Long Range Desert Group
Overview
 
The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

, Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".

Originally called the Long Range Patrol (LRP), the unit was founded in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in June 1940 by Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 Ralph A. Bagnold, acting under the direction of General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Archibald Wavell.
Encyclopedia
The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG) was a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during the Second World War. The commander of the German Afrika Corps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

, Field Marshal
Field Marshal
Field Marshal is a military rank. Traditionally, it is the highest military rank in an army.-Etymology:The origin of the rank of field marshal dates to the early Middle Ages, originally meaning the keeper of the king's horses , from the time of the early Frankish kings.-Usage and hierarchical...

 Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

, admitted that the LRDG "caused us more damage than any other British unit of equal strength".

Originally called the Long Range Patrol (LRP), the unit was founded in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

 in June 1940 by Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 Ralph A. Bagnold, acting under the direction of General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Archibald Wavell. Bagnold was assisted by Captain Patrick Clayton
Pat Clayton
Patrick Andrew Clayton DSO MBE was a British surveyor and soldier. He was the basis for the character of Peter Madox in The English Patient....

 and Captain William Shaw
Bill Kennedy Shaw
Major William Boyd Kennedy Shaw OBE was a British desert explorer, botanist, archaeologist and founding member of the Long Range Desert Group during World War II...

. At first the majority of the men were from New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, but they were soon joined by Rhodesia
Rhodesia
Rhodesia , officially the Republic of Rhodesia from 1970, was an unrecognised state located in southern Africa that existed between 1965 and 1979 following its Unilateral Declaration of Independence from the United Kingdom on 11 November 1965...

n and British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 volunteers, whereupon new sub-units were formed and the name was changed to the better-known Long Range Desert Group (LRDG). The LRDG never numbered more than 350 men, all of whom were volunteers.

The LRDG was formed specifically to carry out deep penetration, covert reconnaissance patrols and intelligence missions from behind Italian lines, although they sometimes engaged in combat operations. Because the LRDG were experts in desert navigation they were sometimes assigned to guide other units, including the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 and secret agents across the desert. During the Desert Campaign
Western Desert Campaign
The Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War, was the initial stage of the North African Campaign during the Second World War. The campaign was heavily influenced by the availability of supplies and transport. The ability of the Allied forces, operating from besieged Malta, to...

 between December 1940 and April 1943, the vehicles of the LRDG operated constantly behind the Axis
Axis Powers
The Axis powers , also known as the Axis alliance, Axis nations, Axis countries, or just the Axis, was an alignment of great powers during the mid-20th century that fought World War II against the Allies. It began in 1936 with treaties of friendship between Germany and Italy and between Germany and...

 lines, missing a total of only 15 days during the entire period. Possibly their most notable offensive action was during Operation Caravan
Operation Caravan
Operation Caravan was a subsidiary of Operation Agreement under which four simultaneous raids were carried out against important Axis Lines of Communication positions....

, an attack on the town of Barce
Barca
Barce was an ancient Greek colony and later Roman, Byzantine, city in North Africa. It occupied the coastal area of what is modern day Libya...

 and its associated airfield, on the night of 13 September 1942. However, their most vital role was the 'Road Watch', during which they clandestinely
Clandestine operation
A clandestine operation is an intelligence or military operation carried out in such a way that the operation goes unnoticed.The United States Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines "clandestine operation" as "An operation sponsored or conducted by governmental...

 monitored traffic on the main road from Tripoli
Tripoli
Tripoli is the capital and largest city in Libya. It is also known as Western Tripoli , to distinguish it from Tripoli, Lebanon. It is affectionately called The Mermaid of the Mediterranean , describing its turquoise waters and its whitewashed buildings. Tripoli is a Greek name that means "Three...

 to Benghazi
Benghazi
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya, the main city of the Cyrenaica region , and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. The wider metropolitan area is also a district of Libya...

, transmitting the intelligence to the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 Headquarters.

With the surrender of the Axis forces in Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 in May 1943, the LRDG changed roles and moved operations to the eastern Mediterranean, carrying out missions in the Greek islands, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 and the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

. After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 for the unit to be transferred to the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945.

Formation

On 23 June 1940, Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 Ralph Bagnold
Ralph Alger Bagnold
Brigadier Ralph Alger Bagnold, FRS OBE, was the founder and first commander of the British Army's Long Range Desert Group during World War II. He is also generally considered to have been a pioneer of desert exploration, an acclaim earned for his activities during the 1930s...

 met with General
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Archibald Wavell, the commander of the Middle East Command
Middle East Command
The Middle East Command was a British Army Command established prior to the Second World War in Egypt. Its primary role was to command British land forces and co-ordinate with the relevant naval and air commands to defend British interests in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean region.The...

 in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

. He explained his concept for a group of men intended to undertake long-range reconnaissance patrols behind the Italian lines, into Libya
Libya
Libya is an African country in the Maghreb region of North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Egypt to the east, Sudan to the southeast, Chad and Niger to the south, and Algeria and Tunisia to the west....

, to gather intelligence.
General Wavell was familiar with desert warfare, having been a liaison officer with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force
Egyptian Expeditionary Force
The Egyptian Expeditionary Force was formed in March 1916 to command the British and British Empire military forces in Egypt during World War I. Originally known as the 'Force in Egypt' it had been commanded by General Maxwell who was recalled to England...

 during the First World War, and he understood and endorsed Bagnold's suggested concept. Wavell assisted in equipping the force.
The unit, initially known as the No.1 Long Range Patrol Unit (LRP), was founded on 3 July 1940. Bagnold wanted men who were energetic, innovative, self-reliant, physically and mentally tough, and able to live and fight in seclusion in the Libyan desert. Bagnold felt that New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 farmers would possess these attributes and was given permission to approach the 2nd New Zealand Division for volunteers; over half the division volunteered. Two officers and 85 other ranks
Other Ranks
Other Ranks in the British Army, Royal Marines and Royal Air Force are those personnel who are not commissioned officers. In the Royal Navy, these personnel are called ratings...

 including 18 administrative and technical personnel were eventually selected, coming mostly from the Divisional Cavalry Regiment and the 27th Machine-Gun Battalion
27th Machine-Gun Battalion (New Zealand)
The 27th Machine-Gun Battalion was a unit of the 2nd New Zealand Division during the Second World War. It served in the Greek Campaign, Western Desert Campaign, Tunisian Campaign, Italian Campaign and after the war took part in the Occupation of Japan. It was one of two New Zealand formations that...

. Once the men had been recruited, they started training in desert survival techniques and desert driving and navigation, with additional training in radio communications and demolitions.

The LRP could initially form only three units, known as patrols, but a doubling of strength allowed the addition of a new Heavy Section. In November 1940, the name of the LRP was changed to the "Long Range Desert Group" (LRDG), and the New Zealanders were joined by volunteers from British and Rhodesian regiments. The British volunteers, who came mostly from the Brigade of Guards
Brigade of Guards
The Brigade of Guards is a historical elite unit of the British Army, which has existed sporadically since the 17th century....

 and Yeomanry
Yeomanry
Yeomanry is a designation used by a number of units or sub-units of the British Territorial Army, descended from volunteer cavalry regiments. Today, Yeomanry units may serve in a variety of different military roles.-History:...

 regiments, were incorporated into their own patrols. The original patrol unit consisted of two officers and 28 other ranks, equipped with a Canadian Military Pattern (CMP)
Canadian Military Pattern truck
The Canadian Military Pattern truck was a class of military truck made in large numbers in Canada during World War II to British Army specifications for use in the armies of the British Commonwealth allies. CMP trucks were also sent to the Soviet Union following the Nazi invasion of Russia, as...

 Ford
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is an American multinational automaker based in Dearborn, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. The automaker was founded by Henry Ford and incorporated on June 16, 1903. In addition to the Ford and Lincoln brands, Ford also owns a small stake in Mazda in Japan and Aston Martin in the UK...

 15 Imperial hundredweight
Hundredweight
The hundredweight or centum weight is a unit of mass defined in terms of the pound . The definition used in Britain differs from that used in North America. The two are distinguished by the terms long hundredweight and short hundredweight:* The long hundredweight is defined as 112 lb, which...

 (cwt) truck and 10 Chevrolet
Chevrolet
Chevrolet , also known as Chevy , is a brand of vehicle produced by General Motors Company . Founded by Louis Chevrolet and ousted GM founder William C. Durant on November 3, 1911, General Motors acquired Chevrolet in 1918...

 30 cwt trucks. In March 1941 new types of trucks were issued and the patrol units were split into half-patrols of one officer and 15–18 men in five or six vehicles. Each patrol incorporated a medical orderly
Medic
Medic is a general term for a person involved in medicine, especially emergency or first-response medicine, such as an emergency medical technician, paramedic, or a military member trained in battlefield medicine. Also the term is used toward a Nurse in pre-hospital care and/or emergency...

, a navigator
Navigator
A navigator is the person on board a ship or aircraft responsible for its navigation. The navigator's primary responsibility is to be aware of ship or aircraft position at all times. Responsibilities include planning the journey, advising the Captain or aircraft Commander of estimated timing to...

, a radio operator and a vehicle mechanic
Auto mechanic
An auto mechanic is a mechanic with a variety of car makes or either in a specific area or in a specific make of car. In repairing cars, their main role is to diagnose the problem accurately and quickly...

, each of whom manned a truck equipped for their role.

Patrols

The Long Range Patrol comprised a 15 man headquarters with Bagnold in command. There were three sub-units: 'R' Patrol commanded by Captain Donald Gavin Steele, 'T' Patrol commanded by Captain Patrick Clayton and 'W' Patrol commanded by Captain Edward 'Teddy' Cecil Mitford. 'T' and 'W' Patrols were combat units while 'R' Patrol was intended to be a support unit.

In November 1940, the LRP was reorganized and re-designated the Long Range Desert Group. It was expanded to six Patrols: 'T','W' and 'R' Patrols were joined by 'G', 'S' and 'Y' Patrols. Each patrol was expected to belong to the same regimental group, but only the Brigade of Guards and the Yeomanry regiments formed their own Patrols, 'G' and 'Y' respectively. The men of 'G' Patrol were drawn from the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards
Coldstream Guards
Her Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, also known officially as the Coldstream Guards , is a regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division or Household Division....

 and the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards
Scots Guards
The Scots Guards is a regiment of the Guards Division of the British Army, whose origins lie in the personal bodyguard of King Charles I of England and Scotland...

 under command of Captain Michael Crichton-Stuart. The 'Y' Patrol men were drawn from the Nottinghamshire Yeomanry under command Captain P. J. D. McCraith, with additional men from the Northumberland Fusiliers and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland....

. In December 1940, 'W' Patrol was disbanded and its personnel used to bring 'R' and 'T' Patrols up to strength, while 'G' Patrol took over their vehicles. By June 1941 the LRDG was re-organised into two squadron
Squadron (cavalry)
A squadron was historically a cavalry sub unit. It is still used to refer to modern cavalry units but can also be used as a designation for other arms and services.-United States:...

s: the New Zealand and Rhodesian 'A' Squadron with 'S', 'T' and 'R' Patrols, and 'B' Squadron with 'G', 'H' and 'Y' Patrols. There was also a Headquarters Section along with signals
Military communications
Historically, the first military communications had the form of sending/receiving simple signals . Respectively, the first distinctive tactics of military communications were called Signals, while units specializing in those tactics received the Signal Corps name...

, survey
Surveying
See Also: Public Land Survey SystemSurveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them...

 and light repair
Light Aid Detachment
A Light Aid Detachment is an attached independent minor unit of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers or Detachment of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers operating as a sub-unit of the supported unit...

 sections. A Heavy section, initially equipped with four 6-ton Marmon-Herrington
Marmon-Herrington
The Marmon-Herrington Company, Inc. is an American-based manufacturer of axles and transfer cases for trucks and other vehicles. Earlier, the company built military vehicles and some tanks during World War II, and until the late 1950s or early 1960s was a manufacturer of trucks and trolley buses...

 trucks, was used to provide logistical support by transporting supplies to bases and setting up hidden replenishment points at pre-arranged locations. In addition there was an Air Section, using Waco
Waco Aircraft Company
The Waco Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio, USA. Between 1919 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes....

 YQC-6 and a ZGC-7 biplanes, which transported key personnel, evacuated wounded
MEDEVAC
Medical evacuation, often termed Medevac or Medivac, is the timely and efficient movement and en route care provided by medical personnel to the wounded being evacuated from the battlefield or to injured patients being evacuated from the scene of an accident to receiving medical facilities using...

 and performed other liaison tasks.

In August 1941 an artillery unit was formed to attack Italian forts more effectively. Initially it used a QF 4.5 inch Howitzer
QF 4.5 inch Howitzer
The Ordnance QF 4.5 inch Howitzer was the standard British Empire field howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5 inch Howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in...

 carried on a 10 ton Mack NR 4
Mack Trucks
Mack Trucks is an American truck-manufacturing company and a former manufacturer of buses and trolley buses. A wholly owned subsidiary of Renault Véhicules Industriels since 1990, Mack Trucks is currently a subsidiary of AB Volvo. The company's headquarters are located in Greensboro, North Carolina...

 truck, with an accompanying light tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

 as an armoured observation post
Observation post
An observation post, temporary or fixed, is a position from which soldiers can watch enemy movements, to warn of approaching soldiers , or to direct artillery fire...

. However, these were handed over to the Free French at Kufra
Kufra
Kufra is a basin and oasis group in Al Kufrah District, southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya. Kufra is historically important above all because at the end of nineteenth century it became the center and holy place of the Senussi order...

. The unit was then issued a 25 pounder
Ordnance QF 25 pounder
The Ordnance QF 25 pounder, or more simply, 25-pounder or 25-pdr, was introduced into service just before World War II, during which it served as the major British field gun/howitzer. It was considered by many to be the best field artillery piece of the war, combining high rates of fire with a...

 portee
Portee
A portee is a truck that carries a gun on its bed, such that the gun is not affixed permanently to the vehicle, can be quickly unloaded, and can be fired from the truck....

. After successfully attacking and capturing the El Gtafia fort, the truck had to be abandoned and the experiment ended.

Squadrons

In October 1941 the LRDG was expanded to 10 patrols by the simple method of splitting the existing patrols into two half patrols; the New Zealanders formed A Squadron comprising 'R1', 'R2', 'T1', and 'T2' Patrols and the British and Rhodesians formed B Squadron comprising 'G1', 'G2', 'S1', 'S2', 'Y1', and 'Y2' Patrols. The 'H' Patrol had been disbanded in September 1941 after three months service.

These two squadrons were joined in December 1941 by the Indian Long Range Squadron
Indian Long Range Squadron
The Indian Long Range Squadron or ILRS was a unit of the British Indian Army during the Second World War. It was formed by asking for volunteers from the, 2nd Lancers, 11th Cavalry and the 18th Cavalry all part of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade. It was originally formed to patrol the borders between...

, which had been formed by volunteers from the 2nd Lancers
2nd Lancers (Gardner's Horse)
The 2nd Lancers was a cavalry regiment of the British Indian Army raised in 1809. It served in the Nepal and First World Wars. During the reconstruction of the British Indian Army in 1922 it was amalgamated with the 4th Cavalry....

, 11th Cavalry
11th Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry (Frontier Force)
The 11th Cavalry also known as PAVO Cavalry, is an armoured regiment of the Pakistan Army. It was previously known as the 11th Prince Albert Victor's Own Cavalry and was a regular cavalry regiment of the old British Indian Army...

 and the 18th Cavalry
18th King Edward's Own Cavalry
The 18th King Edward's Own Cavalry was a regular cavalry regiment in the British Indian Army. It was formed in 1922 by the amalagamation of the 6th King Edward's Own Cavalry and the 7th Hariana Lancers...

, all part of the 3rd Indian Motor Brigade
3rd Indian Motor Brigade
The 3rd Indian Motor Brigade was a unit of the Indian Army during World War II, formed in 1940. In its short history one of its regiments would be involved in the siege of Tobruk and the brigade was twice overrun during the Western Desert Campaign by units of the Afrika Corps and the Italian...

. The Indian Squadron was organized along ethnic and religious lines with the first two patrols originally known as 'J' (Jats) and 'R' (Rajput
Rajput
A Rajput is a member of one of the patrilineal clans of western, central, northern India and in some parts of Pakistan. Rajputs are descendants of one of the major ruling warrior classes in the Indian subcontinent, particularly North India...

) Patrols. Their designations were changed to 'I1' and 'I2' to avoid confusion. In October 1942 two further Indian patrols were formed: 'M' (Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

) and 'S' (Sikh
Sikh
A Sikh is a follower of Sikhism. It primarily originated in the 15th century in the Punjab region of South Asia. The term "Sikh" has its origin in Sanskrit term शिष्य , meaning "disciple, student" or शिक्ष , meaning "instruction"...

) Patrols, which became the 'I3' and 'I4' Patrols. No. 1 Demolition Squadron, commanded by Major Vladimir 'Popski' Peniakoff
Vladimir Peniakoff
Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Peniakoff DSO MC , nicknamed "Popski", was the founder and commanding officer of "Popski's Private Army".- Early life :Vladimir Peniakoff was born in Belgium to Russian parents...

, was briefly attached to the LRDG from December 1942.
The vehicles of each patrol adopted their own markings. The New Zealand 'R' Patrol used a green Hei-tiki
Hei-tiki
The hei-tiki is an ornamental pendant of the Māori which is worn around the neck. Hei-tiki are usually made of pounamu which is greenstone, and are considered a taonga . They are commonly referred to as tiki, a term that actually refers to large human figures carved in wood, and, also, the small...

 with a red tongue painted on the right side of the bonnet
Hood (vehicle)
The hood or bonnet is the hinged cover over the engine of motor vehicles that allows access to the engine compartment for maintenance and repair. In British terminology, hood refers to a fabric cover over the passenger compartment of the car...

 of the vehicle and on the left they put a Māori
Maori language
Māori or te reo Māori , commonly te reo , is the language of the indigenous population of New Zealand, the Māori. It has the status of an official language in New Zealand...

 place name beginning with the letter 'R' (for example, 'Rotowaro
Rotowaro
Rotowaro was once a small coal mining township approximately 10 km west of Huntly in the Waikato region of New Zealand. The town was built especially for miners houses, but was entirely removed in the 1980s to make way for a large opencast mine.- History :...

'). The 'T' Patrol vehicles had a black Kiwi
Kiwi
Kiwi are flightless birds endemic to New Zealand, in the genus Apteryx and family Apterygidae.At around the size of a domestic chicken, kiwi are by far the smallest living ratites and lay the largest egg in relation to their body size of any species of bird in the world...

 over green 'grass' and a Māori name starting with 'Te' (for example, 'Te Anau
Te Anau
Te Anau is a town in the South Island of New Zealand. It is on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau in Fiordland. Lake Te Anau is the largest lake in the South Island and second only within New Zealand to Lake Taupo. The 2001 census recorded the town's population as 1,857...

') in the corresponding places. The 'W' Patrol vehicles had a Māori name or word starting with 'W' painted on their vehicles.

The British 'G' Patrol vehicles carried no distinctive markings, although some vehicles had the Guards insignia. They took over 'W' Patrol's vehicles when that unit was disbanded. The 'Y' Patrol vehicles were slightly different; 'Y1' half-patrol vehicles all had names of famous drinking establishments (such as 'Cock O’ The North') and 'Y2' half-patrol had names from the Three Musketeers books (for example, 'Aramis
Aramis
C. René d'Aramis de Vannes is a fictional character in the novels The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne by Alexandre Dumas, père...

') on the left side of their vehicle bonnets. The Headquarters Section used a sequence of letters arranged in a square (see photo of "Louise"). The Rhodesian 'S' Patrol vehicles had names with a Rhodesian connection (such as 'Salisbury
Harare
Harare before 1982 known as Salisbury) is the largest city and capital of Zimbabwe. It has an estimated population of 1,600,000, with 2,800,000 in its metropolitan area . Administratively, Harare is an independent city equivalent to a province. It is Zimbabwe's largest city and its...

') painted on the left side of the vehicles' bonnets. By 1943 the practice of naming replacement vehicles was dropped.

Vehicles

The LRDG vehicles were mainly two wheel drive, chosen because they were lighter and used less fuel than four wheel drive
Four Wheel Drive
The Four Wheel Drive Auto Company, more often known as Four Wheel Drive or just FWD, was founded in 1909 in Clintonville, Wisconsin, as the Badger Four-Wheel Drive Auto Company by Otto Zachow and William Besserdich.-History:...

. They were stripped of all non-essentials, including doors, windscreens and roofs. They were fitted with a bigger radiator
Radiator
Radiators are heat exchangers used to transfer thermal energy from one medium to another for the purpose of cooling and heating. The majority of radiators are constructed to function in automobiles, buildings, and electronics...

, a condenser
Condenser (heat transfer)
In systems involving heat transfer, a condenser is a device or unit used to condense a substance from its gaseous to its liquid state, typically by cooling it. In so doing, the latent heat is given up by the substance, and will transfer to the condenser coolant...

 system, built up leaf spring
Leaf spring
Originally called laminated or carriage spring, a leaf spring is a simple form of spring, commonly used for the suspension in wheeled vehicles...

s for the harsh terrain, wide, low pressure desert tyres
Tire
A tire or tyre is a ring-shaped covering that fits around a wheel rim to protect it and enable better vehicle performance by providing a flexible cushion that absorbs shock while keeping the wheel in close contact with the ground...

, sand mats and channels, plus map containers and a sun compass devised by Bagnold. Wireless
Wireless
Wireless telecommunications is the transfer of information between two or more points that are not physically connected. Distances can be short, such as a few meters for television remote control, or as far as thousands or even millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications...

 trucks had special compartments built into the bodywork to house wireless equipment. Initially the LRDG patrols were equipped with one CMP Ford 15 cwt F15 truck for the commander, while the rest of the patrol used up to 10 Chevrolet 30 cwt WB trucks. From March 1941 the Chevrolets were replaced by the CMP Ford 30 cwt F30, which, because they were four wheel drive and heavier than the Chevrolets, used twice as much fuel, which in turn reduced the range of a patrol. These were replaced from March 1942 with 200 Canadian Chevrolet 1533 X2 30 cwts which had been specially ordered for the LRDG. From July 1942 Willys Jeeps
Willys MB
The Willys MB US Army Jeep and the Ford GPW, were manufactured from 1941 to 1945. These small four-wheel drive utility vehicles are considered the iconic World War II Jeep, and inspired many similar light utility vehicles. Over the years, the World War II Jeep later evolved into the "CJ" civilian...

 began to be issued for the patrol commander and patrol sergeant
Sergeant
Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

.

Weapons

The patrol vehicles were initially armed with 11 Lewis machine guns
Lewis Gun
The Lewis Gun is a World War I–era light machine gun of American design that was perfected and widely used by the British Empire. It was first used in combat in World War I, and continued in service with a number of armed forces through to the end of the Korean War...

, four Boys anti-tank rifles and a Bofors 37 mm
Bofors 37 mm
The Bofors 37 mm gun was an anti-tank gun designed by Swedish manufacturer Bofors in the early 1930s. Licensed copies were produced in a number of countries. The gun was used by some European armies during World War II, mainly at the early stage of the war.-Development history:The gun was...

 anti-tank gun distributed amongst their vehicles. By December 1940, the vehicle armaments had been improved and 'T' Patrol, for example, had five .303 Vickers Medium Mk. I machine guns, five Lewis guns, four Boys anti-tank guns and the Bofors 37 mm. Another Vickers gun used was the heavy Vickers .50 machine gun
Vickers .50 machine gun
The Vickers .50 machine gun, also known as the 'Vickers .50' was basically the same as the Vickers machine gun but scaled up to use a larger calibre round.-Mark II, IV and V:...

, which would be mounted at the rear of the vehicle. All of the unit's vehicles were armed with at least one gun; each vehicle was fitted with six to eight gun mountings, but normally only two or three of them would be in use.

Supplementing their army-supplied weapons, the LRDG was equipped with surplus Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 (RAF) weapons. The most widely used of these was the Vickers K machine gun
Vickers K machine gun
Not to be confused with the Vickers light machine gunThe Vickers K machine gun, known as the Vickers Gas Operated in British service, was a rapid-firing machine gun developed and manufactured for use in aircraft by Vickers-Armstrongs...

, which was sometimes used mounted in pairs. From mid-1941 the LRDG acquired .303 Browning Mk II's from RAF stocks; these weapons were usually mounted in pairs, with a combined rate of fire of 2,400 rounds per minute. When new vehicles were issued in March 1942, several were converted to carry captured dual-purpose 20 mm Breda Model 35
Breda Model 35
The Cannone-Mitragliera da 20/65 modello 35 , also known as Breda Model 35, was a 20 mm anti-aircraft gun produced by the Società Italiana Ernesto Breda of Brescia company in Italy and used during World War II. It was designed in 1932 and was adopted by the Italian armed forces in 1935...

s, which replaced the Bofors 37 mm, and each half-patrol was equipped with one Breda "Gun truck". In September 1942 the .50 Browning AN/M2 heavy machine gun began to replace the Vickers medium and heavy machine guns, and the Boys anti-tank rifle.

The men of the LRDG carried the standard British Second World War small arms, the Short Magazine Lee-Enfield (SMLE) No.1 Mk III* being the primary rifle. Other small arms carried were Thompson submachine gun
Thompson submachine gun
The Thompson is an American submachine gun, invented by John T. Thompson in 1919, that became infamous during the Prohibition era. It was a common sight in the media of the time, being used by both law enforcement officers and criminals...

s and .38 Enfield
Enfield revolver
Enfield Revolver is the name applied to two totally separate models of self-extracting British handgun designed and manufactured at the government-owned Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield; initially the .476 calibre Revolver Enfield Mk I/Mk II revolvers , and later the .38/200 calibre Enfield No...

, Webley & Scott or .45 Colt 1911A1 pistols. Several types of hand grenade
Hand grenade
A hand grenade is any small bomb that can be thrown by hand. Hand grenades are classified into three categories, explosive grenades, chemical and gas grenades. Explosive grenades are the most commonly used in modern warfare, and are designed to detonate after impact or after a set amount of time...

 were used: the Mills bomb
Mills bomb
Mills bomb is the popular name for a series of prominent British hand grenades. They were the first modern fragmentation grenades in the world.-Overview:...

, No. 68 Anti-tank
No. 68 AT Grenade
The Grenade, Rifle No. 68 /AT was a British anti-tank rifle grenade used during World War II.-Overview:The No. 68 was an early form of shaped charge grenade, and has some claim to have been the first High Explosive, Anti Tank device in use...

 and No. 69's
No. 69 grenade
The British No 69 was an offensive hand grenade developed and used during World War II. It was adopted into service due to the need for a grenade with smaller destructive radius than the No 36M "Mills bomb". This allowed the thrower to use a grenade even when there was little in the way of...

. Each truck carried a Lee-Enfield EY rifle fitted with a discharger cup able to fire the No. 36M Mills rifle grenade
Rifle grenade
A rifle grenade is a grenade that uses a rifle-based launcher to permit a longer effective range than would be possible if the grenade was thrown by hand...

. The LRDG also laid land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

s, the most common being the Mk 2 mine
Mk 2 mine
The Mark II mine or A./T. Mine G.S. Mk II was a small British anti-tank blast mine used during the Second World War. The consisted of a body about seven inches in diameter and two inches high . The mine has a central fuze well accessed from the bottom, with a main charge in a cavity around the...

. Lewes bomb
Lewes bomb
The Lewes bomb was a blast-incendiary field expedient explosive device, manufactured by mixing diesel oil and Nobel 808 plastic explosive. It was created by Lieutenant Jock Lewes, one of the original members of L Detachment SAS in 1941...

s and a custom made weapon using Nobel 808
Plastic explosive
Plastic explosive is a specialised form of explosive material. It is a soft and hand moldable solid material. Plastic explosives are properly known as putty explosives within the field of explosives engineering....

 were used to destroy aircraft and other targets.

Captured German and Italian small arms were also used, including the Beretta M 1934, Luger P08 and Walther P38 pistols. The German MP38 and MP40
MP40
The MP 38 and MP 40 , often called Schmeisser, were submachine guns developed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by paratroopers, tank crews, platoon and squad leaders, and other troops during World War II.-Development:The MP 40 descended from its predecessor, the MP 38, which was in turn based...

 submachine gun
Submachine gun
A submachine gun is an automatic carbine, designed to fire pistol cartridges. It combines the automatic fire of a machine gun with the cartridge of a pistol. The submachine gun was invented during World War I , but the apex of its use was during World War II when millions of the weapon type were...

s, and the heavier German MG34 and MG42
MG42
The MG 42 is a 7.9mm universal machine gun that was developed in Nazi Germany and entered service with the Wehrmacht in 1942...

, and Italian Breda M37
Breda M37
The Breda Modello 37 was an Italian heavy machine gun adopted in 1937. It was the standard machine gun for the Royal Italian Army during World War II...

 and Breda M38 machine gun
Machine gun
A machine gun is a fully automatic mounted or portable firearm, usually designed to fire rounds in quick succession from an ammunition belt or large-capacity magazine, typically at a rate of several hundred rounds per minute....

s were also captured and put to use.

Communications

In the LRP most of the radio operators were New Zealanders, but the LRDG radio operators were all from the Royal Corps of Signals
Royal Corps of Signals
The Royal Corps of Signals is one of the combat support arms of the British Army...

. These men were skilled in communications and were able to maintain and repair their equipment without any outside help. On only three occasions did a broken radio prevent a patrol communicating with its headquarters. All LRDG patrols included one vehicle equipped with an Army No. 11 Wireless Set
Army No. 11 Wireless Set
The No. 11 Wireless Set was a wireless radio transceiver used by the British Army during World War II.-History:The No. 11 Set was designed in 1938 to replace the 1933 No. 1 Wireless Set. Originally intended for tanks, it was used for ground communications of the British Army for the early part of...

 and a non-military Philips
Philips
Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. , more commonly known as Philips, is a multinational Dutch electronics company....

 model 635 receiver. The No 11 Set had been designed for use in tanks, and had transmitter
Transmitter
In electronics and telecommunications a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which, with the aid of an antenna, produces radio waves. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating...

 and receiver
Receiver (radio)
A radio receiver converts signals from a radio antenna to a usable form. It uses electronic filters to separate a wanted radio frequency signal from all other signals, the electronic amplifier increases the level suitable for further processing, and finally recovers the desired information through...

 circuits; the Royal Signals expected to use the No. 11 set to transmit and receive between 3 miles (4.8 km) and 20 miles (32.2 km) with the use of 6 feet (1.8 m) or 9 feet (2.7 m) antennas
Antenna (radio)
An antenna is an electrical device which converts electric currents into radio waves, and vice versa. It is usually used with a radio transmitter or radio receiver...

.
The LRDG used Morse code
Morse code
Morse code is a method of transmitting textual information as a series of on-off tones, lights, or clicks that can be directly understood by a skilled listener or observer without special equipment...

 for all transmissions, and were able to transmit over great distances using either a dipole antenna
Dipole antenna
A dipole antenna is a radio antenna that can be made of a simple wire, with a center-fed driven element. It consists of two metal conductors of rod or wire, oriented parallel and collinear with each other , with a small space between them. The radio frequency voltage is applied to the antenna at...

 system attached to a 6.3 feet (1.9 m) rod antenna mounted on the truck which was adequate up to 500 miles (804.7 km), or for greater distances, a Wyndom dipole system slung between two 17 feet (5.2 m) tall poles. The disadvantage of using the Wyndom system was that it took time to erect and work out the correct antenna length, so it could only be used in a relatively safe area. To power the No. 11 set extra batteries had to be carried by the radio vehicles.
The Phillips receiver was used to monitor Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time
Greenwich Mean Time is a term originally referring to mean solar time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. It is arguably the same as Coordinated Universal Time and when this is viewed as a time zone the name Greenwich Mean Time is especially used by bodies connected with the United...

 (GMT) time checks.

While on the move the lead vehicles of the patrol commanders and sergeants flew a small flag. Because the LRP was organised on divisional cavalry lines the leaders carried green flags for 'A' (HQ) Troop, black for 'B' Troop, yellow for 'C' Troop and red for 'D'. When the LRDG was organised into 11 vehicle patrols this was simplified to a green flag displaying the patrol letter in white; the later half-patrols used a plain green flag on occasion. When it became necessary to change course from an intended route, or in the event of enemy action, patrol movements were controlled by a simple semaphore flag
Flag semaphore
Semaphore Flags is the system for conveying information at a distance by means of visual signals with hand-held flags, rods, disks, paddles, or occasionally bare or gloved hands. Information is encoded by the position of the flags; it is read when the flag is in a fixed position...

 system using blue and white signal flags, or hand signals, depending on how widely dispersed the trucks were.

Navigation

All trucks of the LRDG were equipped with the Bagnold sun compass and some trucks were also equipped with a P8 Tank Compass. Each patrol had a navigator who always rode in the second truck in the formation. He was equipped with a theodolite
Theodolite
A theodolite is a precision instrument for measuring angles in the horizontal and vertical planes. Theodolites are mainly used for surveying applications, and have been adapted for specialized purposes in fields like metrology and rocket launch technology...

 and astronomical position tables
Ephemeris
An ephemeris is a table of values that gives the positions of astronomical objects in the sky at a given time or times. Different kinds of ephemerides are used for astronomy and astrology...

 with which to plot star sightings
Celestial navigation
Celestial navigation, also known as astronavigation, is a position fixing technique that has evolved over several thousand years to help sailors cross oceans without having to rely on estimated calculations, or dead reckoning, to know their position...

, and maps. Watches were used and adjusted each evening using the GMT time check. One major problem faced early on by the LRDG was a lack of accurate maps for Libya in particular. Patrols had to do their own surveys and make their own maps of each route they took. In July 1941 the Survey Section was formed to carry out this task.

History

The LRDG area of operations between 1940–1943 was the Libyan desert
Libyan Desert
The Libyan Desert covers an area of approximately 1,100,000 km2, it extends approximately 1100 km from east to west, and 1,000 km from north to south, in about the shape of a rectangle...

, which stretches about 930 miles (1,496.7 km) south from the Mediterranean to the Tibesti
Tibesti Mountains
The Tibesti Mountains are a range of inactive volcanoes located on the northern edge of the Chad Basin in the Borkou- and Tibesti Region of northern Chad. The massif is one of the most prominent features of the Central-Sahara desert and covers an area of approximately 100,000 km². The northern...

 and the Jebel Uweinat
Jebel Uweinat
Jebel Uweinat is a mountain range in the area of the Egyptian-Libyan-Sudanese border. The mountain lies about 40 km S-SE of Jabal Arkanu...

 mountains, and about 1200 miles (1,931.2 km) from the Nile valley in the east to the mountains of Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 and Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

 in the west. Paved roads were non-existent and only small tracks and pathways crossed the area. The daytime temperatures could reach 60 °C (140 °F) and at night drop below freezing. The only water in the area is found in a number of small oases, which is also where the only vegetation grows.

The first LRP patrol began during the Italian invasion of Egypt
Italian invasion of Egypt
The Italian Invasion of Egypt was an Italian offensive action against British, Commonwealth and Free French forces during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. Initially, the goal of the offensive was to seize the Suez Canal. To accomplish this, Italian forces from Libya would have...

. 'W' Patrol commanded by Captain Mitford set out on 15 September 1940 to carry out a reconnaissance of Kufra
Kufra
Kufra is a basin and oasis group in Al Kufrah District, southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya. Kufra is historically important above all because at the end of nineteenth century it became the center and holy place of the Senussi order...

 and Uweinat. Finding no trace of the Italians, they turned south and attacked fuel dumps, aircraft and an Italian convoy carrying supplies to Kufra. 'T' Patrol, commanded by Captain Clayton, reconnoitred the main route between Kufra and Uweinat, then drove south to meet up with 'W' Patrol; both units returned to base, having captured two Italian trucks and official mail. The Italian response to these raids was to reduce their front line forces and increase the number of troops garrisoning the area from 2,900 men in September to 5,500 by November 1940.
On 27 December 1940, 'G' and 'T' Patrols left Cairo and crossed the desert to northwest of Kufra. On arrival they met with representatives from the Free French forces in Chad
Chad
Chad , officially known as the Republic of Chad, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. It is bordered by Libya to the north, Sudan to the east, the Central African Republic to the south, Cameroon and Nigeria to the southwest, and Niger to the west...

, and on 11 January carried out a joint raid on the Italian fort at Murzuk
Murzuk
Murzuk is an oasis town and the capital of the Murzuq District in the Fezzan region of southwest Libya. Murzuk lies on the northern edge of the Murzuq Desert, a desert of ergs or great sand dunes, and section of the Sahara Desert.-History:...

. After two hours' fighting the fort remained in Italian hands, but the adjoining airfield had been destroyed. The units then withdrew southwards towards the Free French post at Zouar.

On 31 January they were intercepted by the Compagnia Autosahariana di Cufra
Auto-Saharan Company
The Auto-Saharan Companies were Italian military units specialised in long range patrols of the Sahara Desert. The units operated from the late 1930s to the Italian surrender in 1943.-History:...

, an Italian unit similar to the LRDG, in the Gebel Sherif
Gebel Sherif
Jebel Sherif is a mountain in southeastern Libya, about 130 km southwest of Kufra. It was the site of an action during the Battle of Kufra.-References:*http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/WH2-1Epi-fig-WH2-1Epi-e017a.html...

 valley. The LRDG had one man killed and three men captured, including Major Clayton, and three trucks destroyed during the battle. The Italians losses were five killed and three wounded, and one truck was abandoned. Four members of the LRDG escaped by walking 200 miles (321.9 km) to safety in ten days with no food and only a two gallon
Gallon
The gallon is a measure of volume. Historically it has had many different definitions, but there are three definitions in current use: the imperial gallon which is used in the United Kingdom and semi-officially within Canada, the United States liquid gallon and the lesser used United States dry...

 water can between them. The patrol arrived back in Egypt on 9 February; it had covered about 4500 miles (7,242 km), experiencing the loss of six trucks, four by enemy action and two by mechanical breakdowns. One vehicle with a broken rear axle had been towed about 900 miles (1,448.4 km) before it could be repaired. Total casualties were three dead and three captured. Major Clayton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order
The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

.

After Operation Compass
Operation Compass
Operation Compass was the first major Allied military operation of the Western Desert Campaign during World War II. British and Commonwealth forces attacked Italian forces in western Egypt and eastern Libya in December 1940 to February 1941. The attack was a complete success...

 ended with the Italians forced out of Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica is the eastern coastal region of Libya.Also known as Pentapolis in antiquity, it was part of the Creta et Cyrenaica province during the Roman period, later divided in Libia Pentapolis and Libia Sicca...

 it was decided to move the LRDG from Cairo to Kufra. At the same time the LRDG was expanded with the addition of 'Y' and 'S' Patrols. When the German Afrika Korps
Afrika Korps
The German Africa Corps , or the Afrika Korps as it was popularly called, was the German expeditionary force in Libya and Tunisia during the North African Campaign of World War II...

 under command of General Erwin Rommel
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 counter attacked in April 1941, the LRDG was ordered to reinforce the Kufra area. 'R' Patrol were based at Taiserbo, 'S' Patrol at Zighen, and the headquarters LRDG, 'T' Patrol, and the Free French were at Kufra, under command of Bagnold. The detached 'G' and 'Y' Patrols were based at Siwa Oasis
Siwa Oasis
The Siwa Oasis is an oasis in Egypt, located between the Qattara Depression and the Egyptian Sand Sea in the Libyan Desert, nearly 50 km east of the Libyan border, and 560 km from Cairo....

, under command of XIII Corps
XIII Corps (United Kingdom)
XIII Corps was a British infantry corps during World War I and World War II.-World War I:XIII Corps was formed in France on 15 November 1915 under Lieutenant-General Walter Congreve to be part of Fourth Army. It was first seriously engaged during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. On the First day on...

.

The LRDG air link was created during the occupation of Kufra by Major Guy Lenox Prendergast
Guy Lenox Prendergast
Guy Lenox Prendergast was an Saharan explorer and officer in the British Army during the Second World War.-History:Guy Lenox Prendergast was one of a group of British Saharan explorers in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These men included Ralph Alger Bagnold, Pat Clayton and Bill Kennedy Shaw. they...

. Appreciating the value of aircraft for reconnaissance, liaison, evacuating wounded and flights to GHQ Cairo, he had two Waco aircraft
Waco Aircraft Company
The Waco Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturer located in Troy, Ohio, USA. Between 1919 and 1947, the company produced a wide range of civilian biplanes....

 fitted with long range fuel tanks. Prendergast flew one himself and Sergeant
Sergeant
Sergeant is a rank used in some form by most militaries, police forces, and other uniformed organizations around the world. Its origins are the Latin serviens, "one who serves", through the French term Sergent....

 R. F. T. Barker flew the other. When Bagnold was appointed to the General Staff
General Staff
A military staff, often referred to as General Staff, Army Staff, Navy Staff or Air Staff within the individual services, is a group of officers and enlisted personnel that provides a bi-directional flow of information between a commanding officer and subordinate military units...

 Cairo in August 1941, Prendergast was given command of the LRDG.

The LRDG now began a series of patrols behind the Axis lines. Near the end of July 'T' Patrol left for the desert to the south of the Gulf of Sirte. One 'T' Patrol truck managed to observe the main coastal road, along which Axis traffic was passing. They were followed two or three weeks later by 'S' Patrol, who carried out a similar reconnaissance between Jalo oasis
Jalo oasis
Jalo Oasis is an oasis in Cyrenaica, Libya, located west of the Great Sand Sea and about 250 km south-east of the Gulf of Sirte. Quite large, long and up to wide, it supports a number of settlements, the largest of which is the town of Jalu...

 and Agedabia. Both patrols returned safely to Kufra without being discovered. In August 1941 'R' Patrol relieved 'G' and 'Y' Patrols at Siwa and was joined by 'T' Patrol in October.

Eighth Army command

In November 1941 the LRDG, now under command of the newly formed Eighth Army
Eighth Army (United Kingdom)
The Eighth Army was one of the best-known formations of the British Army during World War II, fighting in the North African and Italian campaigns....

, moved from Kufra to Siwa. The patrols were given the task of watching the desert tracks south of Jebel Akhdar
Jebel Akhdar (Libya)
The Jebel Akhdar is a heavily forested, fertile upland area in northeastern Libya. It is located in the modern Shabiyahs or Districts of Derna, Jabal al Akhdar, and Marj.-Geography:...

 and report any signs of reinforcements and withdrawals. 'R1' Patrol was to pick up Captain David Stirling
David Stirling
Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling, DSO, DFC, OBE was a Scottish laird, mountaineer, World War II British Army officer, and the founder of the Special Air Service.-Life before the war:...

 and 30 men who had parachuted behind the lines to raid airfields to the west of Tobruk
Tobruk
Tobruk or Tubruq is a city, seaport, and peninsula on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District and has a population of 120,000 ....

. Only 21 men arrived at the rendezvous and were returned to the British lines, later becoming the nucleus of the Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

 (SAS). One of the other roles assigned to the LRDG was to transport SAS units to behind enemy lines; this continued until the SAS were issued with their own transport in 1942. In early November 'T2' Patrol took four British officers to the Gebel and was to return and collect them three weeks later. The officers were the advance land party of Operation Flipper
Operation Flipper
Operation Flipper was a British commando raid, during the Second World War, that included among its objectives an attack on the headquarters of Erwin Rommel, the commander of the Axis forces in North Africa. It was timed to strike on the night of 17/18 November 1941, just before the start of...

 which had planned to kill General Rommel.

On 24 November, in support of Operation Crusader
Operation Crusader
Operation Crusader was a military operation by the British Eighth Army between 18 November–30 December 1941. The operation successfully relieved the 1941 Siege of Tobruk....

, the LRDG were ordered to attack Axis rear areas. Already on patrol, 'Y1' and 'Y2' Patrols attacked targets in the Mechili
Mechili
Mechili is a small village in Cyrenaica, Libya and the former site of a turkish fort. It’s nearly east of Benghazi, and west of Timimi.-Geography:Because of its location in the desert, Mechili suffered in the past from isolation...

, Derna and Gazala
Gazala
Gazala, or Ain el Gazala , is a small Libyan village near the coast in the northeastern portion of the country. It is located west of Tobruk....

 area. 'Y1' damaged fifteen vehicles in a transport park and 'Y2' captured a small fort and about 20 Italians. 'S2' and 'R2' Patrols attacked targets in the Benghazi
Benghazi
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya, the main city of the Cyrenaica region , and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. The wider metropolitan area is also a district of Libya...

, Barce and Marawa area, where they ambushed nine vehicles. 'G1' and 'G2' Patrols were assigned the main road near Agedabia where 'G1' made two attacks on road traffic and shot up a few vehicles. After the Axis forces withdrew from Cyrenaica the LRDG moved to a base at Jalo oasis
Jalo oasis
Jalo Oasis is an oasis in Cyrenaica, Libya, located west of the Great Sand Sea and about 250 km south-east of the Gulf of Sirte. Quite large, long and up to wide, it supports a number of settlements, the largest of which is the town of Jalu...

, about 140 miles (225.3 km) to the south-south-east of Ajdabia.

The last operations of 1941 were in December, when the LRDG twice ferried the SAS to and from raids on Axis airfields, attacking the airfields at Sirte
Sirte
Sirte is a city in LibyaSirte may also refer to:* Sirte Declaration, a 1999 resolution to create the African Union* Sirte Oil Company, a Libyan oil companyIn geography:* Gulf of Sirte, alias for Gulf of Sidra on Libya's coast...

 (twice), El Agheila
El Agheila
El Agheila is a coastal city at the bottom of the Gulf of Sidra in far western Cyrenaica, Libya. In 1988 it was placed in Ajdabiya District; between 1995 and 2001 the district name is not known; however, it was again placed into Ajdabiya District in 2001...

, Ajdabia, Nofaliya and Tamit, and destroying 151 aircraft and 30 vehicles. During the second raid at Sirte, the SAS devised a new method of attacking parked aircraft. They drove the LRDG trucks between the rows of aircraft, which were then engaged by machine guns and hand grenades. Prior to this the procedure had been to quietly infiltrate an airfield and place Lewis bombs on aircraft and vehicles, leaving before the bombs exploded, but this attack was so successful that it became the preferred method for attacking airfields.

Road watch

When the LRDG was based at Siwa, they took part in what has since became known as the 'Road Watch' along the Via Balbia
Via Balbia
The Libyan Coastal Highway is a highway that is the only major road that runs along the entire east-west length of the Libyan Mediterranean coastline...

 (the Tripoli
Tripoli
Tripoli is the capital and largest city in Libya. It is also known as Western Tripoli , to distinguish it from Tripoli, Lebanon. It is affectionately called The Mermaid of the Mediterranean , describing its turquoise waters and its whitewashed buildings. Tripoli is a Greek name that means "Three...

 to Benghazi
Benghazi
Benghazi is the second largest city in Libya, the main city of the Cyrenaica region , and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council. The wider metropolitan area is also a district of Libya...

 road). Three patrols were engaged on road watch duties at any one time, with one watching the road for a week to 10 days, another would be en route to relieve them and the third was returning to Siwa after having been relieved. The site of the road watch was about 5 miles (8 km) from the Marble Arch
Marble Arch (Libya)
The Marble Arch , formerly known in Libya as El Gaus , was a monument in Libya built during the days of Italian colonization...

 monument. The road watch patrol would park about 2 miles away from the road and the trucks would be camouflaged
Military camouflage
Military camouflage is one of many means of deceiving an enemy. In practice, it is the application of colour and materials to battledress and military equipment to conceal them from visual observation. The French slang word camouflage came into common English usage during World War I when the...

 using camouflage nets, any local foliage and sand. Before dawn each day two men would move into a well camouflaged position about 350 yards (320 m) from the road. By day they would record the details of all vehicles and troop movements, and at night they would move to about 30 yards (27.4 m) from the road and guess what type of vehicles were passing by their sound and outline. At daylight they were relieved by another pair of men who took over that day's road watch. If tank
Tank
A tank is a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle designed for front-line combat which combines operational mobility, tactical offensive, and defensive capabilities...

s or a large number of troops were seen passing they would radio the LRDG headquarters at Siwa immediately so that by the time the enemy reached the front line, GHQ at Cairo would know they were coming. Once a patrol was relieved they would transmit details of all they had seen back to Siwa. The LRDG did not lose any men or vehicles when on the road watch, but they did have some close encounters. On 21 March 'R1' Patrol was surrounded by a convoy of 27 vehicles and about 200 men who stopped for the night between the watchers and their vehicles. While the road watch was ongoing, other patrols would be attacking targets along other stretches of the Tripoli to Benghazi road, by planting mines or attacking vehicles with machine gun fire. The road was kept under constant observation around the clock from 2 March to 21 July 1942.

After the Battle of Gazala
Battle of Gazala
The Battle of Gazala was an important battle of the Second World War Western Desert Campaign, fought around the port of Tobruk in Libya from 26 May-21 June 1942...

 and the fall of Tobruk
Tobruk
Tobruk or Tubruq is a city, seaport, and peninsula on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border with Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District and has a population of 120,000 ....

 the LRDG were forced to withdraw from Siwa on 28 June. 'A' Squadron withdrew to Cairo to resupply and then moved back to Kufra, while 'B' Squadron moved to Faiyum.

Barce

With the Eighth Army now holding the El Alamein
El Alamein
El Alamein is a town in the northern Matrouh Governorate of Egypt. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, it lies west of Alexandria and northwest of Cairo. As of 2007, it has a local population of 7,397 inhabitants.- Climate :...

 line, plans were submitted to attack the Axis supply lines and the ports of Benghazi
Port of Benghazi
The Port of Benghazi is a major seaport in the city of Benghazi, Libya, on the Mediterranean Sea coast within the Gulf of Sidra.-History:A natural seaport, it was founded as Euesperides by the ancient Greeks of Cyrenaica in the 6th Century BC. After passing it to the Egyptian pharaoh Ptolemy III,...

 and Tobruk. In September 1942, British Commandos
British Commandos
The British Commandos were formed during the Second World War in June 1940, following a request from the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for a force that could carry out raids against German-occupied Europe...

 would attack Tobruk by land and sea (Operation Agreement
Operation Agreement
Operation Agreement consisted of a series of ground and amphibious operations carried out by British, Rhodesian and New Zealand forces on German and Italian-held Tobruk on 13 September 1942, during the Second World War. A Special Interrogation Group, fluent in German, also took part in missions...

). The SAS would attack Benghazi (Operation Bigamy
Operation Bigamy
Operation Bigamy was a raid during the Second World War by the Special Air Service in September 1942. Under the command of Lieutenant Colonel David Stirling and supported by the Long Range Desert Group. The force were to destroy the harbour and storage facilities at Benghazi and raid the airfield...

) and the Sudan Defence Force
Sudan Defence Force
The Sudan Defence Force was a Sudanese military unit formed in 1925, as its name indicates, to maintain the borders of the Sudan under the British administration...

 would capture Jalo oasis (Operation Nicety
Operation Nicety
Operation Nicety was an operation in September 1942 during the Second World War by the Sudan Defence Force. It was designed to support the raiding forces taking part in Operation Agreement, Operation Caravan and Operation Brevity. The objective of the operation was the seizure of the Jalo oasis in...

). The LRDG would be used to guide the attacking forces to their targets and at the same time, a LRDG force would attack Barce (Operation Caravan
Operation Caravan
Operation Caravan was a subsidiary of Operation Agreement under which four simultaneous raids were carried out against important Axis Lines of Communication positions....

). The Barce force consisted of 17 vehicles and 47 men of 'G1' and 'T1' Patrols, which had to travel 1155 miles (1,858.8 km) to reach their target. On arrival 'T1' Patrol attacked the airfield and 'G1' the Barce barracks. The attack on the airfield destroyed 35 aircraft according to an Italian prisoner of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

. Official Italian figures quote 16 aircraft destroyed and seven damaged.

On 30 September 1942, the LRDG ceased to be under command of the Eighth Army and came under direct command of GHQ Middle East. The final LRDG operation in North Africa was in Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

 during Operation Pugilist
Operation Pugilist
Operation Pugilist was an Allied operation in Tunisia during the Second World War. In his General Plan, General Bernard Montgomery stated "...the object of operation Pugilist is to destroy the enemy now opposing Eighth Army in the Mareth position, and to advance and capture Sfax." Pugilist itself...

 when they guided the 2nd New Zealand Division around the Mareth Line
Mareth Line
The Mareth Line was a system of fortifications built by the French between the towns of Medenine and Gabès in southern Tunisia, prior to World War II...

 in March 1943.

Post 1943 operations

In May 1943 the LRDG was sent to Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 to retrain in mountain warfare. However, following the Italian armistice in 1943, they were sent to Leros
Leros
Leros is a Greek island and municipality in the Dodecanese in the southern Aegean Sea. It lies 317 km from Athens's port of Piraeus, from which it can be reached by an 11-hour ferry ride . Leros is part of the Kalymnos peripheral unit...

, one of the Dodecanese islands, to serve as normal infantry. They later took part in the Battle of Leros
Battle of Leros
The Battle of Leros was the central event of the Dodecanese Campaign of the Second World War, and is widely used as an alternate name for the whole campaign. Leros was occupied by British forces on 15 September 1943...

, where the commanding officer John Richard Easonsmith
John Richard Easonsmith
John Richard Easonsmith DSO MC was an officer in the British Army during the Second World War. At the start of the war he enlisted as a private and was later commissioned and served in the Western Desert with the Long Range Desert Group...

 was killed and replaced by David Lloyd Owen
David Lloyd Owen
Major-General David Lanyon Lloyd Owen CB, DSO, OBE, MC was a British soldier and writer. During World War II he commanded the Long Range Desert Group.-Early career:...

. After the battle the last New Zealanders, two officers and approximately 46 men, were withdrawn from the LRDG and returned to their division.

In December 1943, the LRDG re-organised into two squadrons of eight patrols. Each patrol contained one officer and 10 other ranks. Major Moir Stormonth Darling was given command of the British Squadron and Major Kenneth Henry Lazarus the Rhodesian Squadron. Patrols were then parachuted north of Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 to obtain information about German troop movements, and also carried out raids on the Dalmatian Islands and Corfu
Corfu
Corfu is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the second largest of the Ionian Islands, and, including its small satellite islands, forms the edge of the northwestern frontier of Greece. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit, and is administered as a single municipality. The...

.

In August 1944, British Squadron patrols were parachuted into Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

. One patrol destroyed two 40 feet (12.2 m) spans of a large railway bridge, which caused widespread disruption to the movement of German troops and supplies. The commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel Owen and a team of 36 men were parachuted into Albania
Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

 in September 1944. Their mission was to follow the German retreat and assist Albanian resistance groups in attacking them. In October 1944, two British Squadron patrols were parachuted into the Florina
Florina
Florina is a town and municipality in mountainous northwestern Macedonia, Greece. Its motto is, 'Where Greece begins'. It is also the Metropolitan seat for the region. It lies in the central part of Florina peripheral unit, of which it is the capital. Florina belongs to the periphery of West...

 area of Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

. Here they mined a road used by the retreating Germans, destroying three vehicles and blocking the road. Firing on the stranded convoy from an adjacent hillside, they directed RAF aircraft in to destroy the rest of the convoy.

After the end of the war in Europe, the leaders of the LRDG made a request to the War Office
War Office
The War Office was a department of the British Government, responsible for the administration of the British Army between the 17th century and 1964, when its functions were transferred to the Ministry of Defence...

 for the unit to be transferred to the Far East
Far East
The Far East is an English term mostly describing East Asia and Southeast Asia, with South Asia sometimes also included for economic and cultural reasons.The term came into use in European geopolitical discourse in the 19th century,...

 to conduct operations against the Japanese Empire. The request was declined and the LRDG was disbanded in August 1945.

Legacy

The Long Range Desert Group was disbanded at the end of the Second World War. The only comparable British Army units today are the Mobility troops of the Special Air Service. Each of the regular army Special Air Service squadrons has a Mobility troop. Like the LRDG, they are specialists in using vehicles, trained in an advanced level of motor mechanics to fix any problem with their vehicles, and are experts in desert warfare.

The Long Range Desert Group are one of the Second World War units represented by the Special Air Service Association. Other wartime units represented include all the SAS regiments, the Special Raiding Squadron, the Special Boat Service
Special Boat Service
The Special Boat Service is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the same Director Special...

 (Wartime), the Phantom Signal Squadron
GHQ Liaison Regiment
GHQ Liaison Regiment was a special reconnaissance unit first formed in 1939 during the early stages of World War II and based at Pembroke Lodge, a Georgian house in Richmond Park, London.- History :...

, the Raiding Support Regiment and the Greek Sacred Squadron
Sacred Band (World War II)
The Sacred band was a Greek special forces unit formed in 1942 in the Middle East, composed entirely of Greek officers and officer cadets under the command of Col. Christodoulos Tsigantes. It fought alongside the SAS in the Libyan desert and the Aegean, as well as with General Leclerc's Free...

.

The New Zealand Army
New Zealand Army
The New Zealand Army , is the land component of the New Zealand Defence Force and comprises around 4,500 Regular Force personnel, 2,000 Territorial Force personnel and 500 civilians. Formerly the New Zealand Military Forces, the current name was adopted around 1946...

 erected a permanent memorial to the LRDG at the New Zealand Special Air Service barracks, in the Papakura Military Camp
Papakura Military Camp
The Papakura Military Camp is a New Zealand Army military camp located in the Auckland suburb of Papakura North, in northern New Zealand. It is the National Headquarters for the New Zealand Special Air Service.-Geography:...

. On 7 August 2009, two honour boards containing details of every New Zealand soldier who served in the LRDG were unveiled.

One of the LRDG's Chevrolet WB trucks is displayed in the Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum
Imperial War Museum is a British national museum organisation with branches at five locations in England, three of which are in London. The museum was founded during the First World War in 1917 and intended as a record of the war effort and sacrifice of Britain and her Empire...

 in London. It was presented to the museum by the LRDG Association, after being recovered from the Libyan desert in 1983 by David Lloyd Owen, by then a retired Major General and chairman of the Association. It is preserved in the condition in which it was discovered, rusted but largely intact.

See also

  • No. 1 Demolition Squadron
  • Italian auto-saharan companies
    Auto-Saharan Company
    The Auto-Saharan Companies were Italian military units specialised in long range patrols of the Sahara Desert. The units operated from the late 1930s to the Italian surrender in 1943.-History:...


External links

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