Recommended LRDG Books and Reference Materials on North Africa, the Mediterranean & the Long Range Desert Group

LRDG & Desert Books

  • The Raiders – Desert Strike Force – Arthur Swinson – 1968 Edition
  • The Long Range Desert Group in WWII - Gavin Mortimer
  • Vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group - Gavin Mortimer
  • A British Achilles - Lorna Almond Windmill - 2005
  • George Jellicoe SAS and SBS Commander - Nicholas Jellicoe
  • Tobruk A Raid Too Far - David Jefferson - 2013
  • Tobruk Commando - Gordon Landsborough
  • Operation Agreement: Jewish Commandos and the raid on Tobruk - John Sadler
  • From Cairo to Cassino - “A Memoir of Paddy Costello” - Dan Devin
  • The Sixth Man - The Extraordinary Life of Paddy Costello - James McNeish
  • G Patrol - Michael Crichton-Stuart
  • Providence Their Guide - David Lloyd Owen
  • Book Review

    Providence Their Guide book cover

    Providence Their Guide

    By David Lloyd Owen

    When in 1980 David Lloyd Owen published this book it provided a critical element to the written history of the LRDG as he ultimately became at the age of 26 in 1943 its commander until the units disbandment in 1945. His post war military career saw him reach the lofty heights of Major General and also as chairman of the LRDG Association. And the fact that it was written some 40 years after the events gave Lloyd Owen the luxury of a perspective and detail that was not afforded to Kennedy Shaw in his 1945 book.

    While larger maps of the area of operations are limited to inside the front and back covers they are of the Western Desert and the Adriatic, the disastrous Greek Islands campaign map is tucked away on page 132 in the book. There are many excellent photos however interspersed throughout and most now familiar with any enthusiast of the LRDG history. And the dustjacket of the 1980 edition is adorned with a painting by Brigadier George Davy and titled Rhodesians of the Long Range Desert Group on Road Watch, Libya (original in the Imperial War Museum) – a thoroughly apt and evocative cover for the cover.

    While considering writing an account of the unit in the mid 1970’s it appears a chance meeting with a seventeen year old medal collector, and subsequently his father, who had also served in the desert during the war and was now in publishing, provided the impetus to press on with what became this book.

    The book is split into two parts, the first on the formation and operations in the Western Desert and the second on the Dodecanese, Italian and Balkan theatres. The first chapter, unsurprisingly, set the scene by focusing on Ralph Bagnold and the story of how he Prendergast, Kennedy Shaw, Clayton and Harding- Newman created the concept and ethos of the LRDG and how Bagnold sold the idea to the highest levels of Middle East Command. The following chapter then focused on the patrol structure, as Lloyd Owen felt that without an understanding of how the LRDG organised its men compared to the orthodox military set up, the subsequent narrative would be more difficult to appreciate. This chapter is not only an excellent summary for any reader to understand the workings of the basic unit but also showed that as an officer, Lloyd Owen had an understanding of the men he commanded and their roles, motivations and attributes.

    After further chapters on the iconic patrols and actions of 1940/41 he spends some time on the characters of Easonsmith and Prendergast. Without doubt he held them both in high regard and gives the reader an insight into their personalities but also had some interesting observations on the selection process needed to sift the huge amount of volunteers into a few worthy men who could cope with the rigours of long periods of desert life. Then he moves onto the November offensive of 1941, the introduction to and work with the SAS and of course the Road Watch. Each chapter is approached with the same generosity and modesty he displays throughout his writing along with detail enough to delight and satisfy the reader. His matter of fact summary of the Road Watch is a masterclass in humility, ‘Not only was it tedious but it was something we all hated doing…we did, however, understand its importance, which was very considerable’.

    And unsurprisingly, the move from Siwa to Kufra, the raids on Beghazi, Barce and Tobruk all follow in his narrative along with mentions of the SAS operations and personalities, Popski and of course liberal doses of the personalities within the LRDG and their astonishing experiences and actions. The first half of the book finishes with the move into Tunisia which heralded the end of the classic desert background the LRDG was destined to become most associated with.

    In part two the new charter for the LRDG, operating in small patrols working behind enemy lines, seems at face value to be a continuation of the desert work but now did not involve being a vehicle based unit and while jeeps were available when feasible, the LRDG were to have to learn mountaineering skills and operating on foot carrying heavy loads – something that led to a significant minority leaving the LRDG.

    After training in Lebanon and the introduction of Parachute training, as the need to be inserted many miles from the front allowed no other option if seaborne infiltration was not possible, the expected focus on Sicily and Italy disappeared with the Italian Armistice. The rushed push into the Aegean did not bode well and the lack of information was in Lloyd Owens words, ‘disgraceful’. Brendan O Carroll, in his excellent book LRDG in the Aegean, has produced the most comprehensive and detailed account of operations here, but Lloyd Owen conveyed the frustration over being deployed without reconnaissance, intelligence or the numbers that could really have made a difference.

    After the disaster at Leros, the LRDG again brushed itself off before being sent to operations in Albania, Yugoslavia and the Dalmatian Islands. Here the patrols again got its ‘wheels’ and operated in Jeeps but again, much of the terrain dictated that long, torturous marches through the mountains was often required. They were again deployed on the Yugoslav coast reporting Axis shipping and air movements. Clearly as the chapters unfold, it was obvious the LRDG patrols contributed significantly to operations in the region, but as commander, his exposure to the bigger picture perhaps increased his frustrations. As he states ‘In the middle of 1944 there were a total of eighteen different parties on various tasks….stretching from the north east corner of Italy through Yugoslavia and Albania to Greece…..nor was it easy to control so many operations in such diverse types of country’.

    This section of the book was particularly interesting as the Yugoslav, Albanian and Greek operations are little written about and the chapter on working with the RAF and Navy are particularly illuminating. And through all of the narrative the author displays his trademark humility and acknowledgement that the unit were still in charge of their own selection of men and that those standards ensured a constant flow of the very best soldiers the Commonwealth could provide.

    Inevitably in an area of such political turmoil both the LRDG and SBS were to feel the weight of local rivalry when Yugoslavia under Tito realised their desire for power. For many months the brave Yugoslav partisans fought side by side with their counterparts in the LRDG but as communism struck almost overnight everything changed and past alliances meant nothing. The last few weeks of the war were not easy for the unit, but it is clear their spirit never flagged and they took on each new task as though it was their first.

    But the inevitable happened as the war came to a close and on 21st June 1945 Lloyd Owen recollected how he assembled the unit and broke the news of their disbandment to them.

    This is one of those books that many have read and put away on a shelf as newer and more comprehensive accounts and ones that shine a light on specific events fill collections. However, rereading this book served only to remind me of why I got interested in the unit all those years ago. I had read the Phantom Major, Popskis Private Army and The Long Range Desert Group in the 1970’s but it was undoubtedly Lloyd Owens book that really galvanised my interest in all things desert and beyond. Perhaps it was due to the fact he commanded the unit from 1943 that so much was written by him of the operations after the desert, but that is what his book brings, a complete anthology of operations, all set skilfully against the backdrop of the politics and high-level decisions that pervaded the time. If you were only to be allowed to have one book on the LRDG in your library or to take to a desert island, this would be the one you would need to take.

    In this review I shall leave the last words to value of this work to the author himself: ‘Five years and fourteen days after its formation in Cairo, the Long Range Desert Group ended its active career. I believe that its days in the desert have made some mark in military history, but few people realise that our story did not end until over two years after that campaign had been won.’

    Contributor Review by Duncan B.

    Book Review

    G patrol book cover

    G Patrol

    By Michael Crichton-Stuart

    First published in 1958, and with an introduction by Bernard Fergusson DSO, OBE, British Army officer and military historian the author acknowledges that but for Alistair Timpson MC on whose account half the book is based, the book might never have been written. And of the other half, he draws heavily on the accounts of Hon. Bernard Bruce MC (last two chapters), J. Dennis (Barce raid Ch 13.) and Martin Gibbs (2IC G patrol – Ch 5 and 6). This in no way detracts from the content as when it was written only David Lloyd Owen had published his adventures and so this was perhaps the most detailed look at life in an LRDG patrol at that time. Since there have been many more accounts as we know, and Timpson’s meticulous account was published in full by his son after his death in 2000 and will be reviewed later.

    The first two chapters quickly takes us first to the cultural eye opener of a Guards officer coming to terms with the already experienced New Zealand LRDG members. But the author was savvy enough to recognise these immense differences in background while understanding their shared aims – and a working relationship that was to be built on trust, not background or privilege. G Patrol had been raised exclusively from the brave but ultra-traditional Guards regiments of the UK as many of the original New Zealanders in the LRDG were called back to their original regiments. There was now a mix of Guards, New Zealanders, Rhodesians and Yeomanry – an unusual cocktail of arms but one that was ultimately to prove formidable. Then as the patrol left on the last day of 1940 with Claytons T Patrol of experienced New Zealanders and the story goes into some detail of the trials and tribulations of desert travel and operations.

    In Chapter three they meet the French soldiers of Col d’Ornano before in the second chapter going into detail of their role in the battle of Murzuk and their foray into Vichy territory and the Tibesti Hills. Throughout there is a detailed account of the lands they travelled, the flora and fauna and the trials of operating so far from any base or support. Chapter four focuses on their stay at Kufra and again, there is a great deal of detail which gives a real authenticity and feel for the life of the LRDG. The author relates the lost of Clayton and his need to take command of both T and G patrol¸ and a 1200 mile epic return to Cairo.

    Chapters five to nine will give any LRDG enthusiast plenty to digest as the winter operations of 1941-2 are explained in detail and the reader is introduced to the famous Road Watches that began in the Spring of 1942. There is good details on the challenges of these watches, he first forays with the SAS are of course, mentioned. As with the rest of the story so far, the author has the gift of being able to write in an easy to understand and visualise style of description rather than just a list of things they did and places they went.

    Crichton-Stuart leaves G Patrol in the summer of 1942 so his narrative is taken from Timpson, Bruce and Dennis but regardless of this the writing is clear and interesting with much detail. On choice of weapons ‘G patrol …..individualists might nurse the odd Spandau, Bren or Breda’ and on the pink, yellow and green camouflage scheme ‘Patrol Commanders who had prescribed it admitted it was a ‘little flashy’.. while the first driver to take over the new painted truck said he would not dare to be seen in Cairo in such a thing!’. Chapters ten and eleven are again focused on the road watches and the various other tasks and raids, some with the SAS some not and again, there is plenty of detail to delight the reader away from the normal drudgery of names, places, and dates.

    Chapter twelve sees the LRDG patrols now being guide escorts and ‘incidental nuisances’ with the SAS and chapter thirteen goes into great detail about the Barce raid. The author references the fact that the very successes of the LRDG and SAS now meant they vied with one another for disruptive suggestions on what they might do next. So two Rhodesian patrols went to Benghazi with Stirling, two patrols went with the Sudan Defence Force to capture Jalo, one went with John Haselden to Tobruk and two went on their own to raid Derna.

    Chapter fourteen sees G Patrol back on Road Watch and another long and interesting commentary on these iconic tasks before the final chapter documents the road to Tripoli and a different type of role, terrain and fighting than in the desert. A foretaste of things to come… As the book comes to a close G Patrol are on the border of Libya and Tunisia at Ghadames where at a hotel was ‘a Visitors book, beginning with the signature of the Crown prince of Italy and ending when they left with all the signatures of G Patrol’. Who can imagine what that would that be worth today???

    And so having covered 3,500 miles in thirty seven days G patrols last adventure came to a close. As the call for Guardsmen to make up the crippling losses of the Guards battalions after the frontal assault on Romels 90th division came the members of the patrol answered and only a few were left in the ranks of the LRDG. While the Guards were represented in the LRDG in all of its future operations, G Patrol was finally disbanded as a unit after two years and there months service.

    G patrol was the first book since Lloyd Owens Long Range desert Group that detailed the operations of the LRDG. Whereas Lloyd Owen had presented a somewhat broad brush approach, clearly due to the limit of space, the censors pen and his own matter of fact way of writing, this book for the first time brought to life the day to day routine of being in a patrol and the variety of tasks they were asked to undertake. It was perhaps the first of what would become increasingly a more detailed insight into the life of an LRDG soldier.

    The fact that much was taken from his brothers in arms no way detracts from the book and certainly brought a perspective that at the time was new and to this day stands up as an excellent account of a patrol in the LRDG. In that year of publication ‘The Phantom Major’ would also be released, further building the reputation of the Group. I forgot what an interesting read it was and what effect it had all those years ago when I first turned the pages and would urge anyone who has not got it in their LRDG collection do so. They will not regret it.

    Contributor Review by Duncan B.

    Book Review

    the sixth man book cover

    The Sixth Man - The Extraordinary Life of Paddy Costello

    By James McNeish

    Growing up in primary school and in high school, there was always one thing I hated (make that HATED). It was Book Reports, so here I set; having just finished “The Sixth Man” The extraordinary life of Paddy Costello, by James McNeish.

    I bought this book; as it came to my attention after reading the short (94 page) booklet by his friend Dan Davin. My reasoning was, that since he (Paddy) had served with the LRDG, even though it was for a short time, I was curious to see what he did while serving with them. And this 400 page biography would ultimately tell the story.

    For some reason I find “biographies” difficult to read, maybe it because there are no periods of suspense; like in a “Jack Reacher” novel. That is not to say that Paddy did not have periods of suspense and excitement in his life. Anyway this starts out with his early life in Auckland, New Zealand where his parents had migrated from Ireland.

    At a young age he was an addictive reader and shown an ability for languages. Throughout his life managing to speak and read at least 10 different languages, and Persian being self-taught.

    In June (or July) 1935, returning from Greece, to Cambridge and stopping to see a friend in his bookstore, he met Bella Lerner. It was love at first sight and they were married in Sep of 1935.

    In mid-1940, he was “sacked” from his college staff position at University College of the South West, Exeter. He was suspected at this time of being a Communist. He at some time had joined the Communist Party. And over his wife’s objection he enlisted, since he was from New Zealand ended up with the Fifth Brigade as a private in Intelligence (signaling). Then in early 1941 sailed to the Middle East arriving in March.

    As the Greek tragedy unfolded that April; he found himself with the NZ 21St surrounded by Germans and having to find his own way of escaping. With his ability to speak Greek he found a boat with the help of a smuggler, and managed to get himself and officers which he served under escape to Crete.

    Having heard of Castello’s exploits; General Freyberg, sent for him and sent him off to Cairo to be trained for a commission. Now on page 108 we find the Young Paul Freyberg NZ#923 and Costello NZ#943 were in the same OCTU and posted to the LRDG at the same time. Paddy ended up with Malaria, and must have been on at least one patrol, as he shot at a gazelle with a “Tommy gun” and missed. And interrogated German & Italian prisoners, while trying to learn some Arabic. From what I can tell it looks like he served with the LRDG from about Sept 1941 until Feb 1942. So that is all I could gleam from this 400 page biography and his LRDG service.

    He was then transferred back to HQ where he served under Gen. Freyberg as an Intelligence Officer. Then, while on leave in London, a telegram (April 27th 1944) arrived from Freyberg, stating the New Zealand Government ask for his release from service, to take up a diplomatic post in the Soviet Union.

    This was something new for New Zealand as they had no diplomatic missions anywhere else in the world (at that time). Initially working out of a hotel until a residence could be established. In 1945 he was sent to Poland to assist in the repatriating New Zealand and allied prisoners of war. Which on page 313 is his report on the “German Extermination Camps”. He served in different capacities in Russia and Paris until 1955 when it was deemed his “suspected” communist leanings were a detriment to his position.

    So he went looking for a teaching position. Found one in May 1955 at the University of Manchester in charge of the Russian Dept. Where he taught until his death on Feb. 23rd 1964 at the age of 52.

    Now there are a few things I have left out, as I just didn’t know where to insert them in the Review. As well as being a talented linguist, he had translated many works (mostly Russian) in to English. The last item is that he and many of his close friends drank a lot. In my opinion they all may have been alcoholics. But who am I to judge, as I have only one language that I can speak and sometimes not well.

    Jack Valenti

    LRDG Preservation Society

    Book Review

    Cairo to Cassino book cover

    From Cairo to Cassino - “A Memoir of Paddy Costello”

    By Dan Devin

    Well I took this title with me to Hawaii; along with several other titles. Although only 94 pages; it wasn’t the easiest book I have ever read.

    In my opinion the title should be “A Memoir of Dan Davin”. I don’t think I have ever seen a book (of this size) with an “introduction” of 15 pages.

    I purchased this book; hoping there would be some photos of Paddy, and there were two more (plus the cover photo) and a few others.

    So the story really doesn’t start until page 31; March 26th 1941, on a Greek Ship. Where Dan spotted an L/Cpl. with horned glasses speaking to a Sailor in obviously fluent Modern Greek. He had never seen him before but had heard much about him from his friend “Father Frank Forsman”.

    Dan, Fr. Forsman & Paddy all had a vast knowledges of languages. The ship reached Athens on March 29th and the battalion was dispersed, and it would be many months before their paths would cross again. Fr. Forsman promised to introduce Dan to Paddy sometime in the future.

    After the Greek debacle, Paddy and a few others escaped to Crete. Freyberg was so impressed with the reports of Paddy’s conduct, had him flown to Cairo for training for a commission.

    In Aug 1941, when Dan had recovered from wounds and other medical problems, he was posted to Military Intelligence at GHQ in Cairo. Paddy was dully commissioned in Sept. And was promptly posted to the LRDG (a posting that Dan did not approve). Paddy spent about 4 months with the LRDG; not much is known about his time with the LRDG – but I’m assuming interrogating German and Italian prisoners.

    Finally transferred to Div. HQ, Paddy and Dan finally got to know each other better and to discuss their mutual Greek and Latin interest. And it seems they always had some liquor to drink. Also during this time Paddy found time to learning Russian.

    Like I said at the beginning; it was a hard book to read as it seemed to jump around quite a bit and I felt had more information on Dan Davin than Paddy Costello. But as far as his service with the LRDG, I did find out he served about 4 months in the desert with them. Just what he did I may never know?

    To follow up on this one – I also purchased “The Sixth Man” – The Extraordinary Life of Paddy Costello by James McNeish. But that will be for the next report.

    Book Review

    Light Car Patrols book cover

    Light Car Patrols 1916-19

    By Claude H. Williams

    There is a time in everyone’s life when you come across you come across some information and wonder how it was you never knew about it. Having been an avid follower of the LRDG since first reading my first Victor comic back in 1971 in the UK that had an LRDG story on the cover, while I knew about the desert expeditions of Bagnold, Kennedy Shaw et al before the war and the exploits of the armoured car patrols in Iraq in the 20’s. I had seen Bagnold had referenced these patrols in ‘Libyan Sands’ but at the time took no further inspiration from this source. However, when I came across the exploits of this book on Light Car Patrols a whole new section of military history, that related quite specifically to LRDG history, was revealed, and what a pleasant discovery it was.

    This book, a memoir of Captain Claude Williams, attached to No.5 Light Car Patrol, along with a history of the patrols by Russell McGuirk and printed in association with the Royal Geographical Society, is an absolute gem for anyone interested in delving deeper into the origins of the LRDG.

    Produced in a somewhat quirky landscape softcover format, the book is a concise compendium of the history of Light Car Patrols in the Western Desert during WW1. It is richly illustrated with photos from both the RGS and the Williams family private archive and also provides that critical personal aspect to put it all into a human context through the diaries of Captain Williams.

    No greater accolade for these memoirs have been made than that of Ralph Bagnold, when he wrote Libyan Sands in 1935 that his own astonishing achievements were based on the work of the Light Car Patrols. In his opening pages he regrets that no one had told their story and that ‘Their exploits, with the crude vehicles they had, were astonishing… As far as I can trace, no one has ever written up the history of the Light Car Patrols. It is a pity, for there was nothing like them before.’

    The first half of the book concentrates on the diaries and photos of Captain Williams and its contents seamlessly interwoven with the history and context of the entries. Each chapter is short, profusely illustrated with photographs and in bitesize chunks takes us through the various subject matter that made up William’s service. On the history of the vehicles, mainly the Ford Model T, it is interesting to note that ‘It is no exaggeration to say that the LCP were only possible because of its unique qualities’. It details the formation and then deployment of the Patrols in a rarely documented part of WWI in the Western Desert. At that time the Senussi, who were to figure twenty or so years later, were adversaries and the short Senussi War, the only actual action in efforts to keep them from throwing their lot in with the Axis powers is amply covered.

    For the LRDG enthusiast, as each page turns and each chapter unfolds there is delight after delight in small details that quickly start to add up and piece together why the LRDG had the experience and heritage it did from the word go and how many lessons had already been learned that were to be critical to Bagnold ten years later. The reader will see the parallels, albeit in a different time: the never-ending adaptability to situations and equipment, patrols to Jarubub, Dakhla Oasis and Siwa, the use of the Yeomanry, then closely followed by an Australian contingent and New Zealanders and the way the patrols were finally disbanded with no cheer or pomp. To understand the heritage of the LRDG is to understand the legacy of the Light Car Patrols.

    The second half of the book details the transformation from Camel Corps patrols to Light Car Patrols and reveals a small band of independent and hardy soldiers were able to make the desert their friend while undertaking Allenby orders through WWI. It follows through to the unrest after the war, the civil disturbances in Egypt, Palestine and Syria and has an interesting section on the desert survey work they undertook during all of this time. All written in small easily absorbed chunks with a generous scattering of excellent photographs.

    In the final conclusion, the words of Captain Williams, written in the 1960’s, brings the subject to a neat and tidy close. With the benefit of hindsight he gives a simple but powerful summary of his recollections. He notes when he was first aware of his contribution to the LRDG when reading Kennedy Shaws ‘Long Range Desert Group’ in 1945.

    Were the LCP a special forces outfit? Probably not, as the term had not been used at that time, and perhaps they would have been more akin to the Hussar recce patrols of WWII in the desert. But the fact that they were the first motorised small scale military unit to operate in the desert, developing a huge wealth of mapping and engineering and technical knowledge where the sun compass and what they called the ‘water economiser’ were first created and used in anger makes this unique insight to the origins of WWII Special Forces desert operations.

    But should this book be an essential read for anyone interested in the origins of the LRDG? Definitely.

    Contributor Review by Duncan Burman.

    Book Review

    Libyan Sands book cover

    Libyan Sands – Travel in a Dead World

    By Ralph A. Bagnold

    While the Light Car Patrols were the first to explore and use the Western Desert using vehicles and their exploits inspired the next generation of explorers, it remains undisputed that Ralph Bagnold and his merry bunch of fellow officers, stationed in Cairo in the 1920’s, made the largest contribution to Western desert exploration, navigation and understanding yet seen. For any enthusiast of the LRDG, this must be an essential read and unlike some titles on the subject, has been reprinted many times since its original form in 1935, so is easily accessible. But here is a word of warning perhaps. While there is a lot to relate to and some fantastic tales of daring do, some may find the detail, especially regarding the mechanics, vehicles and the dynamics and descriptions of sand dunes a little heavy going. But if you can get over that, it is truly a classic account of exploring in a world that no longer exists and makes much that made the LRDG so successful, become obvious.

    Libyan Sands is Bagnold’s recollection of those years in the 1920’s when the nebulous of the LRDG was, unknown to him at the time, tested and tried in the most challenging of conditions. He tells of how he and a group of like-minded individuals in the Officers Messes decided to explore the desert paths to the east of Cairo. They did it mainly as a hobby, taking leave and spending weeks exploring the deserts of Sinai, Palestine, and Trans-Jordan.

    Very soon however, Bagnold in particular began to look West towards and was drawn to the emptiness of the largely unexplored ‘Great Sand Sea’ of the Libyan Desert. We are soon introduced to Prendergast, Pat Clayton, WB Kennedy Shaw and a veritable array of archaeologists and naturalists.

    For the LRDG enthusiast, the main interest is both in the pioneering adventure spirit, so evident in the LRDG and the desire to take on unchartered territory, find new routes while learning to develop and adapt their navigational, mechanical and driving skills. The book charts how they perfected their desert logistics and mechanics, refined their driving and navigating techniques, and constantly found themselves designing and adapting technologies like the water cooler/condenser, the sun compass and sand mats. It explains in detail how they experimented and adapted their logistics, and how planning became key to ensuring their water and petrol supplies held out. Just to quote one episode:

    ‘But nevertheless a discovery of importance has been made, namely that with light cars, and with our technique of channels and ladders for extracting them when stuck…the dunes could be conquered by motor transport’

    So the book continues, with a selection of sparse but lovely array of photos, as they chartered hitherto unknown areas of the Western desert. And of course considerable emphasis is placed on the fact that they mapped progress at every step, which created a veritable mine of information and experience that was to be used with such spectacular success in the coming years. In the original 1935 copy there are some beautiful pull out maps, although whether they appear in more modern editions I could not say.

    The chapters on the Sand Sea is worthy of special note and so the book winds on with increasingly daring expeditions to push the limits thought possible with desert travel. By the early 1930s Bagnold had left for China, Prendergast had joined the Western Arab Corps and Kennedy Shaw ended up in Palestine. When they next came together the stakes were so much higher and their collective efforts became so legendary.

    So in summary, for the avid enthusiast this is a must for their library. Yes, some of the scientific analysis on sand and dune movements take some getting through (pardon the pun!) but the overall spirit of adventure into a new unknown and being able to relate those experiences to the formation and success of the LRDG help complete the understanding of this unique band of warriors.

    For the casual fan, it may be more of an ask, but even for them, give this book a fair go as there is still plenty to delight and inform you of the origins of the LRDG.

    Contributor Review by Duncan Burman.

    Book Review

    Desert Explorer book cover

    Desert Explorer – A biography of Col. P.A. Clayton DSO, MBE

    By Peter Clayton

    Desert Explorer is the biography of Pat Clayton, one of the original members of the LRDG, a remarkable man who perhaps was the most experienced of the desert explores of the 1920’s and 30’s. Written by his son Peter Clayton it charts his life and with the unprecedented access only he could have to some of the key players has created a volume that should be on the shelves of every LRDG enthusiast.

    Having swiftly covered his early life very soon the book gets into his life and work in the Western Desert in the 1920’s - first with the Geological Survey of Egypt , then with the famous Dr. Ball’s Desert Surveys Department and into the formation of the famous ‘Zerzura Club’ and its subsequent forays in search of the legendary Oasis.

    Name dropping, which at the time was of no importance, comes thick and fast and soon the likes of Orde Wingate, Count Almasy, Kennedy Shaw, Bagnold, Lady Dorothy Clayton (no relation) and pilot Penderel all become part of Claytons story. Interestingly the Italians it seems, through their own Empire building, played a significant role in the region before the war and seemed to have a wealth of experience in desert exploration and travel, especially through their military patrols. Perhaps this demonstrates how the characters such as Clayton, Bagnold and Kennedy Shaw, with their vision of how those desert skills could best be employed in times of war, succeeded. While the Italians already had considerable capability in the operations and logistics of light long-range patrols, they had neither the drive or vision to turn that ability into a formidable reconnaissance and strike force. His association with the Italians would sadly not end there…

    After a short spell surveying in Tanganyika, modern day Tanzania, the book details how he returns to Cairo at the behest of Bagnold and goes on to describe his time with the LRDG, kicking off with his first long range patrol, aged 44 no less, where he covered over 1000 miles! In later LRDG history this might be considered nothing more than a ‘walk down to the shops’ but at the time was a ground-breaking achievement which set the mould for all future operations in the desert.

    And life in the LRDG is comprehensively covered until the fateful T-Patrol where the Italians finally got the better of him and he was captured before being sent to Italy to serve time as a prisoner of war. Here Almasy, an old Zerzura Club member again comes onto the scene and visits Clayton in prison, and while speculation is still rife as to whether he was an Italian, German or British spy or all three (see The Hunt for Zerzura by Saul Kelly or Operation Salam by Kuno Gross, Michael Rolke and Andras Zboray), he may well have influenced the decision not to transfer Clayton to a high security prison.

    Whether he did or not, Clayton then escapes from his camp in Italy and then gets captured by the Germans who then promptly send him to a prison camp in Germany, Oflag 79.It was here his surveying and draughtsman skills were perfectly applied when he became the forging officer, turning out false passports, ration cards and even German money!

    At the end of the war he is repatriated to the UK, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and later Colonel in the Intelligence Corps working in Palestine and Egypt until 1953. There is an interesting section on him attending a memorial in 1951 at Murzak where he laid a wreath in memory of Col. D’Ornano and Sergeant Hewson, killed in January 1941 on an LRDG/Free French attack on the fort there. He took a Retired officers post in the UK in 1953 as he had no pension provision from his time in the Egypt Survey Service. He retired in 1961 but sadly died just a year later.

    His son, and the author Peter Clayton summed him up perfectly at the end of the book:

    'I knew him as a decent, upright, kindly man who made the best of any job that came his way – be it good or bad. He did not show any resentment to the mistakes of others, beyond the immediate reproof thus earned, and accepted his own misfortunes with good grace. His quiet modesty perhaps kept him from the recognition except by those who knew and worked closely with him.'

    Along with ‘Desert Sands’ by Bagnold and ‘Long Range Desert Group’ by Kennedy Shaw ‘Desert Explorer’ without doubt completes the Holy Grail, the Trinity of must have LRDG books about the founding fathers of the LRDG.

    Contributor Review by Duncan Burman.

    Book Review

    operation agreement book cover

    Operation Agreement: Jewish Commandos and the raid on Tobruk

    By John Sadler

    Published in 2016, the blurb on the book cover gives the impression that the SIG (Jewish Commandos) are the principle focus of this book within the context of the disastrous Tobruk raid that has now gone into legend.

    These soldiers, most from Germany who escaped and enlisted with the Allies, shone a spotlight on a rarely researched element of the Desert War and the book suggested that there was more material that had been researched and now published. Sadly, it looks like no more than was available in the Gordon Landsborough book, Tobruk Commando, written some six decades ago. In the acknowledgements Sadler does squarely accept this book is ‘the first and probably best account of the raid’.

    However, to be fair to this book, it is a very readable look at the raid, and while the book is no way written from the perspective of the Jewish commandos, as an interesting and well written piece of work, it is worthy of a place in the LRDG library for enthusiasts. And for those who were not familiar with Landsborough’s book this will certainly hopefully bring the role of the LRDG in the North Africa campaign to a new readership which can only be a good thing.

    The book starts with promise, the first chapter being called ‘The Lions of Judah’ and it is here perhaps more context of the history of the involvement of Jewish soldiers is given. But from this point the story does ramble into the bigger picture of the Desert War and much time is spent (another five chapters!) on explaining the various main characters and the chronological see-saw actions that epitomised the early fortunes of war in North Africa.

    For anyone not fully aware of how many elements came together to change those fortunes over two bloody years, the book brings these together and certainly creates a thorough backdrop to the raid and perhaps explains how from a seed of an idea from John Haselden, a true friend of the LRDG, it quickly got out of hand and became a large and ungainly plan that was doomed to failure.

    Only chapters six to eight then focus on the raid, covering both the LRDG involvement in taking commandos across the desert to attack Tobruk from land and the huge, fatally flawed Naval involvement that was to attack from the sea. One thing that the book underlines, highlights and puts in bold, is the sheer courage of all those involved. And how, despite the odds, they did not consider failure an option until way past when any sensible strategist would have realised all was lost.

    Chapter nine, Retribution, was certainly a highlight. While it principally dealt with the attempted rescue efforts and subsequent withdrawal of the naval elements, the savagery of the relentless pursuit and destruction of ships involved in the raid was superbly written and really brought to life the heroism and tragedy of the Navy personnel involved. It is often too easy to forget that there were many who were just as heroic as those who served in Special Forces, and while their service was not as exciting and unique, their daring and courage were just as commendable. There was a small section on what happened to those Jewish commandos and others who escaped, but no more detail than Landsborough had already written about previously.

    The final chapter brought the whole tragic episode together, including the Benghazi raid, a principally LRDG/SAS affair that had some success. As ever apportioning of blame, often unfairly, was well documented and interestingly an analysis on how this raid probably gave Monty his break in taking over command in North Africa, was equally noteworthy. What it did also highlight was that the original plan of John Haselden was on sound principles and endorsed by David Lloyd Owen and the LRDG and perhaps, and it is only conjecture now with hindsight, but perhaps a small, contained but focused raid, coming from the desert alone, might just have succeeded...

    So in summary, certainly a good read, and with a lot of well researched background, which gave a broader perspective of the bigger picture and the tensions and conflicts that abounded in the region at this time. The account of the LRDG and SIG was good, the detail of the actual raid quite comprehensive, as were the post attack repercussions. But did the content justify the emphasis in the title? Probably not. A better title might have been Operation Agreement: Disaster at Tobruk and while Tobruk Commando will still be the definitive account for LRDG enthusiasts this recent publication will help bring this raid to a new generation of followers.

    Review written by Duncan Burman – member of the LRDG Preservation Society Facebook Site.

    Book Review

    one of the many book cover

    One of the many

    By Desmond Duffy

    I mentioned this title; briefly in a previous book review. It was written by Desmond Duffy in memory of his brother Lt. Michael Duffy. It is a large book measuring 8 in by 12 in. compared to the other volumes covering this event. However it is only 76 pages long and many of them are just photos; that I had never seen before receiving the book. But have since, seen them in other publications.

    It was a gift from the author and signed to me. He provided a letter with the book and in it he tells how these photos came into light.

    “In Verona, in 1961, a retired Captain in the Italian Army, Cesare Berciolini, was reminiscing with colleagues about his adventures in North Africa during WWII. He ask his son, Giogio, to get his uniform which he had carefully kept and wanted to show his friends. Giogio brought out the uniform and told his father that he found a roll of film in one of the pockets. On reflection he remembered how he acquired the film.

    On Sept 14th 1942, when the remnants of the Commando forces had been captured at Tobruk, this officer noticed that a one of the captured British officers (Lt. Graham Taylor) had a camera. He confiscated the film but returned the camera.”

    The photos were eventually published and have been seen and published in a number of books and articles. One of the said photos. David Lloyd Owen with the binoculars.

    Now back to the book…..

    The first part of the book covers Michael’s early life, schooling, etc. He then started his military career by joining “The London Scottish” in Jan 1940. In Sept 1940 he went to OCTU, he passed with Grade A and in Dec. 1940 was a new Second Lt.

    Shipped the long way around the Horn; he arrived in Egypt on May 9th 1941, and he immediately saw action in the Western Desert. On his letters home, the censors were quite busy but with clues in the news media, the family figured out that he was on Crete when it fell.

    In June of 1941, Layforce was to be disbanded; and Churchill had demanded that the Middle East Commandos be reformed and on August 26th 1941, Lt. Michael Duffy found himself officially in the Middle East Commandos.

    Not mentioned in this book, but history and other books tells us that MEC was sent to Syria, and on their return from there; units of the MEC were attached to the LRDG. And that is where he found himself for several months.

    This is where I found it quite interesting, as in all other books I have read, there has been very few details about the MEC, when they were attached to the LRDG. On pages 22 - 26 of this volume; it does describe in some detail of their training, road watch and the issuing of their own trucks.

    On June 4th 1942; two MEC Patrols left Siwa, with 9 officers, and 64 other ranks. They had instructions to carry out offensive action against enemy transport, dumps and personnel, on two roads many miles inside enemy territory.

    On the 10th, while preparing to attack their chosen target, they were spotted by an Italian plane and were attacked by two fighters and a bomber and lost 4 out of 5 trucks. On the 14th the second patrol was going to attack the same location, they were again spotted and lost all 6 of their trucks. Fortunately for them they were found by another LRDG Patrol and brought back to Siwa. That was the end of the involvement of MEC and Lt. Duffy with the LRDG.

    He again shows up leaving Abassia Barracks; Aug 24th 1942, still called commandos but officially known as Special Service Regiment, on their way to meet Y Patrol of the LRDG to be led across the desert to Kufra oasis, resting up for a few days then on to Tobruk.

    We then see many of the photos from the confiscated camera of Lt. Graham Taylor; as described above, of their stay in Kufra.

    And then their travels between the two great sand seas.

    At this point; the author doesn’t go into any great detail about the battle of Tobruk as it has been very well covered by other authors. The rest has some maps, several Chronological tables, and photos of memorials.

    It would be a good addition to any LRDG library, but I do believe impossible to find.

    Book Review

    tobruk commando book cover

    Tobruk Commando

    By Gordon Landsborough

    After reading the last book about “Operation Agreement”; “Tobruk: A Raid too Far”. By David Jefferson, I decided that it was time to “reread” the first book written by Landsborough. While I was at it; I decided to see how many other different titles that covered, if only in part, the same subject.

    I found two other titles that I forgot to mention in the previous “Book Review” The first being “One of the Many” by Desmond Duffy, in honor of his brother Lt. Michael J. Duffy who was one of the Commandos that attacked Tobruk and didn’t get to return.

    The second “Friendship in a Time of War” by Dallas Allardice – The first 14 Chapters is about his earlier life, Chapter 15 to 22 covers the Tobruk event, Chapter 23 to 30, covers his activities as a POW, and escape and after.

    I’ll cover those books in future reviews.

    I was right when stating that in this book, there were more details of the LRDG’s involvement in this action. Capt. David Lloyd Owen was kept in the loop of all of the details of the raid by Col. John Haselden.

    Haselden’s original plan for the raid; was just to have the LRDG Y-Patrol lead a commando unit into Tobruk to destroy the underground fuel tanks, which apparently could not be destroyed by aerial or naval bombardment.

    Somehow the Headquarter planners let their enthusiasm get away with his first idea and other units were involved in this much expanded simple plan. Including the Airforce, Naval Units and an “invasion force”.

    Although the “invasion force” was only to hold their positions for 24 hours, there were not enough of them that got ashore to accomplish their tasks. Difficulties with the MTB and the landing craft they were towing in led to many delays. Once daylight arrived; it was basically all over.

    The Destroyer escorts (Sikh & Zulu) did all that they could to salvage the plan as it fell apart. Sikh was sunk off the coast of Tobruk; Zulu succumbed under aerial attacks the following day.

    Landsborough does an excellent job of keeping the reader appraised as to what was happening with all of the forces involved. Considering it was written in 1956, there was not much that he left out or missed.

    Book Review

    tobruk a raid too far book cover


    A Raid Too Far (2013)

    By David Jefferson

    Now the Tobruk raid (Operation Agreement) has been written about for years. Starting back in 1956 with Gordon Landsborough “Tobruk Commando”, which was reprinted again in 1989. Then there was “Massacre at Tobruk” by Peter C. Smith, published in 1987 also reprinted in 2008. And then “Operation Agreement: Jewish Commando & the Raid on Tobruk” by John Sadler, published in 2016.

    Now we have read all of the above titles, just don’t recall when. Recently after reading a book I will mark the month and year read on a sticker and place it in the front cover. I just may have to reread them all.

    Now having been a “student” of the LRDG for quite a number of years, I know the story of the “Tobruk Raid”.

    Without rereading “Tobruk Commando” now; but just pursing the contents, Landsborough spend much of his narrative with the action of the LRDG and the ground forces involved.

    I’ll skip for now references to “Massacre at Tobruk” & “Operation Agreement” by the other authors. Like I said above; I know the story. This author had a different approach. He has intertwined the story with many of those that participated in the event, with background information and details of their previous Military history and activities.

    There is a strong Royal Navy involvement and details that I do not remember in previous publications. Such as the poor construction of some of the landing craft, failure of towing lines and failure of the SBS to mark the landing site.

    He covers all of the notables that were involved; John Haselden, David Lloyd Owen and the land forces involved, Commandos, SIG and all of their concerns with security breaches.

    In the Epilogue the author continues the stories of those that were involved, captured or escaped. Their adventures across the desert back to the British lines or their transfers and imprisonment in various camps and subsequent activities in other campaigns.

    All in all I feel this would be a good addition to your LRDG library.

    Book Review

    George Jellicoe book cover

    George Jellicoe

    SAS and SBS Commander

    By Nicholas Jellicoe

    Well reading two books back to back about George Jellicoe; has been rather interesting, getting the perspective of two different authors, one of which was his son, gives a good over all view of Lord George Jellicoe.

    In the previous book, the author devoted the first eight chapters to George’s military career. In this title the first fourteen chapters are devoted to his military career. First four were his early years in the desert, where he meets people that he would cross pass with throughout the rest of the war. David Stirling, Carol Mather, Blair Mayne etc. etc.

    It covered the formation of the S.A.S. their interaction with the LRDG; early S.A.S. raids, their failures and their successes. The loss of Jock Lewes and other events led David Stirling to offer George a chance to join his command. Which he did after getting released form the Coldstream Guards.

    His first mission was to Crete, a raid on the airfield at Heraklion with George Berge and his Free French S.A.S. Team. A successful mission where a total of 19 twin engine Ju88’s; a single Dornier 17, a Me 109, a Storch, 4 trucks and a fuel dump were destroyed using the famous Lewes Bombs.

    Here Nicholas goes into great detail about a number of raids in the desert airfields; most of them quite successful. This was also the time when the S.A.S. changed tactics by using the unique jeeps.

    Part II Chapters 5 through 14:

    With Jock Lewes killed and David Stirling recently captured, the S.A.S. future was in doubt. It was here that Paddy Mayne was placed in command of the S.A.S. and George Jellicoe was placed as Commander of the S.B.S.

    Throughout the book there a number of excellent maps that outline many of the raids and also what are called “side bars”. One of the side bars explains the origin of the “Special Boat Squadron” and its various permutations.


    1. Special Boat Section
    2. Special Boat Service
    3. Special Boat Squadron

    Chapter 6 cover several raids again on Crete and a failed one on Sardinia. Jellicoe was excluded from these raids as he had been briefed on “Operation Husky”; the invasion of Sicily.

    In early September 1943; Italy had approached the Allies for a surrender agreement. It was signed on the 3rd but not announced until Sept. 8th. Now Churchill had always wanted the Dodecanese Islands (which were occupied by Italy and German Forces) in allied hands, hoping to get Turkey to enter the war on the allied side.

    Jellicoe was tasked to parachute into Rhodes with a radio operator and a translator to negotiate with the Commanding Officer to have his 35000 troops turn on the 5000 Germans and take over the island until such time as the British could muster forces to land I force.

    That didn’t work out, so the British tried to move into some of the other islands, Kos (Cos); Leros, Samos and several other of the smaller islands.

    Nicholas does a nice job of covering all of the action with details of the loss of Kos and the battle for Leros. George’s capture and escape from Leros. Now I believe that I have read most books covering the Dodecanese and the ensuing battles but this book will make a good companion to “Julie Peakman’s – Hitler’s Island War”; and “Anthony Roger’s – Churchill’s Folley”, plus several others that I have in my library.

    Now is the time when George Jellico’s S.B.S. begins to shine. He was not done with the Germans and the Dodecanese Islands. Chapter 10 is devoted to all of the S.B.S.’s actions along with the GSS (Greece Sacred Squadron) in 1944 against many islands that previously I hadn’t heard of; requiring the Germans to increase manpower to these areas, instead of other areas where there was a greater need. Although his name does not show up as an active participant, he was much involved in all of the planning.

    Now even with this all happening he found sometime in 1944 to marry his first wife Patsy O’Kane.

    In October of 1944; the Germans were evacuating Greece, which was politically in a turmoil, with several factions wanting control of the country after the Germans departed. Again George and the S.B.S. were in the thick of things. Trying to keep ahead of them to prevent destruction of bridges and other valuable Greek assets. His unit hounded them up the Greek coast.

    Meanwhile keeping the Greek factions a bay, he finally entered Athens (on a bicycle) and using his negotiation skills, to prevent a civil war between the factions of Greece.

    Now George did not do all of this single handed; he had under him a number of other units, some from the GSS, units of the LRDG, #9 Commando and of course men of the S.B.S. Shortly thereafter the war in Greece was over, and in Dec. 1944 he turned command of the S.B.S. over to David Sutherland. And he was off to “Middle East Staff College”.

    At wars end he found himself as Second in Command of the U.N. Relief & Rehabilitation Agency, working with the many displaced people brought about by WWII.

    At a young age and even before the war started, George had always want to serve in the “Foreign Service”. Finally to achieve his goal; he started out as Grade 8 in the Foreign Office 3rd Secretary in the German Political Department located in London.

    Then serving in Washington, DC. Meeting; while there notables like, Pres. Richard Nixon, Pres. Jack Kennedy and J. Edgar Hoover. And even became friends with the (spy) Kim Philby. Then on to Brussels as Head of Chancery and then Charge d’ Affaires. In 1953 (Nicholas birth year) the Jellico marriage was already falling apart.

    In 1956 he was transferred to Baghdad; as 1st Secretary and Deputy Secretary-General of the Baghdad Pack. At this time he had already found a new love (Philippa Dune Bridge). They were a couple for ten years before his first wife agreed to a divorce.

    Back to London, there giving up his service in the Foreign Service to marry Philippa.

    At this point in his life he entered into politics, serving in the House of Lords, and also many commercial boards. He had his up’s and down’s. Dying on Feb 22nd 2007 from a heart attack.

    I enjoyed reading this book for a number of reasons, the first being that Nicholas covered more of his WW II activities, second he included LRDG references when they were appropriate (my primary interest) and third his writing style. Both books would be a great addition to anyone’s library.

    Book Review

    A British Achilles-book-cover

    A British Achilles

    Story of George 2nd Earl Jellicoe


    By Lorna Almond Windmill

    Like I said in the preamble of my “LRDG Research Materials”; I’ll read any title that has the least tiny bit of information about the LRDG.

    Now I knew a few things about George Jellicoe and his activities in WW II in North Africa and the Mediterranean. So I though this title would bring him and his WW II activities more into focus along with any activities featuring the LRDG.

    Back to this title: I was most interested in the first seven chapters of the book as it had to do with George’s activities during WW II. It has a number of nice maps in the front which shows areas in which most of his active centered on, North Africa, Crete, Rhodes, the Dodecanese and Greece. Along with 30 photos throughout his career. One mislabeled as S.A.S but of Jake Easonsmith driving a LRDG Jeep.

    Of those areas; any student of the LRDG, knows they were most active in North Africa, the Dodecanese and Greece and it was in these areas where George and the LRDG crossed past.

    In Chapter 1 – he volunteered for 5 (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Scots Guards who was looking for experienced skiers for possible service in Finland. This is where he first met Carol Mather & David Stirling, who he was to cross paths later. Nothing developed; as Finland & Russia reached an armistice.

    Next; looking for action, he joined up with Col. Bob Laycock’s #8 Guards Commando’s. After a number of aborted events the #8 Commando was disbanded. Jellicoe then joined up with the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Spending six months “in the Blue” with the Guards. Then while in Cairo on leave, he again ran into David Stirling at “Shepheard’s Hotel”. David was looking for a Second in Command of the L Detachment as he had recently lost Jock Lewes. He offered it to George and George jumped at the chance.

    One of his first jobs was to get a Free French unit incorporated into the S.A.S. and since David wanted to expand the S.A.S. activities to include sea bourn raids, they were chosen for the first raids to Crete airfields, with Jellico in the lead.

    After a number of successful raids, Jellico’s knee was giving him problems, surgery was necessary and took place in Cairo, but he went back to England to recuperate. Where he met Anders Lassen.

    Before his capture; David Stirling was looking for someone to command the S.B.S. a smaller unit of the S.A.S. for future activities in the islands of the Eastern Mediterranean and George was his man.

    Looking to man a 250 unit force; he needed some experienced officers, Anders Lassen was one of them. Training commenced. Then the fighting in North Africa ended, and the Italians capitulated in Sept. of that year, all eye moved to the Dodecanese Islands. Which Churchill thought key to having Turkey enter the war on the sided of the allies.

    Rhodes was the largest and key island, Jellico and several others were parachuted into Rhodes, to convince the Commander (of 30,000 Italian Troops) to take over from the Germans (5000 troops), so the British could have use of the airfields located on Rhodes. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful.

    And the battle of the Dodecanese ensued. His units; along with the LRDG; the Greek Sacred Squadron and others regular army units were unsuccessful in defending the islands (Kos & Leros) from the determined German onslaught.

    While his continued planning of raids on the Dodecanese Islands and the Greek Islands, he managed to find time to get married on March 23rd 1944. As part of the Land Force Adriatic (LFA) they also mounted raids against Italy and Yugoslavia.

    Since he had such a close relation with the Greek Sacred Squadron, he was also charged with intervening in the German withdrawal from Greece and the pending civil war between factions in Greece. Ultimately arriving in Athens (on a Bicycle); intervening between the warring factions, while the Germans hightailed it out of Greece.

    This is as far as my interest took me; as the following chapters, eight thru 14 was all about his post WW II activities. As I had gotten this far, I really felt that I should finish the book just to see what happened in the rest of his life.

    Politics was the main focus of the following chapters, as he had a number of very important offices in the British Government. But in Chapter 13 (unlucky 13), there came some information that I never hear of. It appears; although married, divorced his 1st wife, and remarried, he had some time to “dally” with women from “escort services”. Although he was extremely cautious; fearing that his name would come out in public, and not wishing to embarrass the PM and the reigning government, he resigned his position.

    Apparently willing to own up to his weakness did not hurt is standing in the world; as he subsequently held a number of board positions with both UK and US companies.

    Now my next book is going to be by his son Nicholas Jellicoe; we will see how he paints his father’s activities.

    Book Review


    The Long Range Desert Group in WWII

    By Gavin Mortimer

    Since 2019; when the website was last updated, there have been a number of new books about the LRDG written. So I thought that I might review a few of them now.

    This first one is by noted Author Gavin Mortimer. Gavin has written several other books about the S.A.S. & S.B.S. in WW II that have been well received. This one is titled “The Long Range Desert Group in World War II”; published by Osprey in 2017.

    Like many of the other histories of the LRDG; he starts with Major Bagnold and the formation of the unit and continues until 17 chapters titled “The Bitter End”. I did see a few photos that I had never seen before and a number of them were credited to the SAS Association and also to yours truly, from my collection.

    It was an easy read; as I was familiar with all of details of their activities. I’m not sure how photos are captioned or by who, the author or the publisher before publication. I saw at least one photo that was dated Sept. 1941, that was definitely after that date as the trucks in the photo were not in theater until after March 1942. (Page50) I would have to go through it again to look for more discrepancies.


    Vehicles of the Long Range Desert Group

    By Gavin Mortimer

    This second one is also by Gavin Mortimer and is a “New Vanguard #291” publication by Osprey in 2020. Only about 50 pages.

    Now I was approached by Gavin to provide some photos of lessor know LRDG vehicles; which I was delighted to do. Several were credited to me and the LRDG Preservation Society. But it was nice to see a publication with all of them in one place.

    As above; about errors in captions, there are several glaring in this publication, I’m surprised that Gavin didn’t catch them before it went to press. Page 10 (A) describes a Chevrolet WB (which is really WA) and on page 11 is a Jeep. Likewise on pages 34-35 (E) gives the description of a Willys Jeep, but is a photo of the Chevrolet WA. However the number key is correct for the truck.

    Lots of misinformation in this publication, but many good photos if you haven’t seen them before.

    Send questions, comments, suggestions and information to Jack Valenti at the LRDG Preservation Society email address:

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    LRDG Reference Materials and Texts

    I have been collecting any references about the LRDG since 1992 (and before). Some of these listed below have only cursory statements or information about the LRDG. Others have detailed information and photos about the LRDG and their activities. If you have specific questions about any reference please contact me at

          1. Adair, Robin – British Army : North Africa 1940-43 (1974)
          2. Allardice, Dallas – Friendship in a time of War: 1939-1946 (2015)
          3. Army Board, Wellington – Prelude to Battle – New Zealand in the First Libyan Campaign (1942)
          4. Asher, Michael – The Regiment: The Real Story of the SAS (2007)
          5. Bagnold, Ralph A. – Sand, Wind & War: Memoirs of a Desert Explorer (1990)
          6. Bagnold, Ralph A. – Libyan Sands (1941)
          7. Bagnold, Ralph A – Early Days of the LRDG (1945)
          8. Barker, Lt. Col. A.J. – Afrika Korps (1978)
          9. Barnett, Correlli – The Desert Generals (1961)
          10. Bender, Roger J. – Afrika Korps - Uniforms, Organization & History of (1973)
          11. Bierman, John & Colin Smith – Alamein: War without hate (2002)
          12. Bimberg, Edward L. – Tricolor over the Sahara (2002)
          13. Brayley, Martin & Ingram, Richard – The WW II Tommy (1998)
          14. Bouchery, Jean – The British Soldier – Vol. I (1998)
          15. Bove, Paul E. – Leclerc’s Long March – World War II – May 2001
          16. Buckley, Christopher – Five Ventures: Iraq-Syria-Persia-Madagascar-Dodecanese (1954)
          17. Carell, Paul – The Foxes of The Desert (1962) Paperback
          18. Carell, Paul – The Foxes of The Desert (1994) Hardback
          19. Chappell, Mike – British Infantry Equipment 1908-80: No 108 Osprey – Men-At-Arms (1980)
          20. Clayton, Peter – Desert Explorer: Biography of Col. P.A. Clayton
          21. Clifford, Alexander G. –The Conquest of North Africa 1940-1943 (1943)
          22. Clifford, Alexander – Three against Rommel (1943)
          23. Cowles, Virginia – The Phantom Major: The Story of David Stirling & the S.A.S. Regiment (1958)
          24. Crisp, Maj. Robert – Brazen Chariots (1960)
          25. Crichton-Stuart, Michael – G Patrol: the Story of the Guards Patrol of the L.R.D.G.
          26. Darman, Peter – Surprise Attack: Lightning Strikes of the World’s Elite Forces (1993)
          27. De Belot, Raymond – The Struggle For The Mediterranean 1939-1945 (1951)
          28. De Chair, Somerset – The Golden Carpet (1945)
          29. Denny, Harold – Behind Both Lines (1942)
          30. D’Este, Carlo – World War II in the Mediterranean 1942-1945 (1990)
          31. Dugan, Sally – Commando: The Elite Fighting Forces of the Second World War (2001)
          32. Eppler, John – Operation Condor: Rommel’s Spy (1974)
          33. Eshel, David – Elite Fighting Units (1984)
          34. Forty, George – Desert Rats at War
          35. Gallagher, Wes – Back Door to Berlin
          36. Gilbert, Adrian - The Imperial War Museum Book of THE DESERT WAR (1992)
          37. Gordon, John W. – The Other Desert War: British Special Forces in North Africa 1940-1943 (1987)
          38. Greene, Jack & Massignani, Alessandro – Rommel’s North Africa Campaign (1994)
          39. Gower-Collins, Clive – The Long Range Desert Group & Coalition Issues - NZ Army Journal Dec. 1999
          40. Gross, Kuno, Roberto Chiarvetto & Brendan O’Carroll – Incedent at Jebel Sherif (2009)
          41. Gross, Kuno – The Bagnold Sun-Compass: History & Utilization (2011)
          42. Gross, Kuno, Michael Rolke & Andras Zboray – Operation Salam (2013)
          43. Guedalla, Phillip – Middle East 1940-1942 A Study in Air Power (1944)
          44. Harrison, Frank – Toburk: The Great Siege Reassessed (1996)
          45. Hall, Ian – Churchill’s Secret Armies: War Without Rules
          46. Hastings, Stephen – The Drums of Memory (1994)
          47. Heckstall-Smith, Anthony - Tobruk: The Story of a Siege (1960)
          48. Hill, Ron – Now or Never: War Time Experiences (1997) unpublished – Bob Amos-Jones
          49. Hill, Russell – Desert War (1942)
          50. His Majesty’s Stationery Office – Destruction of an Army – The First Campaign in Libya: Sept. 1940 – Feb, 1941
          51. Hoe, Alan – David Stirling: Authorized Biography of the SAS (1992)
          52. Ingersoll, Ralph - The Battle is the Pay-Off (1943)
          53. Ireland, Bernard - The War In The Mediterranean 1940 - 1943 (1993)
          54. Jablonski, David - The Desert Warriors: The Battle for North Africa 1940-43 (1972)
          55. Jackson, W.G.F. - The Battle For North Africa 1940-43 (1975)
          56. James, Malcolm - Born of the Desert: With the S.A.S. in North Africa (1945)
          57. James, Malcolm - Born of the Desert: With the S.A.S. in North Africa (1991)
          58. Jarrett, Col. G.B. – West of Alamein (1971)
          59. Jenner, Robin and List, David. The Long Range Desert Group. No. 36, Osprey (1983)
          60. Jenner, Robin and List, David. The Long Range Desert Group. No. 32, Osprey (1999)
          61. Jewell, Brian – British Battledress – 1937-61: No 112 – Osprey Men-At-Arms (1981)
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