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John Blashford-Snell
Birth name John Nicholas Blashford-Snell
Born 22 October 1936 (1936-10-22) (age 84)
Hereford, Herefordshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  United Kingdom Army
Years of service 1954–1991
Rank Colonel
Service number 453555
Unit Royal Engineers
Awards Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Judith Sherman (m. 1960)
Children 2

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.

Early life and education

John Nicholas Blashford-Snell was born on 22 October 1936 in Hereford, England, the son of the Reverend Leland John Blashford-Snell (1903–1978) of the Royal Army Chaplains' Department and Gwendoline Ives Sadler. Blashford-Snell grew up in Herefordshire and Jersey and was educated at Victoria College, Jersey from 1950. 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.

Military service

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 and then Captain after four years on 2 August 1963. Further promotion followed to the rank of Major on 31 December 1968 and Lieutenant Colonel on 30 June 1976 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.

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.

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). He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1974 and the Livingstone Medal by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in recognition of his leadership of the expeditions.

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.

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

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

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.

Personal life

Blashford-Snell married Judith Sherman in 1960. 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.

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