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Comex and traditional relationships

However, Comex also remained a traditional vision which included certain ideas about familiarity, contact, hospitality, discipline and duty tied to vernacular relationships between people and land. The expeditions were seen to provide opportunities for a demonstration of duty and commitment overseas, much like Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) which also emerged around this time. Lionel Gregory, the expedition organiser, saw the modern world as one of disconnection. His Commonwealth valued tradition rather than the technocratic modernity that was dominating British politics in the mid 1960s, and which was a dominant trope in many post-war visions of the Commonwealth.

A traditional bakery in Heart, Afghanistan, visited by Comex 3 

A traditional bakery in Heart, Afghanistan, visited by Comex 3   (MB AO49)
Courtesy of Martin Bennett

Local people at ‘Camp Yorkshire’ near Kandahar in Afghanistan

Local people at ‘Camp Yorkshire’ near Kandahar in Afghanistan, Monday 11th  August 1969   (MB AO52) 
Courtesy of Martin Bennett

Martin Bennett on Comex 3 driving near the Iran

Martin Bennett on Comex 3 driving near the Iran/Afghanistan border (MB AO42) Courtesy of Martin Bennett

‘There is more to a road than the mud, the stones, the concrete slabs, and the tar that constitutes its surface’ wrote Lionel Gregory in an article for the RCS Commonwealth Journal (1972, p67). Throughout his discussions of Comex, the United Nations Asian Highway along which each Comex expedition travelled for much of their journey looms large; it is crucial not only as a route, but also as a spiritual and practical opportunity. The road provided the time and environment through which to reflect on what it meant to be a good citizen of the world. The spirit of the road signalled international brotherhood and this philosophy worked alongside the more tangible opportunities that travelling by road provided; the space for contact, connection, comradeship and familiarity between travellers and hosts.

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