History and Origins

The inspiration for the Burnaby Blue Foundation came from a unique individual, Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby. An army officer in the Royal Horse Guards, he was to find fame as an adventurer, journalist, balloonist, failed politician and ultimately with a heroic death deep in the Sudan.He was born in Bedford, the son of the Rev. Gustavus Andrew Burnaby of Somersby Hall, Leicestershire, and canon of Middleham in Yorkshire († 15 July 1872), by Harriet, sister of Mr. Henry Villebois of Marham House, Norfolk († 1883). He was educated at Harrow and Oswestry School and in Germany. He entered the Royal Horse Guards in 1859.

Finding no chance for active service, his spirit of adventure sought outlets in balloon-ascents and in travels through Spain and Russia. In the summer of 1874 he accompanied the Carlist forces as correspondent of The Times, but before the end of the war he was transferred to Africa to report on Gordon's expedition to the Sudan. This took Burnaby as far as Khartoum. Returning to England in March 1875, he matured his plans for a journey on horseback to the Khanate of Khiva through Russian Asia, which had just been closed to travelers. His accomplishment of this task, in the winter of 1875-1876, described in his book A Ride to Khiva, brought him immediate fame. His next leave of absence was spent in another adventurous journey on horseback, through Asia Minor, from Scutari to Erzerum, with the object of observing the Russian frontier, an account of which he afterwards published. In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, Burnaby (who soon afterwards became lieutenant-colonel) acted as travelling agent to the Stafford House (Red Cross) Committee, but had to return to England before the campaign was over.

In 1879 he married Elizabeth Hawkins-Whitshed, who had inherited her father's lands at Greystones, Ireland. The previously-named Hawkins-Whitshed estate at Greystones is known as The Burnaby to this day. At this point began his active interest in politics, and in 1880 he unsuccessfully contested a seat at Birmingham in the Tory-Democrat interest. In 1882 he crossed the English Channel in a hot air balloon. Having been disappointed in his hope of seeing active service in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882, he participated in the Suakin campaign of 1884 without official leave, and was wounded at El Teb when acting as an intelligence officer under General Valentine Baker. This did not deter him from a similar course when a fresh expedition started up the Nile. He was given a post by Lord Wolseley, and met his death in the hand-to-hand fighting of the Battle of Abu Klea.

As a soldier he was fearless and also enormous in both stature and presence and he was reputed to be the strongest man in the British Army. He was reputed to have once carried a Shetland pony under each arm after a mess prank and could hold a billiards cue horizontally at its tip.  He was also fluent in seven languages and possessed a vigorous and colorful prose style which has been dramatically preserved in his books.

The Burnaby Blue Foundation came about as a result of a Landrover based expedition that went to Azerbaijan in 2000. The expedition tried to recreate the footsteps of Fred Burnaby and his epic trip to Central Asia. The expedition consisted of 8 vehicles, 26 soldiers and 2 civilians. It managed to cover 11 countries including Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan. In order to get enough sponsorship for the expedition a significant amount of humanitarian work was completed on the expedition with the most involved work was carried out with the Saray orphanage in Baku. When the expedition finished Sacha Tomes decided to try and continue the work that had been started and the Burnaby Blue Foundation began.