John Blashford-Snell

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John Blashford-Snell
Birth nameJohn Nicholas Blashford-Snell
Born (1936-10-22) 22 October 1936 (age 87)
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service1954–1991
Service number453555
UnitRoyal Engineers
AwardsCommander of the Order of the British Empire
Judith Sherman
(m. 1960)

Colonel John Nicholas Blashford-Snell CBE (born 22 October 1936) is a former British Army officer, explorer and author. He founded Operation Raleigh and the Scientific Exploration Society.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

John Nicholas Blashford-Snell was born on 22 October 1936 in Hereford, England, the son of Alderman the Reverend Leland John Blashford-Snell (1903–1978), MBE, Prebendary of Hereford Cathedral, and formerly of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department,[2][3] and Gwendoline Ives Sadler.[4][5] Blashford-Snell grew up in Herefordshire and Jersey and was educated at Victoria College, Jersey from 1950.[6][7] Blashford-Snell joined the British Army and attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as an officer cadet after which he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers on 2 August 1957.[8]

Military service[edit]

Having served his initial two years of his commission as a Second Lieutenant Blashford-Snell was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 2 August 1959[9] and then Captain after four years on 2 August 1963.[10] Further promotion followed to the rank of Major on 31 December 1968[11] and Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1976[12] before reaching his final rank of Colonel on 30 June 1982. After 37 years of service, Blashford-Snell retired from the British Army on 30 December 1991.[13]

He was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1976 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews.


In 1969, Blashford-Snell founded the Scientific Exploration Society.[14]

Amongst his expeditions were the first descent of the Blue Nile, during which he invented white-water rafting 'by accident' (in 1968); crossing of the Darién Gap (1971 to 1972) and overseeing the first north–south vehicular journey from Alaska to Cape Horn; and a complete navigation of the Congo River (in 1974 to 1975).[6] He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1974[15][16] and the Livingstone Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in recognition of his leadership of the expeditions.[17]

In 1978, Blashford-Snell established Operation Drake, which later developed into Operation Raleigh, an educational initiative for young people, of which he was Director General until he retired from this post in 1991.[18]

In 1993, Blashford-Snell was awarded the Patron's Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.[19]

In 2006, Blashford-Snell helped the London hatmakers James Lock & Co. to design a hat to meet the needs of explorers.[20] Since 2001, he has been the Hon. Life President of the Centre for Fortean Zoology.[21] He is also a member of the Ghost Club.[22] In 2010 he was made an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University[23]

His publications include an autobiography, Something Lost Behind the Ranges (1994).

Blashford-Snell has been a member of The Explorers Club since 1974. In 1992, he was awarded the Sweeney Medal in honour of his outstanding contributions to the welfare and objectives of the organization.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Blashford-Snell married Judith Sherman in 1960.[25][26] They had met whilst Blashford-Snell was still at Sandhurst; Sherman was attending the women's officer training unit. They have two daughters, Victoria and Emma.[27]


  • Where the Trails Run Out, London, Hutchinson 1974. ISBN 0091213606
  • In the Steps of Stanley, London, Hutchison 1975. ISBN 0-09-125080-3
  • Expeditions: the Experts' way, edited by John Blashford-Snell and Alistair Ballantine. London, Faber 1977. ISBN 0-571-11116-5
  • A taste for adventure, London, Hutchinson 1978. ISBN 0-09-136010-2
  • In the wake of Drake John Blashford-Snell and Michael Cable. London, W.H. Allen, 1980. ISBN 0-352-30750-1
  • Operation Drake London, W.H. Allen, 1981. ISBN 0-491-02965-9
  • The expedition organiser’s guide by John Blashford-Snell & Richard Snailham ; written for the Scientific Exploration Society. London, The Daily Telegraph, 1982.
  • Mysteries: encounter with the unexplained. London, Bodley Head 1983. ISBN 0-370-30479-9
  • Operation Raleigh: the start of an adventure London, Collins, 1987. ISBN 0-00-217624-6
  • Something lost behind the ranges :the autobiography of John Blashford-Snell. London, HarperCollins, 1994. ISBN 0-00-255034-2
  • Mammoth hunt: in search of the giant elephants of Nepal by John Blashford-Snell and Rula Lenska. London, HarperCollins, 1996. ISBN 0-00-255672-3
  • Kota Mama: retracing the lost trade routes of ancient South American peoples by John Blashford-Snell and Richard Snailham. London, Headline, 2000. ISBN 0-7472-2281-9
  • East to the Amazon: in search of Great Paititi and the trade routes of the ancients by John Blashford-Snell and Richard Snailham. London, John Murray 2002. ISBN 0-7195-6032-2
  • From Utmost East to Utmost West Bradt 2022 ISBN 978-1784778446


  1. ^ Leonard, Tom (29 September 2006). "I often think I must be mad". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  2. ^ "No. 34207". The London Gazette. 11 October 1935. p. 6379.
  3. ^ Crockford's Clerical Directory, Oxford University Press, 1975
  4. ^ Debrett's People of Today, Debrett's Peerage Ltd, 2006, p. 155
  5. ^ The International Who's Who 1996-97, sixtieth edition, Europa Publications, 1996, p. 164
  6. ^ a b "College Characters – Colonel Blashford-Snell". Jersey Evening Post. 24 September 2002. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  7. ^ Calkin, Jessamy (5 December 2015). "Col John Blashford-Snell: the last of the great adventurers". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  8. ^ "No. 41191". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 October 1957. p. 5759.
  9. ^ "No. 41780". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 August 1959. p. 4876.
  10. ^ "No. 43071". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 August 1963. p. 6526.
  11. ^ "No. 44754". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1968. p. 13911.
  12. ^ "No. 46953". The London Gazette (Supplement). 6 July 1976. p. 9284.
  13. ^ "No. 52792". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 January 1992. p. 497.
  14. ^ "About the SES". The Scientific Exploration Society. Archived from the original on 2 October 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
  15. ^ This is North Devon
  16. ^ "Royal Automobile Club". Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 23 January 2010.
  17. ^ "John Blashford-Snell". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  18. ^ About Operation Raleigh
  19. ^ Gold Medal Recipients Archived 9 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Geographical Society, accessed 25 January 2010
  20. ^ Country Life, "Hats off Blashers", 29 June 2006
  21. ^ Permanent Directorate Archived 24 February 2021 at the Wayback Machine, Centre for Fortean Zoology, accessed 25 January 2010
  22. ^ History of the Ghost Club Archived 1 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Honorary Fellowships 2010". Archived from the original on 16 September 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2010., Honorary Fellowships 2010, Liverpool John Moores University, accessed 7 November 2010
  24. ^ "Sweeney Medalists of the Explorers Club". Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  25. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  26. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  27. ^ "Col John Blashford-Snell: the last of the great adventurers". Retrieved 2 December 2016.

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