with a Buddhist blessing to which Greg responded on our behalf. We then entertained our hosts to a short cultural programme - well received - although Ben had to sing on his own because Nita was back in camp nursing John. Coffee and snacks were served, and we left to return to the Rangshala at 2000. In that short time we had all found people of exceptional interest to talk too and were disappointed having to leave.

After another spicy meal in camp - too hot for some - a regional meeting was held at 2200 to discuss the programme for the following day. The first priority for us was to have our brakes fixed - a proposition we put to the Manchester mechanics who agreed to help: Pete having gone with Durham, and John and Andrew both feeling unwell. We planned to leave for Agra at 1600 the following day.

Sunday 24th August - Delhi - Agra

As we were not leaving until the cool of the evening, we decided to do as little as possible and just rest. Some of us pottered around the camp for a bit, John set to with the Manchester mechanics - while others watches appreciatively - and a few disappeared into town by rickshaw for a meal. When we reassembled at 1600, the buzz went round that we would be leaving in an hour - just enough time to shower, pack up and get ready for the four hour journey.

A few members of the Sussex coach joined us for the next few days replacing Mike, who was staying in Delhi to get a visa for Nepal; Ken, who was still in hospital; Dana, who preferred to remain in Delhi; Val, who was travelling with Moor on the Glasgow coach; and Pat, who had a return ticket to visit some old friends in Pondicherry.

Now a depleted contingent, we had made friends with a group of Indians one of whom, Roshan, was delighted to be asked to join us. Her parents were a little apprehensive at first but soon warmed to the idea. We also had a guest from Delhi University - arranged by the Comex India Committee - to help deal with any problems over communication.

Taj MahalThe plan was that we should try and make it all the way to Nagpur, but in the end decided not to risk the coach going so far having just restored its roadwortiness. Newcastle was happy to take over that schedule, and Celia sent a message to Nagpur explaining the change. Our own plan then was to stay a few days in Agra and return to Delhi in order that Ken could rejoin us.

Having thus rearranged the timetable, we set off at 1800 with four additional people on board who wanted a lift as far as Agra. It was now quite a coach full, but the journey uneventful and we were in Agra by 2200 to find nine other coaches already in position at the Gandhi Stadium. Having decided to see the Taj my moonlight the following evening, we retired after a late meal in convivial company.

Tuesday 26th August - In camp at Agra

Up early, we breakfasted well and then set off for an ancient village about 25 miles away called Fatepur Sikhri. It was built by Emperor Akbar during the Mogul period, and all the palaces with associated buildings had taken over five years to complete, but were only occupied for ten years before the emperor decided to return to Agra. On the way we stopped at the Central Telegraph Office to telephone Delhi and ask after Ken. We also wanted to inform the Comex India Committee of our intention to visit Jaipur if possible, and they promised to try and arrange for us to stay at the university. We also learnt that Ken was well and would be remaining in Delhi.

Arrived at Fatipur a little after 1030 and spent a really fascinating two hours admiring its beautiful palaces built in red stone, and the magnificent gates at the entrance to the mosque. In the courtyard, a white marble shrine to mortality, as beautiful as the Taj, testified to the craftsmanship of its creators. We left at 1230 to return to the stadium for lunch. Although it was very hot, the adventurous spirit, 'the finest quality of youth ', it has been said, wandered off to do some sight seeing - even to visit the Taj by daylight, and the Red Fort, which most agreed was equally impressive. As ever the local markets provided much of the entertainment - whether buying souvenirs or just bargaining for them. After a delicious Czechoslovakian supper we watched a cultural performance given by Yorkshire, Bristol and Birmingham - the latter staying at the Medical College. It seemed to go down well.

Wednesday 27th August - Agra - Jaipur

We left for Jaipur at 0900. Mike Venables wished to stay on in Agra and would not be coming with us. On the way we stopped in a village - 'the hospitable face of India' - to buy fruit and cold drinks. It was hot, but we arrived in the Pink City at 1130 without incident. Although not expected at the university's Guest House, we received a warm welcome and a cold drink, and offered part of the roof as sleeping quarters. Edinburgh were already in occupation as the official guests. Manchester, also staying here, reported that the roof was comfortable, cool and breezy.

After a short rest and a contingent lunch, most of us went into town by any available means - some in the cars of our hosts, and others by cycle or scooter rickshaw. We were told to eat at the bank's expense in town, and given the name of a recommended restaurant, so most people met there and ate together. We managed to see quite a bit of Jaipur during the first evening, if only to wander along the streets, in the bazaar and even from this perspective, to appreciate why Jaipur is called the Pink City.

Thursday 28th August - Jaipur

Amber PalaceWe were up early, had breakfast and left to pick up some of the Indian girls - student's from the Maharani's Girl College - who were to take us to see the Amber Palace a few miles out of the city. It was situated high on a hill with a large courtyard in which there were two or three elephants. Some of us had a ride and thoroughly enjoyed it. A coke stop at the bottom of the hill was much enjoyed too. On the way through town we bought some provisions, and invited the girls to lunch, following which there was some singing by hosts and guests, in addition to the tape recorder providing the pop music that the girls wanted to hear.

Elephant TerminusAt 1630 the elephants from the Amber Palace arrived unexpectedly to give everyone free rides. When Sally asked Ben if he was getting a rickshaw into town he replied: 'No, I'm opting for an elephant.' And she believed him when she saw its presence marked by huge piles of dirt on the guest house lawn. In the evening we saw two films in Jaipur and spent the rest of the day chatting to the students. Anita and John even tried to teach one of them to dance the waltz.

Saturday 30th August - Jaipur

We slept till 0900. After a shower and breakfast individuals went their own ways with friends, sightseeing and shopping. Amrish and Joshi, two students with whom Nadia and Regina, Hilary, Anita, John and Pete had become friends called at 0930 to take us out for the day. We first went to the guest house of the company where Amrish's father worked. It was out of this world: marble tiled with three bathrooms, and priceless works of art along the walls and shelves. We sat on the floor with cups of tea and enjoyed a wide ranging discussion. Amrish took us out in one of the many cars to Niros before visiting the museums. We tried a glass of sugarcane juice - made by crushing the sugarcane, and then adding fresh lemon juice and ice. We were then taken to Joshi's for a cup of tea before setting off to a place that no one else on Comex would see - the Graveyard of the Kings of Gattor. Amrish told us that though it was in Jaipur, even people who had lived there all their lives did not know about it. Joshi had not heard about it either.

Gottor is approached through a small village, just two or three miles from the city centre, and surrounded by hills with a fort on top. The guide was a very old man who showed us round the beautifully carved temples of this 400 year old burial ground, still in excellent condition. A series of ivory carvings around one of the temples told a story Amrish suggested we try to remember - before taking us to see the structured models which inspired them.

The setting sun cast a pink glow over the village, enveloping the Graveyard of the Kings in an aura of mystery. And we might have stayed for hours revelling in the sheer magic of the place, had not our hosts another surprise in store: dinner with Amrish's parents to celebrate John's birthday. After a quick look around the bazaar, Amrish showed us a sari he had bought for his mother made of gold thread but with a plain border which, of course, she would not wear, saving it instead for Amrish's wife - when he got married.

The meal was delicious, with an exotic rice pudding - slightly flavoured and with a mild perfume. We were entertained to some card tricks and then taken for a drive. We sang a few songs, and they sang some in Hindi including one written by Amrish. It was a wonderful day; a day to remember, and when we said goodbye at about 2300 it was in the knowledge that we might never see them again.

Monday 1st September

Breakfast at 0930 in the camp restaurant: porridge, eggs and tea. During the day other contingents began rolling in, and our own to reassemble. Peter Harvey and Celia had returned from Madras. It was a 'casual' day. Pete and Ben went to the embassies for visa forms; and after a meal of potatoes, peppers and tomatoes, cooked by Nadia and Regina, we had an interesting meeting to select a new leader. As Steve had acted as leader while Celia was in Madras, and had done a good job, we agreed (without disrespect to Celia) that Steve was probably the more capable - due perhaps to having been on various committees at university. So we voted on this and Steve was elected. We then thought to vote on whether he should have a trial period of two weeks but decided instead to endorse him for the duration. Iranian visas forms were still to be completed before retiring.

A camp routine was quickly established. Everyone had breakfast together - fried eggs, boiled eggs or omelette, and tea - before joining their respective groups for rehearsals in preparation for the Commonwealth Youth Festival organised by the Comex India Committee.

1-7 September - Commonwealth Youth Festival.

The following summary of events is taken from, Crying Drums:

Comex 3 had been told to be back in Delhi at the Rabindra Rangshala on Septembet 1st. Three hundred Indian students from various universities were due to arrive on the same day.

The many receptions in Delhi and the seminars each morning - although not very well attended - were recorded and broadcast. The most successful occasion was perhaps the Mayor of Delhi's reception on the lawns of the Town Hall. On behalf of the city he accepted from Tim Sage, leader of the London contingent, a framed message from the Lord Mayor of London and in return presented Comex with a an ivory Asoka Pillar.

The Commonwealth Youth Festival was officially opened by President Giri - his first official engagement on becoming President of India. Our Indian friends anticipated a turn-out of 2-3,000; they were surprised to find 10,000 inside the theatre and more outside. The programme was broadcast live by Delhi television. My brief was to follow the Mayor of Delhi with a vote of thanks. But the Mayor's car could not jump the mile long queue outside and he was late in arriving……

'Mr President: A few years ago this place was a wilderness, a jungle as remote from public interest as Comex itself. Today that jungle has given way to a magnificent theatre; and a memorial to a great son of India. It has given us a unique opportunity. Comex has come to rest in this place after seven years and, including my own journeys, 100,000 land miles across two continents……

On this hill, overlooking the great capital city of Delhi, we may find the starting point of a new adventure into the second half of the twentieth century - when man is already walking on the moon. I express a hope that all of us concerned with the Commonwealth Youth Festival will not look back with regret at an opportunity lost……'

Throughout the week thousands flocked to the Rangshala. In addition to this, the Bristol and Cambridge contingents performed their Shakespeare pageant around the city - as indeed they had done throughout India……

Bernard Herdan directed: 'The night after the Commonwealth Youth Festival opened with a flourish, the Shakespeare pageant had its first performance in Modern College before an audience of about 400 in its tiny theatre. There was no publicity but it was just as great a success as the opening night of its lighter counterpart……We received an excited reaction to our performance and when it was over the stage door was blocked by crowds of students wanting more, and simply to make friends. We played on four nights, each in a different college……'

The summit of all the effort was clouded in criticism about rowdyism, boorishness and some administrative failures. But I have seen smaller crowds behave worse, and some of the reports were exaggerated……The true measure of India's contribution lies in bringing alive a deserted jungle; it lies also in the risk taken by a handful of people to hold the first Commonwealth Youth Festival as an act of faith and with but little government support; it lies in arousing a Commonwealth consciousness for ten days, when men and women talked with forgotten pride and confidence about the Commonwealth……

The press attack of crass mismanagement had been crushing. Thinking that it might help, I wrote to the Hindustan Times, first showing my letter to the Comex India Committee. It was published the following day……The Gemini News service picked up the theme…...

'One of the last acts of Colonel Lionel Gregory was to write an 1800 word letter to the Hindustan Times, a leading Indian daily. And he sent it across much in the same manner as a retreating soldier would his last grenade. Published prominently in six half columns, the letter blasted each bit of criticism made in the Indian press against the first Commonwealth Youth Festival……In retrospect, even the most ardent critics concede that the Comex idea remains as magnificent as when it was first conceived……and as Colonel Gregory observed in his letter, 'man has the choice in every situation of looking down at the gutter or up at the stars.'

My old friend Prithi Singh, then head of protocol, who had been watching events anxiously, telephoned to say how very pleased the Prime Minister was to see my letter, which may account for a contingent of sixteen Indian students accompanying Comex 3 back to Britain.

Sunday 7th September

A leisurely breakfast at 0800. When the electricity was switched off, the fans stopped and it was too hot to sleep any longer. All India Radio were recording a cultural programme in which Ben, Anita and John were taking part with the Keele Harmony Group, Dave from Cambridge and John Burke from Sussex. The studios were very well equipped and the programme efficiently recorded. After the cultural performance in the evening some of the items were filmed and recorded for the Comex 3 film: Shakespeare, Pete and Pat, some Indian dances, the Rapper dancers and Anita singing the last verse of Kumbaya for the ending.

Apart from the rain, it was all over. We now had two days in which to collect our thoughts, say our goodbyes and prepare for the long journey home on 10 September. Referring to the Commonwealth Youth Festival, Greg reminded everyone that the most significant item on the programme was that of 500 young people (like a regiment without the aid of a Ministry of Defence) travelling thousands of miles to appear in it. 'Your achievement may not be fully appreciated, or acknowledged, but it is yours, and no one can take it away from you.' It was a good thought to take home with us.

Wednesday 10th September. Delhi - Chandigarh

We had been sitting inside the coach since 0815 to avoid the monsoon rain. While waiting for our Pakistan road tax forms to be signed at the embassy in Delhi, we spent the time reviewing what we had been doing, where we had been, what we had eaten, and what we had been given or bought. We also decided that having waited so long we would never make the border before it closed at 1800. Moreover, the roads would be flooded in places and it might be more sensible to stage in Chandigarh for the night, and cross the border on Thursday.

Just under an hour after leaving we passed Bristol who had a minor accident. A child ran out in front of the coach but, happily, was not hurt. They needed no assistance so we drove on. Bristol followed shortly afterwards. While passing through Panipat we managed to stop in front of a donkey - just! India certainly has its hazards. After a crew change at 1200 we pressed on for the University of Chandigarh - arriving at 1530 - only to find that a message from Greg warning them of our arrival had not been received.

Thursday 11th September - Chandigarh - Lahore

Just like old times. We were up at 0400 and on the road by 0500 - in the dark. The roads were flooded, movement severely hampered, and the coach was absolutely filthy. Sally - the diarist for the day - was ill so this record will probably be a short one. We arrived at the Wagha border post at 0930 only to find that the bank had no hard currency to change our excess rupees. After some discussion it was decided to drive back about six miles to the nearest bank. No hard currency there either, and a cable to that effect was sent back to Delhi! We then returned to the border and crossed into Pakistan - arriving in Lahore at 1500 - and lost no time in spending our Pakistani rupees. After a delicious supper, some of us went to bed early while a few braved a farewell party.

Friday 12th September - Lahore - Peshawar

Radiator troubleWe awoke at 0730 and had porridge, bread and marmalade before leaving in heavy rain at 0800. After about two hours of smooth running we had to stop with a radiator leak. The mechanics decided to wait for it to cool down before refilling it. We then had to wind our way along a dirt track through pools of water to avoid a bridge in danger of collapsing. Lunch was served on the move: salad, bread and marmalade, and banana sandwiches.

We stopped in Rawalpindi to spend the last of our rupees and to post letters, and there were not so many people crowding the coach - which was a relief. Arriving in Peshawar before dark, we arranged the sleeping bags on the ground sheet with the boys flanking the girls. Even so, Maggie and Brigitte had a lot of trouble in the showers with men peering in through the window. A bucket of water having failed to dislodge the offenders, soap had to be applied to the windows - much to their annoyance.

Maggie and Brigitte had had already prepared the vegetables for the stew so we ate quite early, with semolina and stewed pears for sweet. The mechanics and Steve volunteered to work through the night to enable us to leave early for Ghazni - with those Afghan coats in mind

Saturday 13th September - Peshawar - Kabul

Although we were up early, at 0500, the mechanics hadn't finished so we didn't leave the hostel until 1000. Our plan to drive through Kabul and on to Ghazni fell through. But we did make the Khyber by 1200 and negotiated the Pakistan border with little delay. The Afghan side was a different matter: the customs official boarding the coach was a little suspicious about the two guitars we had forgotten to declare on the way out. Driving in Afghanistan was hot and very dry which prompted a swim at the next crew change. Most of us beetled down to the water and swam in our underwear although one of our members had trouble at first because she was wearing disposal knickers. So, what else could she do?Swim stop

Feeling refreshed we continued, only to have an emergency stop behind a lorry. A car had swerved into a wall and passengers from a variety of vehicles were out arguing and shouting at each other. This was no place for Yorkshire so we decided to press on. At 1800 we arrived in Kabul and went to the American Centre to fill up with water. About to leave, we discovered that the battery was flat and had to give the coach a push start. It was getting dark now, and we could stop only for a few minutes to do some shopping before driving on to the campsite without lights. We made it just in time and our cooks soon rustled up a delicious meal. There was a bitterly cold wind blowing as we snuggled down for the night.

Sunday 14th September

Everyone was quite excited at the prospect of the Afghan coats. A breakfast of porridge, scrambled eggs, chapattis and marmalade was quickly disposed of and the washing up done. Greg gave us a briefing and suggested we stick to the same route home. We left at 1300 after a new alternator had been fitted. Celia, John, Shere and Andy, Mike Walker and Ken were dropped off at the airport to try and recover the refund of Customs Duty. John Smith, and an American we had picked up at the centre while filling our water containers, were dropped off at the Khyber Restaurant while the rest of us set off for Ghazni. We were told that it was about 35 miles but didn't arrive there at 1630. After agreeing to wait about three-quarters of an hour before making any purchases we wandered about the coat shops, bargaining only, until everyone had got what they wanted - by which time it was dark. We sent a message back to Kabul saying we were on our way and made it in good time for risotto and salad.

Monday 15th September - Kabul - Kandahar

Up at 0600, we had a hearty breakfast and left at 0900. After an uneventful drive to Ghazni we stopped for two hours while Celia and Andrew tried to buy Afghan coats - having been unable to come with us the previous day. Most of the contingent went round again, but very few bought anything else. Celia and Andrew got bargain coats so the expedition was worthwhile. We left at 1400 for Kandahar, which we passed through at 1700, and continued for nearly an hour before camping in the desert just as it was getting dark. The tent was pitched behind a disused runway, off the road, with the coach making an effective windbreak. After an exciting meal of hamburgers a guard rota was arranged and we went to bed.

Tuesday 16th September

Camel trainAndrew woke us at 0550 with cries of 'Wakey, Wakey, breakfast in ten minutes.' The general feeling is that he makes the best porridge - it was delicious. Coffee, chapattis and marmalade followed. We saw our first camel train and took photographs. Val, Anita and Brigitte had rides after sighting a few camels further down the road. One poor Afghani had his camels confiscated by another who brought them over for us to ride. None too pleased, the owner chased after the camels, made the riders dismount, while muttering threatening words to the fellow who had 'borrowed' them. Undeterred, the culprit dashed off and returned with a donkey which Jenny mounted for photographs. Of such is Afghani humour!

We were low on diesel and, according to the RAC route card, the next fuel station was about 76 miles from our campsite. When we stopped for a crew change, the crew coming off mentioned that we hadn't yet passed through a place called Girishi and were now extremely low on fuel. There had been a sign indicating a petrol station to the right earlier on, but no one had mentioned it assuming that everything was under control. Consulting the map we established that the nearest source of supply would be Dellerman, which turned out to be a very small village with a single row of buildings and a solitary fuel pump selling petrol! There were about 10 public carriers parked off the road - all petrol driven - and the next diesel station 120 kilometres away.

Wednesday 17th September - Herat - Fariman

After a good night's sleep and breakfast, we set off at 1045 and, miraculously, made it to Herat where we stopped for three-quarters of an hour to take on fuel and to invade the fur shops. People came back waving their bargains - this time it was hats - making the inside of the coach look like a milliner's waiting room. John Nutland was able to exchange the boots he had bought the previous day - which he had immediately ripped - for a nicely embroidered waistcoat. We left Herat, and within twenty minutes took the wrong road - the one leading to Russia - which was soon corrected and we drove on till the engine began to make rude noises. As we stopped so did the engine, billowing smoke from under the bonnet. We waited for half an hour to let it cool and meanwhile radioed Newcastle, two miles ahead, and they returned to help us. But there was precious little they could do beyond what our own mechanics were doing. However, we did ask them to wait for at the border if we were more than three hours behind. We set off cautiously but soon had to stop again with smoke pouring out of the engine. This time the radiator was completely dry.

We lay out in the shade of the coach waiting for the radiator to cool down, and then refilled it before continuing about two hours later. When we stopped to check the water level 10 miles later, it was still full. Had someone emptied our radiator during the night we spent at the airport? Half an hour later we reached the border and after completing formalities discovered to our horror that we had run out of fuel again. Happily, a lorry parked in the forecourt was carrying some spare diesel and was prepared to part with some of it - at the pump rate - to help us.

An outbreak of cholera had been reported in Afghanistan, and this meant spending two days in quarantine on entering Iran. Leaving the border at 1930 we arrived at the Cholera checkpoint within half an hour and piled out of the coach for rectal swabs. We were then led to the quarantine camp in Fariman by guides, stopping every 15 minutes to top up the radiator. Meanwhile Birmingham came by dropping off some of their water containers for us, and these we were able to fill in a small village en route, pulling into the camp at 0130 Iranian time. The camp was in fact a hospital. It had been evacuated and prepared for us as a deliberate gesture of hospitality - for official guests. After an excellent Iranian meal we slept inside the hospital building on a luxuriously carpeted floor.

Thursday 18th September

We awoke to the clatter of cutlery and mess tins to find that we had been sleeping in the hall where breakfast was now being served. And it was a case of get up or be trodden on. We waited a while for our contingent to be called, but it was such a nutritious meal and well worth waiting for: a bottle of milk, bread, cheese, boiled eggs and a cup of chai - with an antibiotic tablet to finish up with. After breakfast the coach was unpacked, and thoroughly cleaned by Hilary. The mechanics removed the radiator and sent it into Mashad for repairs. This was a much more difficult matter because the new front (collected in Kabul) had no drop leaf.

Some took advantage of the showers while the rest bought aerogrammes from the small canteen tent set up to supply our more basic needs. Others sunbathed. Lunch was rice and meat (chello kebab), a bottle of yoghurt between two and a Pepsi. Our stomachs were not used to so much food and much of it had to be given away. The afternoon was not ideal for sunbathing - the heat unbearable - so it was either sleep or talk.

Friday 19th September - Second day in quarantine camp

There was not much to do. Breakfast was again delicious and we spent most of the day mending our now famous seat covers. A huge lunch left us incapable of any useful work, but not so the mechanics. They fitted the radiator, and generally checked over the coach; it was however decided that Yorkshire would travel light as far as Shah Pasand: three drivers, three mechanics, Steve as electrician, Hilary as navigator and Nita as cook. The rest would be dispersed among the other contingents.

Saturday 20th September

After breakfast Yorkshire with its skeleton crew said goodbye. We had on board the 10 gallons of engine oil we had bought, and five Kent had very kindly lent us. The mechanics had calculated the amount we would need and we left hoping it would be sufficient. If the engine behaved we would reach Tehran in time - a distance of over 500 miles.

The first shift was taken by Hilary, Ben and John and although the oil registered normal, we made regular checks and topped up at every opportunity. At a fork in the road, offering the choice of a typical old Iranian road and a newly tarmacked surface running parallel, Hilary decided to take the latter. Our speed improved and we soon passed another contingent travelling on the old road. A few kilometres on the roads converged, and after another oil check and top up, we stopped for provisions. We had a coke and were back on the road with John driving, Hilary navigating and Andrew watching the gauge. We had a slight oil leak and were still losing water from the new radiator. The mechanics were concerned that a cylinder head gasket may have blown.

A little nourishment on the move helped body and spirits: tomato onion, chapattis and grapes. For the moment our oil troubles were over, but there would still be a lot of work to do when we arrived in Tehran .The loss of power when going uphill was a worry, suggesting that the cylinder heads were not functioning properly. In addition, we were obliged to suffer unsolicited comments from the radio operators of other contingents. Ben also found that the hand brake was faulty but decided that this could wait for Tehran. When we stopped in front of Cambridge they gave us five pieces of melon - our second gift of food that day as Cardiff had given us a dixie of porridge before we left. We decided to drive on past Shah Pasand to give us a good start on better roads the next day, stopping at 0030. It didn't take the girls long to cook the meal already prepared on the coach.

Sunday 21st September - Shah Pasand - Tehran

We were up early, had breakfast, filled the water containers and left in good spirits. Apart from some fields were cotton picking was in progress it was an uneventful, smooth ride all the way to Tehran. We were the third in and soon joined by the rest of the contingent who remarked how good it was to be back home. We exchanged notes while the mechanics, helped by Bernard from Manchester inspected the engine to locate those parts that needed replacing.

Monday 22nd September - Tehran

Tyre problemsBreakfast at 0900: delicious scrambled eggs, fried tomatoes, chapattis and tea. Mechanics from Tehran were due at 0830, but arrived at 0930 and decided that the engine would have to be stripped down in camp and the relevant parts taken into town for repair or replacement. The rest of us enjoyed a wonderful day relaxing, writing letters, playing football, and sunbathing - all supplemented by cold drinks and cigarettes on offer at the 'Yorkshire Emporium' managed by Mike and Trev. There was salad for lunch prepared by Maggie.

In the evening, a cultural performance by coach light was filmed by Iranian Television. It was our best performance - at least that was the perceived opinion. In high spirits, Jenny, Ben, John and Nita decided to sing 'Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men' in five part harmony. When they had finished voices could b heard singing the song next door. This was Liverpool. They were not mimicking Yorkshire but had recorded the singing and were playing it back.

Tuesday 23rd September - Tehran

Up late for a leisurely breakfast. Around midday, Regina and Nadia were told that they would need Greek visas for the journey as the chances of driving back through Bulgaria were now very slight. Regina rushed off to the embassy as it closed at 1400. A few of us went into town - mainly those with something specific to buy - while Nita, John and Ben returned to the 'old' Youth Palace where Yorkshire was much in demand. Later, the wine previously ordered by the contingent, arrived and that settled the programme for the rest of the evening. But although a campfire was lit near the baseball court at 1900, the roaring jollity failed to ignite: most people drifted off to bed after supper to sup their wine reflectively.

Wednesday 24th September - Tehran - Desert

We were up at 0600, packed and ready to leave at 0800. But the mechanics had not yet appeared with the spares, which was frustrating for us and for Leicester too whom we prevailed upon to act as messenger on our behalf. We eventually left at 1300. John and Nita had gone ahead because John wanted to get to Tabriz in a hurry. Martin from Exeter took his place. We drove into Tehran to pick up Nadia and Regina who had gone in earlier to collect their visas, but had had difficulty finding the embassy. It was nearly an hour before we picked them up. We then went to the garage for the spares, only to find that the radiator was leaking again - a long welding job this time. But the contingent was surprisingly good humoured despite not leaving Tehran before 1630. We drove along the Tabriz road till 2130 stopping for the night at a suitable campsite in the desert. After a delicious stew most of us had gone to bed when Trev discovered that we were camping in a field of melons, bringing with him a specimen to prove it

Thursday 25th September - Desert - Turkish Border Desert

A rude awakening at 0600 for a 0730 start. It is usually fairly chilly at this time of year, but after the sun had been up for a couple of hours it became pleasantly warm. We decided to try and cross the border into Turkey that day on the premise that we would be able to go beyond Tabriz. Crew changes came and went, a few uneventful shopping stops, an average number of loo stops and, all in all, a typical day's journey. We stopped by a stream for morning ablutions. Some members washed more thoroughly than others much to the delight of local peasant boys. On the move again, most of us drifted off to sleep till we arrived at the border at 2200, and found Cardiff camping in the forecourt of the customs post. They were waiting for Greg to arrive with some spares. After a few words we carried on, crossing the border with little formality. (Comex 3 was by now well known along the Asian Highway and, happily, we were warmly welcomed everywhere.)

We camped about three miles beyond the border and put up the tent in full view of Mount Ararat. A group of Turkish soldiers marching by stopped for a chat - language differences didn't matter - they were curious, and certainly not hostile. The soldiers continued their night march, or whatever it was that they were doing, and about fifteen minutes later we learnt that we were being menaced by a pack of goats! Had the soldiers returned?

Friday 26th September - Turkish Border - Trabzon

Mount AraratWe were up at 0600 for a 0800 start, but were interrupted by a visit from two peasants. They were welcomed with coffee and were soon followed by three more. These were smallish boys more easily pleased: empty bottles and tins were scooped up with delight. Towering ahead of us was the snow - topped Mount Ararat - another cause of delay while photographs were taken. One never ceased to be amazed at how smoothly the internal administration and crew changes worked. Around mid morning we stopped in a little village called Taslicay to refill our water containers. This was where Maggie had bought a huge wooden spoon - occasionally awarded to the stirrer of the week - and a few of us rushed off to the shops. Half a dozen people armed with several huge wooden spoons each may have been acceptable on grounds of internal security, but had the opposite effect when dislodged from the luggage racks while on the move. Creeping up through the mountain passes we decided to get through the first two and then camp in the river valley beyond.

Unable to find a suitable campsite, we came to a halt at the summit of the final pass and decided to contact the Commander of the Air Force base in Trabzon to test whether we would be welcome at 0100. He was very welcoming and, greatly relieved, we 'stormed' over the pass, now free of traffic, and arrived half an hour early. Maggie quickly rustled up a risotto and, despite the lateness of the hour, our old friends were so pleased to see us that all signs of weariness evaporated. The hospitality was 'trooly gr'reat.

Saturday 27th September - Trabzon

We were up at 0400 to make an early start but found that Trev, Ken, Pete, Steve, Hilary and Regina had stayed up all night. So, we had breakfast and cleaned the coach inside and out instead. Everyone had a delicious cooked meal of steaks, omelettes, and pancakes with maple syrup in the restaurant. We now planned to leave at 1230 but Steve and Lee went first to phone Samsun to see whether it might be possible to stop there on the way for water and 'dress-changing'. After taking many photographs, we picked up our bolder from the outward journey, and said farewell to a remarkable gesture of transatlantic friendship. Steve, Andy and Pete ran behind the coach down 'rock alley' to stop children throwing stones and banging on the back of the coach. Once on the Black Sea coast road we stopped to buy bread and have a snack of frankfurters. It was dark when we stopped for the night on a small side road.

Sunday 28th September

Wedding anniversary for John and Nita Nutland. They had four cards and a bottle of brandy from the American Air Force Base, and congratulations all round for their future happiness. It was a cold night followed by a lovely Autumn morning once the sun had broken through the mist. We were on the road by 0800 and arrived in Ankara at 1600, but decided to push on by ourselves and make camp later in the evening. Nita slept in the gangway all afternoon and Maggie made two melon pip necklaces. About 340 kilometres from Istanbul we found a suitable campsite, set up tent and cooked the evening meal. Sally was stung by a half dead wasp while preparing the sweet and was treated with antihistamine by Mick Venables; and Val poured brake fluid into the washing up instead of detergent - discovered in time by Sally.

We had a drinks party in the tent to celebrate Malcolm's 18th birthday (20 September); John and Nita's anniversary; Sally and Trev's engagement; Pete Whaley's 21st; Val's birthday (28 September); and Brigitte's birthday (23 September).

Tuesday 30th September Istanbul - Kavalla

We awoke in good spirits, ready for a breakfast of St Andrews porridge, bread and jam. The boys were playing conkers and generally lazing around. Two young Turks came by with two dancing bears and a tambourine. The bears were partly muzzled. The older boy played the tambourine and sang while the bears danced. We gave a few slices of bread and jam to the bears and they immediately began licking off the jam. After collecting some money the travelling circus moved on. We soon followed stopping on the way to spend the rest of our money, went through the border in no time, and were back in the land of 'sit down' loos.

In Kavalla we bought some provisions, Steve managed to buy a hammerhead and shaft, and the rest of us sat in a café by the quay drinking coke and eating ice cream buns. One of the policemen we met on the way out came over and chatted to us, telling us about the festival that evening when the fishing boats would be lit up with fairy lights before being sent out for the next catch. When the cooks returned laden with cabbages and other vegetables we made our way to the camp. It was almost deserted as we pitched the tent and Maggie began preparing a meal. There were warm showers for the girls but no such luck for the boys. The menu for the evening consisted of sausages and mash, tomatoes, peas and parsley sauce, followed by grapes and butterscotch whip. It was a good day, and a good night.

Wednesday 1st October

We were on the road by 0700 and travelled all day, moving smoothly through the Greek/Yugoslav border at midday, and putting the clocks back an hour pushed on into the twilight. At 2000 we came across a farmhouse and knocked on the door to ask if we could camp in the field. Nadia and Regina spoke to the family in Greek and they replied in Yugoslav (Croatian). The farmer wanted us to come inside and to give us beds and sheets (what a gesture!) but with 25 of us that would have been impossible so we just slept in the open. The family and their neighbours were very friendly, and chatted and smoked with us as we prepared an evening meal. They offered us some fruit identified by Nadia in Czech as 'Gdula'.

Thursday 2nd October - Nis - Zagreb

The gentle patter of raindrops at 0500. We were sleeping out in the open - covered by the tent against the likelihood of dew - and it really was quite pleasant. The rain did not last for long, and we breakfasted as usual entertained by the farmer's wife feeding the pigs. She gave us milk and cheese and we repaid her kindness by feeding the pigs with the scraps from breakfast, as well as presenting her with a selection of American, Indian and Iranian cigarettes. We left at 0715 after what was a very happy night.

The journey to Belgrade was uneventful. We had to get Austrian and Belgium visas for Memlou, and as Mick Venebles had been suffering with a bad toothache since Kavalla, he was anxious to see a dentist. We found a convenient parking place and the men (we had left the boys behind!) made use of the time grubbing for conkers in the adjoining parking spaces, startling the children in the area. A conker tournament followed attracting a large crowd and brought forth from a local traffic warden the fitting accolade: 'You have many children here.'

Mission accomplished, we headed for Zagreb, passing the scene of the Durham accident of Comex 2 without anyone noticing the exact spot, and arrived at 2000*. We also came across an incident where St Andrews had stopped for Dr Ennis to give some assistance, underlying the hazards of travelling on this section of the autobahn (autoput). We pitched tent in the campsite, had a meal and went early to bed.

*The following, taken from Journey of a Lifetime, is the text of a welcome speech by the late Postman Nikola Vrbos whose daughter Nena of Zagreb University was a member of the Cambridge contingent of Comex 3:

'Zivjeli! We are all very happy to see you back safe and well. Since you were here last, three months ago, you have travelled about 40,000 kilometres and met hundreds of thousands of people. They will all remember you because you had the courage to go; despite the weather, health hazards, unusual food, and very little personal comfort. You went to all those countries to make friends. What a wonderful thing you have done. We followed your journey on this map here, as you will see from Nena's postcards pinned up all over it. We were often anxious for you, and Milka went to the church every day to pray for you. So, as the bells in the cathedral were ringing today you came back to us. I congratulate you, and I thank you for looking after my daughter. It was my hope that you would receive a civic reception on your return to Croatia. Unfortunately, that has not happened, but I assure you that the heart of Croatia beats strong in the breast of this postman, his family and friends. Please remember this. And one day, when you occupy important positions in out own country, please remember Croatia too.'

Friday 3rd October - Zagreb

The cooks woke us for breakfast at 1000. The mechanics spent the morning servicing the coach while others cleaned it. Trev, Nita and Sally were collecting walnuts from a nearby tree until a woman living nearby stopped them. The coach was then driven into Zagreb by Kevin of Manchester to do our last shopping. The more energetic went for a 10 mile walk along the banks of the Sava and returned as the sun was setting. Nadia and Regina cooked a delicious Russian Borsch with vegetables and cream. Meanwhile the second phase of the conker tournament was in full swing with broken conkers flying everywhere. It was cold, and a few disappeared to the biergaten for a drink, but most of us retired to bed - the only way of keeping warm.

Saturday 4th October

A very clammy, misty morning. But we were up at 0600 and everyone was present for breakfast, and ready for a 0730 start. It was lovely to see the Autumn crocuses growing wild by the roadside, the orchards full of red apples, and the bright yellow pumpkins everywhere - ready for harvesting. We stopped at Rottermann in Austria for coffee. Pete Harvey and Andrew wanted to buy some light walking boots they had noticed on the way out and were disappointed to find the shop shut. But the owner saw them pointing at the boots and let them in by a side door - so no disappointment there. At about 1630 we stopped in the Alps to pick up two hitch hickers (Nigel Fletcher and Heather of Comex hitch hiking for a change). We took them into the campsite in Salzburg and left them there while we pushed on into Germany. It was 0030 by the time we found a suitable site, had a meal and settled down for the night - half in the coach and half in the open.

Sunday 5th October - Camp near Munich - Frankfurt

Up at 0600 for breakfast and a few curious looks from passing policemen, perhaps because we had spent the night in a parking area off the autobahn. It felt as though we were permanently in the coach most of us not having left it for 24 hours. However, we opted to follow a different route to Frankfurt via Stuttgart and along the Rhine valley. In fact, it proved to be faster with a complete absence of lorries and slow hills. Sunday could have accounted for the lorries - but not the hills!

It was 1500, and once more we pulled into the American Air Force Base shortly after Oxford. We made camp near the gym and headed for the wash rooms and showers. By 1730 we were cleaner and more presentable to eat in the canteen. Huge meals were consumed and everyone returned to the tents well satisfied, but only for a brief pause before the majority found the reserves of energy to go drinking. Some went to the Officers' Club and others to the German discotheque just off the base in a village called Walldorf. Bottoms up…Prossit!

Monday 6th October - American Airforce Base Frankfurt

Up and dressed by 0700 for breakfast in the restaurant - just in time - and the final mass briefing by Greg in the theatre at 1000. He quickly summarised arrangements for the rest of the journey and briefly mentioned the Comex Exhibition in London. He outlined his ideas for the future and made a plea for us to do more. He then gave a short resume of Comex 3 highlighting events both amusing and sad. One comment that appealed was likening Comex 3 to a swam of locusts descending on a coca-cola counter, snarling up the loos and moving on.* All in all Greg seemed pleased with the progress Comex 3 had made in improving Anglo-Indian relations 'eroded by time and neglect'. By any measure Comex 3 was a success, and he congratulated us warmly. After nearly three-quarters of an hour we gave him a really wonderful display of our affection for him and poured out of the theatre cheerfully - into the sun.

The coach was cleaned once more; this time more thoroughly as the seats were taken out, beaten and brushed. Finally, it was smeared with polish and left to dry, ready for polishing at the end of the journey. John Nutland joined other members of Comex 3 for a game of football against the Americans. The score was 4-2 to our hosts - on merit. The last Comex cultural performance on the road was held in the ice rink with everyone wearing Afghan coats and hats. Despite chattering teeth and cold feet, the show was a great success and the audience seemed to enjoy every minute of it. A last drink and then to bed.

*A full description of this, and other moments on Comex over 30 years, is to be found in 66 verses of a narrative poem entitled 'On the Wings of an Eagle' in 'Journey of a Lifetime'.

Wednesday 8th October

Breakfast at 0800 and then off to the showers. By the time we left the camp we all looked surprisingly smart and ready for the crossing. We arrived at the docks at 1100, after a bread stop and a minor diversion around a one way system, and waited to board the ferry. But the Enterprize 3 did not arrive at Zeebrugge until 1130 so it was obvious that the 1230 sailing would be delayed. We wandered around the docks spending our last francs - buying fish and chips among other things - and chatting to our friends from the other continents. Those swapping coaches to travel home with other contingents moved their luggage and we finally boarded at 1230 - making a beeline for the bar, bank and duty free shops, because it seemed the obvious thing to do.

During the crossing Greg was presented with an Omega watch and Annie, who had come across on the ferry with Elisabeth Rowell to meet us, was given a mysterious parcel containing a leather bag. Some may have hazy recollections of the crossing; but the bar certainly did a roaring trade matched only by the queue at the duty free shop. Suddenly, all the penniless people from Frankfurt seemed to find enough money to stock up with their legal entitlement to drink and cigarettes - as home coming presents.

As our leader, Steve had been allocated a cabin so that he might rest during the final sages of this arduous journey. A few of us were invited to inspect his quarters (anyone around to be precise). Although pleasant it was a bit noisy so it was upstairs again for all of us and the enjoyment of long awaited delights. Dover! Although a loud cheer was not raised, one could feel the atmosphere as England appeared on the skyline: three months since we had last seen the White Cliffs. Living as a member of a close knit community of 25, within the wider framework of 500 was an experience not easily set aside. Comradeship runs deep and in this instance will probably last forever. Time, and everyday life, would intrude on memories and promises made of reunions. For many this parting with Comex friends was final. All this was silently acknowledged, and better left unsaid.

We docked and waited an agonising half-hour to leave the ship while a broken down lorry was towed off. The tension rises, we are all anxious to step on English soil, to phone relatives and start for home. At last we start to move and after queuing to get through customs - grateful for the most courteous treatment - Yorkshire leaves Dover docks and heads for the nearest station so that telephone calls can be made. Next stop the fish and chips shop - supper on the bank. Onward then! The journey is really over.

This is by no means the end of the diary. The end may not be until 20 years have passed by: for such is the hope that, the Commonwealth spirit of the brotherhood of man, sparked at so many times during the trip, may be preserved and used for the good of many in the years to come.

Other pictures of 'people and places on the road' may be seen in the Gallery of Pictures.

Photographs: Stephen. D. Stewart and Martin. Bennett.
Additional photographs of Comex 3 taken by Kenneth Fixter can be found here.


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16th March 2009.