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Long Range Desert Group

The Long Range Desert Group (LRDG), during World War II, was a British Army unit. The unit was founded, in Egypt following the Italian declaration of war (June 1940), by Major Ralph A. Bagnold with the assistance of Captains Clayton and Shaw, acting under the direction of General Wavell. The group specialised in mechanized reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and desert navigation. The group was disbanded at the end of the war. The LRDG was nicknamed "the Mosquito Army", by Wavell. Special Air Service soldiers would refer to it as "the Libyan Desert Taxi Service".

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Formation and Equipment

The unit (initially known as the Long Range Patrol Group) was assigned 150 New Zealand volunteers. Bagnold had reasoned that the New Zealanders, being mostly farmers, would be more adept at using and maintaining machinery. The unit arranged into 3 main patrols, of 40 soldiers each (using 30-cwt Chevrolet[?] lorries), supported by 3 15-cwt command cars[?]. Each patrol was equipped with 10xLewis machine guns[?], 4xBoyes anti-tank rifles[?], and a 37-mm Bofors[?] anti-aircraft gun; in addition to Brens, Thompson sub-machine guns[?], and other weapons. The unit also used Army No. II wireless sets.

Initial Training During the initial training, Shaw was responsible for teaching navigation, while Bagnold taught communications.

Combat History

On September 13, 1940, the unit formed its first base at the Siwa Oasis. They arrived there by driving ~240km across the Egyptian Sand Sea. On September 15, two patrols of the LRDG were engaged in the unit's first combat operations. In this action Captain Mitford[?]'s unit traveled to (via the Kalansho Sand Sea), and attacked, Italian petrol dumps and emergency landing fields along the Palificata[?]. Meanwhile, Clayton's group passed through Italian territory to contact the French forces in Chad. It is believed that the LDRG helped persuade the forces there to join the Free French Forces. The patrols rendezvoused at the southern tip of the Gilf Kebir[?] (where a supply dump was located) and then returned to Cairo, via the Kharga Oasis[?]. Each patrol had traveled ~6,000km.

Following the September expedition, the War Office[?] approved a doubling of the unit's size, it's renaming, and the promotion of Bagnold to Lieutenant Colonel. The enlarged unit gathered volunteers from British, Indian, and Rhodesian units. Bagnold wrote, "During the next few months, raids were made on a number of enemy-held oases...isolated garrisons were shot up...the raiders seemed to appear from a fourth dimension...Graziani was beginning to doubt his intelligence reports [and] the Italian army halted for...months."

Chad and Kufra

In September 1940, Bagnold travelled to Fort Lamy[?], Chad, where he helped persuade the French colony to join the Allies. The LRDG and Free French forces worked together to raid Italian positions in the area of the Murzuk Oasis[?] and the combined forces, using French artillery, captured Kufra[?]. In April 1941, the LRDG's headquarters was moved to Kufra. Bagnold wrote, "Temperatures exceeding 50°C were found to be tolerable, even on a restricted water ration, owing to the dryness. The worst discomfort came from...sandstorms[?], which lasted several days. They made eating very difficult." From Kufra, the LRDG commanders would essentialy serve as the military commanders of a region approximately the size of northern Europe, a region which had not seen rain in 70 years.

Bagnold Leaves the LRDG

During the summer of 1941, Bagnold recruited another prewar exploration companion, Guy Prendergast[?], to serve as his executive officer. On July 1, Bagnold left the unit, to serve in Cario as a Colonel, and Prendergast became the LRDG's commander. Prendergast would be succeeded by Jake Easonsmith[?] who was followed by David Lloyd Owen[?].


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