20th November 2016.
The Bashall family are saddened to announce the passing of Brian Bashall. He died peacefully in hospital after an ongoing battle with septicaemia due to a nasty leg infection. He was taken in early hours on Saturday morning and simply faded away. Sons Philip and Christopher visited him and were able to say their goodbyes before he went. Brian had a good and unusual life. His family background meant he was interested in a wide variety of subjects. Born 4/9/1928 he was little brother to his sister Helen. Their mother Betty was an amazing women. Daughter of Alwyn Lasenby who was the MD of Libertys of London for several years, and sole surviving spouse of Alwyn after her brother Scarlin was killed by a shell in WWI, Betty went on to start her own toy factory in Thames Ditton just before WWII, and used Brian and Helen to test the prototypes. Once WWII started, she went to Hawker Siddely and negotiated for contracts to build the wooden and latterly metal parts for the Mosquito aircraft. She used to joke that she paid the school fees with the money from the scrap metal left from making Mosquito undercarriages. Towards the end of WWII she designed and built in the factories backyard a 65’9” yacht called Mellona, using the staff from the factory. She had the design checked by a naval architect, whose only changes were to move the wheelhouse forward 6 “ for perfect balance. Brian was doing his National service towards the end of the build and would ride back on his Vincent at weekends to help with the build. Betty was larger than life. Once the yacht was finished she took it out to the Med and eventually chose to settle on Mallorca in what was then a quiet fishing port called Andraitx. She then designed a beautiful Casa overlooking the port and settled there permanently. As a family, the Bashalls were always surrounded by boats, cars (usually Bentleys) and motorbikes. They were into most aspects of motorsport. The entire Bashall clan including cousins and distant relatives were all motorhead In Brian’s youth it was boats and motorcycles, then Land Rovers, followed by military vehicles, tractors and in the latter years Bentleys. He never had one of anything, always multiples, which inevitably led to a move from Thames Ditton in the 60’s to Farley Green (on the North Downs) where a smallholding called Stock House was purchased to house the burgeoning collection of rusting military trucks awaiting restoration as well as numerous Land Rovers. His passion for Land Rovers at this time had really taken hold and he left Comerfords of Thames Ditton where he had been the workshop Manager for some years and started buying, repairing and selling Land Rovers from Stock House. The neighbours complained about the large collection of army trucks in the field, (that were mostly out of sight) and Brian won a court case over keeping them there, but the writing was on the wall, so along with his wife Pip Bashall they bought a small garage and established Dunsfold Land Rovers in the idyllic village of Dunsfold on the Surrey / Sussex border, about a 20 minute drive away from Farley Green.
The business premises was originally a search light battery from WWII for the Airfield. It consisted of a rather rickety shed and an odd shaped barn on a reasonably sized plot.
Before long it was a thriving if somewhat chaotic centre full of Land Rovers, military vehicles of all sorts and was now joined by a Buffalo amphibious WWII tank that had been found in Wisley. The yard became more of a club than a typical business and most of the customers became life long friends.
Ever since the early 50’s, Brian had been a keen member of the Southern Land Rover Owners Club and regularly attended and organised trials, so most weekends were spent either trialling or at a steam rally showing off the military stuff or having a work party on the Buffalo or suchlike. There was always a crowd around having a good time generally.
Dunsfold Land Rovers continued to thrive and additional buildings went up over the years. All along, Brian was always looking out for any of the numerous prototypes or engineering specials that were the backbone of the success of the Land Rover brand and as usual, multiple “funny ones” started joining the ever growing collection of toys at Dunsfold.
One weekend, Brian organised the National rally for the Land Rover Club at Weavers Down near Liphook. For recovery purposes, he took along a WWII Dodge 6x6 weapons carrier that had a big winch on the front. The powers that be at Land Rover Club HQ took umbrage at a non Land Rover being present and that was the start of the idea for the All Wheel Drive Club. At this point, Brian was surrounded by a large number of people who owned military and non military 4x4s etc who wanted to play with them off road, but had no outlets to do this. So Brian and a handful of friends setup The All Wheel Drive Club that was an off road club for anything that had all wheels driven (although most things were welcome, including beach buggys and all sorts of weird and wonderful creations). The first event was advertised in the Exchange and Mart and 30 or so people turned up. It was in a small field in Dunsfold and was pretty tame, but it was a start. The club grew, organising trials and you would see a fantastic mix of vehicles being put through their paces, it was not uncommon for a Bren Gun Carrier to be seen playing in the mud. The club thrived and grew in numbers and other events such as Speed events against the clock were introduced, which in the early days were a series of fairly tough sections that were linked together by tracks and you were timed from the start to when you finished, having completed the whole route and would accrue time penalties for assistance etc. The club gradually grew into the largest off road club in Europe and became more professional. During this period the Land Rover collection was growing in numbers and were scattered around numerous barns in the area to keep them out of the weather. Sons Christopher and Philip always worked at the business on and off and when Chris went to the States to work in the mid 80’s, Philip joined the company permanently and took the collection by the scruff, restoring a lot of them single-handedly and was actively seeking out more. The collection grew and eventually became too large to handle alone, so friends of the collection were formed and a regular band of enthusiasts started to get involved. Biennual open weekends started and quickly grew into a very large event with Land Rovers from all over the world attending the current shows. The collection has managed finally to obtain charitable status and currently has around 150 vehicles in it, mostly prototypes and funnies.
Brian was awarded a Lifetimes Achievement award by the Transport Trust for his lifetime dedicated to Land Rovers and for creating the collection. Most of these vehicles were destined to be crushed, if Brian had not stepped in and rescued them.
Brian stepped back from all this in the 1980’s, having amicably divorced Pip and was now married to Joanna, who wasn’t really into the off roady stuff. Whilst maintaining his interest in Dunsfold Land Rovers he had handed the reins to Philip mostly and had now settled into a much quieter life at Pondtail a delightful cottage in the woods on its own, down a private track near Petworth, where he and Joanna settled down to a quieter lifestyle. Needless to say before long numerous vintage tractors appeared on the basis that they were useful for collecting firewood and hay for Joanna’s horses. Brian tried his hand at some ploughing matches and won a couple of prizes. He also got heavily involved with Owls and was constantly rescuing and breeding Owls that would then be paired up and placed in the countryside. He had a wide variety including a blind Tawny Owl that would attack anything that went near it (except Brian), numerous Barn owls and a couple of huge Snowy Owls and occasionally a massive Buzzard called Hilda would come and stay. Life was good as he settled into his latter years and was pleased to be presented with a grand daughter Sammy. Unfortunately Joanna was taken by cancer in the late 90’s leaving a large hole in his life. He decided to get back into mechanical things and started collecting vintage Bentleys. He joined the Bentley club and started attending their rallys. It was during this period that he found a new girlfriend Pamela Johnson. They got on well and she enjoyed going out in the Bentleys and they enjoyed several happy years together to present times before old age and illness caught up with him. His mobility declined and he ended up wheelchair bound. He gave the house a major make over and prepared it so he could live in it with carers, that was obviously on the horizon. Eventually he reached the point where he needed full time care and would have live in carers to look after him. He had some lovely people looking after him over the last 5 years. The toys were sold off to fund his care and then an equity release was taken out on the house that bought him 5 more years of care. He had hoped to die in his own home, but the wonders of modern medicine kept him going through several situations that would been the end not that long ago, the upshot being, that he outlived the equity release and had to move in to a nursing home, so the house could be sold to pay off the equity and fund his on going care with the change. He went into decline over the 3 months in the home before passing away today 20th November 2016 at the ripe old age of 88. He will be remembered for his enthusiasm to involve lots of people in what ever he was doing. The home would always be full of people and there was always a crowd around. He managed to infect so many people with his passions, whether it was military trucks, Land Rovers, Off-roading or whatever he was up to. He was a kind and gentle soul who will be greatly missed.