A few weeks after the first Land Rover rolled out of Solihull in 1948, I moved from Perth to Kimberley, in Western Australia, one of the most sparsely populated regions of the English-speaking world. I was just 19 years old.
In 1952 I married the telephonist in Broome, and settled down to bring up five children. Needing a vehicle to ferry them all around in, I bought a Series I 88in. It gave good service, getting me to the remoter parts of the Dampier Peninsula and Carnot Bay, which is notorious for the loss of diamonds in a DC3 Dakota downed during the war.
In 1963 the Queen and Prince Philip visited Kimberley. Their tour was preceded by the arrival of two 109in SIIAs for use as security vehicles. After the tour they were sold to the local Catholic bishop, who sold one to my mate, Percy Fong. I asked Percy to give me first refusal if he decided to sell, and in 1973 I gave him £1200 for it.
I’ve been a bit kinder to it than he was – keeping it off the beach for one thing, which is why it still has its original chassis.
Last year’s 50th anniversary of the Queen’s visit stirred a lot of local interest in the IIA, and it’s now getting some TLC with the help of John Dayman of Broome Land Rover Owners Club. As for the diamonds, they’re still out there somewhere.
Published in the February 2014 issue of Land Rover Owner. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.
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